Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Miracles


This year, more influenced by movies like "It's a Wonderful Life" or "The Man Who Saved Christmas" than other years, I found myself wishing to be visited by angels who would give me the peace and joy that seemingly were misplaced. After weeks of feeling discontent, I went to sleep on Christmas Eve praying for a dream like Mack was blessed with in the "The Shack" (After his daughter was murdered, he got to see her perfectly whole and happy playing in Heaven). I know Jonnae is perfect and whole. I don't really need a dream or visit from her to live my life in joy or peace. I just find myself yearning for her during the season of Christmas in ways I don't any other time of year. I need a 180 degree turn from my aching heart back to my glee filled spirit.

"Heavenly Birth" was made possible because I sat down to write what I was feeling; honestly and humbly. As a result of my sharing every experience and emotion, God revealed Himself in the most amazing ways. Often, my hand miraculously became His instrument and simultaneously He breathed new life into me and my readers. Tonight, I find myself pleading for Him to lift me once more, as I sit to reflect and share my thoughts.

I've been trying to work my way through this troubled season quietly, not wanting to bring anyone down with my heaviness of heart...spirit...whatever it is that's responsible for me not feeling the Spirit of Christmas. Knowing the answers won't come from a source outside myself, but must come from within, I've tried to be quiet and patient in waiting for some answers. Is Winter always going to be a season I'm just trying to get through, rather than one that is anticipated with great joy? My mind is full of questions, answers, and dialogue with the Holy Spirit. How can I even put all of this into words anyway? What I'm feeling makes sense. I guess one could say it's even expected. I understand it, but is waiting it out all I can do?

It's not as if I can shut off the memory of December '07; the test of patience, faith, courage, strength, and tenacity asked of Jonnae, me, and my family. I don't even want to . But is it going to take a Christmas miracle to give me the best of both worlds. I don't want to forget the gift of that experience, but how do I move through this present gift in joy? Jonnae's bone marrow transplant and iminent "Heavenly Birth" was lifechanging in a way that I'm very grateful for, but I can't reminesce about that time and not find myself missing Jonnae more than ever.

I know that I'm not to deny myself emotion. I'm not supposed to be immune to sorrow. As a matter of fact, more times than not, my soul is soaring with strength found in the fruits of the Holy Spirit and I wonder if I'm supposed to feel sorrow more than I do. (It's happening! LOL. The clarity that comes from writing is in itself miraculous; stay with me. I ask God to help me feel something I'm not feeling. Wondering if I'm blocking or suppressing emotion that humans are supposed to feel. I begin feeling that very emotion I'm concerned about not feeling and then I beg God to relieve me of it. I'm chuckling, wonder if He is smiling with me. Somehow, I'm certain He is.)

Have you ever opened a gift and not really known what it was you were holding? or have you ever not really known how much you like or enjoy a gift until you've had the chance to use it? With the awareness I've just written myself into, I find myself sitting in the Peace I've been seeking. Praise God!

Heavenly Father, You said, "Seek and you shall find". You said, "Ask and you shall receive". You always keep your promises! I've experienced Your Presence today in a way I long to experience every day. I'm thankful for those times I feel weak, for it is then that I beseech You to draw me close. The more I know You the more I want to know You. May I never get lazy in my quest to stay close to You. May my eyes always seek You, my ears always listen for You, and the door to my heart always be open for You. May I never stop longing to be a voice for You. May I never stop longing to be Your Light. May I never stop singing Your praise, bringing You glory, or loving you with ALL MY HEART! Amen!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Experiences, such as the one that happened this weekend, are impossible to portray with words but it's all I have to offer as a way to share it. Here is my feeble attempt.

I spent a lot of time on the road this week; traveling to a speaking engagement in Lexington, to an impromptu visit with Cincinnati' Children's Hospital and to a gathering of friends in Indianapolis. I'm not one who likes car travel. If it's necessary, I'd rather be reading or sleeping in the passenger seat than be the one behind the wheel. However, if there were a guarantee that every car ride over an hour would result in a conversation with God like this one, I'd make certain to be behind the wheel every day. It is that very thought of possibility that gets me in the car early in the morning to head to the gym. I've had many a powerful conversation with God in the silence of that waking hour. One powerful conversation, shared with God in the silence of their car, would propel anyone to begin their day without the radio or distractions and just listen to what His Divine Guidance has to say.

Actually my conversation with God began on my way back from the Lexington engagement. I was asking God if I'm doing His work in a way that's pleasing to Him. The inner voice answered, "It's pleasing to Him, it's you that sometimes has a hard time being pleased." As I choked down yet another piece of humble pie, disappointed with the realization that I too am guilty of trying to get to bigger and better instead of embracing the gift of where I am. (that's one of my most emphasized messages) Then as the conversation continued, I heard the prompt to go to Cincinnati Children's hospital the following day. I tried repeatedly to dismiss the thought, using a previously scheduled appointment as my excuse for why I could do no such thing. However, I've learned when I try to suppress something over and over and it keeps resurfacing, that it's not my thought at all and I better heed to the instruction. I threw up the question, "but why?" only half heartedly, for I know faith is not needing to understand, it's acting with trust and obliging. Sometimes the reason is made known, sometimes, as was the case on Friday, it is not.

I drove to Cincinnati with a few different expectations in my attempt to answer "what is this trip about?" Maybe I would uncover some emotion that needed to come up. (With strength that is surprising even to me and an immediate acceptance of Jonnae's "Heavenly Birth", sometimes people are bold enough to tell me I'm burying my true feelings. This prompts me to ask myself if I am. If so, maybe a trip to Cincinnati would expose them) No emotion surfaced. I didn't feel any queasiness approaching the hospital as I did on this very date two years ago, admitting Jonnae to the hospital for her bone marrow transplant. I thought, possibly, the reason I had been prompted to come to Cinci was for the encouragement of a family that was there now, only I was not permitted to go into the unit. (It is very high security to protect the low immunity of the transplant patients.) Nor did I see the head doctor. Another thought that had crossed my mind as to "why".

Before I ever arrived on the hospital campus, I accepted the thought that I may never know what the trip was about, but I had been obedient to "the call". Even though the possibility of no answer was accepted, I still continued a question/answer session in my head on the way back home.

If nothing else, I had shared "I GET TO" bracelets with the young men parking cars for the hospital visitors. They embraced the message and were most appreciative of the way it had already changed their day, much more their lives. I saw one of the transplant coordinators, one of the group doctors, and one of Jonnae's nurses. All surprised, yet happy to see me. I spoke with two of the receptionists who had participated in the early Wacky Wednesdays and a director who may be able to assist in activating the Wacky Wednesday program there ( maybe the "why", should we ever know :)

I wasn't able to spend time in the Vernon suite where Jonnae and I had been "quarantined" for two months. Oddly enough, I was looking forward to spending time in that space. Sadly, the hotel is no longer open for business. As I pulled into the parking lot and my eyes took in the boarded windows and vacant lot, I felt the sorrow for those workers we had become so comfortable "living" with, not because they had lost their source of income (that too), but because they truly loved to serve. It was evident from the very beginning that the people who spent their days there, would do it for nothing if they could. The receptionists, bell hops, valet parking attendants/drivers...they all LOVED serving their guests. There was no question about it.

I did visit the lovely St Monica Catholic church. On rare occassion, I had been able to attend Mass there. There was also one visit Jonnae and I were able to make, in the midst of her recovery, to visit the priest, receive reconciliation and communion, and spend some time singing and praying in the Lord's House. I thought maybe something really Divine and special would occur in my revisit to the place, one of those big giant GOD hugs, but I didn't experience it.

All of this seeking, this yearning for God to be with me in a way I have not experienced for a time, this craving, was satisfied yesterday.

Casting Crowns new CD, Until the World Hears, was playing on the stereo in the background as I beseeched Our Father. Multitudes of questions pouring from my heart and soul, with interuptions of sadness as I recalled Jonnae's and my experience two years ago. Occassionally, I caught myself leaving my own thoughts to sing along with the words of praise playing on the stereo. The bantering of questions and answers went on for a time. Then I noticed a hawk soaring up above and the thought occurred to me, maybe I just need to pay better attention and yet again surrender control of how and when this journey unfolds. Maybe my heightened awareness has become lackadaisic. And then, miraculously it Eagle perched in a tree just off the side of the road. In a lone tree, closer to the road than most, an eagle blended in with the barren branches, watching over the passers by. Many a passenger would go by and not even see it. First I was blown away by the fact it was there. In awe, I even turned my head as I drove past to keep my eyes on it as long as possible, wanting to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. I was blown away with the fact it was there, and blown away even more that I had seen it, just after the inner voice told me to pay better attention . Never before have my eyes, or anyone I've traveled with, seen an eagle just off the highway. Tears flowed and peace came over me. "Even when it's difficult to see me, I'm watching over you." That's what I heard God say and felt to my core. I can't capture with words, the serenity, the love, and the miracle of what transpired, but knowing that it did is sufficient for me. His Grace is sufficient for me. I don't need understanding, answers, or a plan that plays out. All I need is Him. A gift that was delivered through Jonnae and "leuk".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Remarkable Revelation

I'm continually amazed at how God takes heartbreak or disappointment and spins something amazing out of it. Early in 2009, what I once had perceived as a "dream come true" quickly transformed into a nightmare. Surprisingly, pain is an incredible teacher. It's the lessons that hurt that stick. Because of the lessons I learned through the pain of Jonnae's leukemia, I was better able to bounce back from, and embrace, the lessons contained in the pain of this year.

God's creative in the material He uses to teach Some choose to turn a deaf ear to Him. However, me personally...the more I know Him, the more I want to know Him. The more He has to say to me, the more I want to hear Him speak.

I don't imagine God getting frustrated at how long it can take me to get the lessons. Instead, I think He must find me rather amusing. Maybe He's like me and appreciates a good challenge. I don't wish to, but I surely must challenge His patience. (Thank you God for being so patient)

I'm like a child in so many ways (and amuse myself with that analogy often). Children love stories. To help me through the pain and lead me to a place of understanding, God used two stories to better teach me the life lessons I was having such a hard time getting. Although entirely different in their nature, one fiction and one not, finally, I GET IT!

When one is confident and strong it intimidates others. Instead of tapping into the power of greatness they have within themselves, weaker and less confident souls will be meanspirited and try to intimidate and hurt the one(s) they are jealous of. The Wicked Witch did it with Dorothy. Saul did it with David. As God revealed this Truth, He restored my confidence and strength. It wasn't a quick lesson; I questioned God numerous times. Part of me wanting to make sure I was understanding Him and another not wanting to believe what He was saying. As God always is, He was Patient and Loving.

Upon her arrival in Oz, Dorothy was told the Witch would make Dorothy miserable and the sooner she got out the better. It took her a while to figure out how, but eventually she reclaimed the power she had had all along (but had forgotten) and she left. Once David learned Saul did not have a spirit of God, he chose not to follow and left Saul's command. Revenge wasn't necessary, no nasty exchange took place, it was simply a time for both to move on.

I'm in awe of how God continues to mold, teach, hold, and love me. I'm intrigued by how long it can take me to get the lesson and fascinated by the way God finally gets through. This week I was ecstatic to be given the opportunity to speak at a Women in Business Luncheon at The Grand. (the location of Jonnae's Celebration of Life) I was returning to this location for the first time since that amazing day and just knew that showing the 5 minute video of Jonnae's Celebration would be the perfect way to give the Spirit of Christmas. (What I long to do not just this time of year, but every day. The Spirit of Christmas is the Love of God and to turn people on to that is my purpose and calling). Only late Thursday evening I got a call that the committee had met one last time and only wanted me to talk about what I had been up to this year.

I was devestated with the disappointing news. I wanted to give the gift of that day and the powerful inspiration that would surely come from sharing it as captured on video. How would my talking about this year and what I had been up to be a gift to anyone. As I struggled with the disappointment and reminded myself that faith is not needing to understand the reason, but to accept it as God's plan, I heard that Divine inner voice remind me I was like David.

It was then that another miraculous revelation took place. On numerous occassions, because of her battle with the GIANT known as "Leuk" and her defying the odds, I had referred to Jonnae as David (She liked it and told me to call her Davey). I have also said that Jonnae and I had become one. As I realized that we have both been called David, I feel both her and God's embrace. There is more to David's story than that of David and Goliath. I would not have learned about it had it not been presented to me through God's Living Word and the lessons He taught me through it this year. Not only has the time come for me to be strong and move on, the time has also come for me to embrace the rest of the story, not only Jonnae's as a young "David against Goliath", but mine also, as it mirrors much of David's adult life. It's an incredible story of how the test turning into a testimony. It gives the weary sinner hope and the beaten down strength.

Blessed through the pain of 2009 and how God revealed I have a 'heart like His', I can't help but wonder what He has in store for me in 2010. I guess I GET TO wait and see. :0)

Front and center in His Classroom,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Get Plugged In!

The other day I was trying to upload a picture into my computer. Normally, as soon as I connect my camera to the computer an automatic upload begins. After two hours of turning my camera off and on, checking the menus in both pieces of equipment, and even reinstalling software, I decided something was obviously broken and went to unplug the camera. The cord appeared to be plugged into the camera, but it wasn't all the way. I decided to give an extra push. The "click" happened, the connection was made and the automatic upload began.

One of the many gifts I found, in the center of Jonnae's leukemia, was God's way of communicating to us through "ordinary" circumstances. I pick up on His guidance and offerings of peace, love, and understanding in ways that I never did before.

As I realized the cord appeared to be plugged in, but was not all the way, I heard that inner voice say, "Are you sure you're plugged in?" It is this type of experience that gives birth to an investigation - soul searching if you will. It often gives me clarity, discernment, guidance, and opportunity for new growth if I accept the invitation for it.

With the soul searching that stemmed from the question, "Are you sure you're plugged in?" I realized I've been close, but not all the way. I pray often through the day (I spend a large part of my day in silence conversing with God and try not to "talk" to much, but to listen) I've lacked that connection that's made through spending time IN His Living Word. I speed read through my daily online devotions, but it's been a while since I've sat down and plugged into Scripture. I know from past experience just how loudly God speaks and how much better my day is, when I'm "plugged all the way in".

A few years ago, I had gotten into the habit of following the Catholic calendar of Scripture that is used for daily Mass. I also have embraced, at times, different Bible studies. I've decided that's only one way I'm not plugged all the way in. There are other ways. You can't execute a plan if you've not created one. My daily planning has been less than stellar. My creating a daily plan is what makes my ordinary days extraordinary. I could push myself just a tad more for the "click" to happen and the connections be made.

I've invited my family to join me in a "Last 9 of '09 Taylor Finale". 2 of my kiddos have accepted and are "plugging in" with me. They join me in morning prayer and have taken time to sit down and set short and long term goals, also creating daily plans to make those goals obtainable.
The Gospel reading for today, according to the Catholic calendar is:
Luke 14: 15 - 24
15 When one of those who sat at table with him heard this, he said to him, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
16 But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many;
17 and at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, `Come; for all is now ready.'
18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, `I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.'
19 And another said, `I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.'
20 And another said, `I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.'
21 So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, `Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.'
22 And the servant said, `Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.'
23 And the master said to the servant, `Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'"

I have heard the question, "are you sure you're plugged in"? and I've heard God invite me to His table. My soul craves to be nourished by His banquet and I long to keep Him company in His Home. I will not run away from Him, but to Him. I will not ignore His questions or His invitations, I will get plugged in and feel that miraculous connection!

In Gratitude Always, in ALL ways,

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hit by a "brick"

Sometimes we hear something more than once before we REALLY hear it. Scripture, songs, parables, and even "I GET TO" can be that way. Or maybe we just GET TO hear them with a different ear to be blessed with new perspective. This story is such an example, for I've heard it before, but something new struck me this time:

A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what are you doing? That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?" The young boy was apologetic. "Please, mister ... please, I'm sorry but I didn't know what else to do," He pleaded. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop."

With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. "It's my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay. "Thank you and God bless you," the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home.

It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered to repair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: "Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!" God whispers in our souls and speaks to our hearts and sometimes, when we are busy and think we don't have time to listen, He may even throw a brick at us to get our attention.

I remember being in my car - literally ( I truly believe it was the day before Jonnae's initial leukemia diagnosis in Sept of '05). I was having a silent conversation with myself on the way home from a paint job ( I had my own decorative painting business), "I want to stop and smell the roses. I really need to slow down so that I can appreciate EVERYTHING there is to this experience called life." God can answer us in strange, but powerful ways. "He won't do what makes us happy, He'll do what makes us His." (another one of those sayings I don't know who to credit, but has been a powerful tool for me to build with). God knew I wouldn't slow down on my own, so He hit my fast paced car (life) with a "brick" the next day.

Leukemia was the brick for me. When Jonnae left me in physical body, undeniable damage was left in her place. My dent is the hole in my heart from her no longer being with me (physically) because of it.

My broken heart has made me His! Every day I start with crawling up into the lap of God and asking Him to hold me, strengthen me, breathe new life into me and use me. Somedays I choose to stay right there in silence in His embrace all day. I don't leave the house and I stay in His Lap. Somedays He's like I am when my "big kids" try to sit on my lap. I tell them I love them, but my leg is falling asleep and they need to get down and go have some fun. I get a giggle out of thinking my Heavenly Father is encouraging me to get down out of His Lap. I know He loves me unconditionally and He assures me He's not going anywhere. Sometimes He even asks me to go throw a brick for Him. lol.

I could have never on my own, planned or foreseen the beauty of a brick known as Jonnae's leukemia. The book I've just released, Heavenly Birth is a brick. With the components provided by God, I've put a lot of love and labor into preparing this brick. It is a vivid and powerful reminder of Who I belong to, what my purpose now is, and how that came to be. It's made of pain, faith, miracles, and LOVE. When God directs me to throw it, I do. (I'm not His only easily distracted child, lol.)

I just read a new quote this week by Mother Teresa, "I'm a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." Heavenly Birth is a brick, but it's also a love letter from God. How it strikes us, may not immediately make us happy, but it reminds us we are His.

I only have the confidence and strength to throw this brick because I am HIS! and therefore, I am HAPPY!!!

In Gratitude Always, in ALL ways,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Account of a Runner's High

It's no secret I don't like cardio, so all this endurance training for the 1/2 in Denver is a real test for my "I WILL NOT QUIT" muscle. The opportunity for my practice of offering up the "pain or sacrifice" of that which I don't WANT to do, up for someone else, has increased substancially. :)

The thing that gets me out the door, is I know I've got a pretty good chance of hearing God speak to me in a profound way that I'm not often "quiet" enough to hear otherwise. Sometimes I get a "call" from Him first thing out the door. Sometimes it's as I'm finishing up. Today the "conversation" began pretty early.

I listen to Jonnae's old playlist, a lot when I run. Something always "shuffles" in that I've not heard before and it's always profound with the message it brings.

I listen to songs with a "different kind of ear" Many times when I'm listening to a secular song, I see if the lyrics are words I could sing to God, or He would sing to me. .
This morning, there was a Hot Apple Pie song (country group) and I heard the words,
"Tell me why can't I get to you?
How can I make you feel everything that I do?
If faith can move mountains, and love will see you through,
Then tell me why can't I,
No matter how I try:
Why can't I get to you?"
I imagined God was talking to me. Ofcourse He can get to me, but I've got to be open to Him first. He gets to me in the most incredible ways when I have my eyes and ears turned up for Him. If I'm distracted and I'm not hearing Him, I imagine He would feel like shaking me and say, "GIRL! Why can't I get "through" to you?", lol. That gave me a little extra kick to my stride.
Then a Martina McBride song came on, (Jonnae loved her) Sometimes a whole song works as a conversation piece for me and God, sometimes it's a verse or two. She sang: (and I heard God saying)
You say yes you need me
And no you wouldn't leave me
And that should be enough to make me stay
And even though I want to
I don't hear I love you
In whatever you say

Oh I know you can hear me
But I'm not sure you're listening
I hear what you're sayin'
But there's somthing missin'
Whether I go, whether I stay
Right now depends on
Whatever you say

So ofcourse, I'm saying, "STAY! I'm listening! You're getting to me God, I promise. What is it? What are you saying?

I've had some pretty incredible experieces this year with animals and the way God speaks to me through them. (No I don't think I'm Dr. Doolittle)

Dolphins, Leopard print, and Geese, were animals that appeared to me during significant times with very powerful messages. Now the yellow finch can be added to the list. I get so excited and anxious to share these things. Some embrace their Divine significance, some are too skeptical. I understand either stance. I haven't always been open enough to embrace that God will speak whenever and however He wants to. I just give thanks that I've evolved into a being that does now. I would hate to miss out on such a cool "visit" from God.

As I've been running the past couple of weeks, it's as if these birds are trying to run with me or into me. I've never seen one on a run before. Now they are flying for exaggerating lengths of time infront of me, crossing my path, or the last time, nearly flying into me. Each time, I've thought, I should look up what a yellow finch symbolizes when I get back. Then I would forget until it happened again. When the last little guy looked like he was going to fly right into me, I laughed and think I even said outloud, "Okay, okay".

So I came in and looked up the symbolism of the yellow finch this morning. Yep! I HEARD HIM! God's GOT ME! :) They represent God's eternal love and TRUST! How cool! Something else interesting, they symbolize heightened awareness and they are NEVER quiet. lol. They believe in the power of voice. WOWSER!!! Gotta love God's "small play". Well, some would chalk it up as "small". To me, it's quite AWESOME and HUGE!!!

My husband, Johnny, doesn't normally get into such things. (He loves nature though. It's opening weekend for the deer bowseason in KY, and he's away experiencing one of his passions) I text him about my exciting experience and he said, "Well, what does a hummingbird represent? I've been visited by one two days in a row."

I looked it up and could hardly wait to text the info back to him. The hummingbird has powerful spiritual significance and is a symbol of resurrection. The part of the soul that seemed to die, frozen in post traumatic stress, wakes up. (Johnny has really been struggling with Jonnae's passing and the fact that we cremated her, but she was adamant in letting me know that's what she wanted) Hummingbird is the creature that opens the heart. When the hurt that caused us to close our hearts gets a chance to heal, our hearts are free to open again.

Hummingbirds teach fierce independence. They fight in a way that no one gets hurt. Having the courage to refrain from creating new trauma by communicating non-violently. (I'm never quiet. I fight with loudness of voice, because like the finch, I believe in it's power. He's the one that will walk out of the room to not create "new trauma" and be non violent. Pretty interesting)

Like the hummingbird, our souls want to hover at beautiful moments in our lives, to fly back and savor the past. (Johnny's had a hard time embracing that we move forward. Everything to him is about what's in the past. He has a picture of a stairway hanging over his sink in the bathroom. It says, "I wish I could build a stairway to Heaven. I would come get you and bring you home". I told him she wouldn't come back and neither would he if he knew what she knows) Maybe the healing is finally at a point where his soul will resurrect and he can move forward with me and the children.
(No joke, just now, as I'm typing this blog, he text me and said the hummingbird just came back to him again. God is so COOL!!!)
With this kind of runner's high, I'll keep running even after the marathon is over. However, I will expect God to speak to me within a 3-5 mile run, lol.
In Gratitude Always, in ALL ways,

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Special Birthday Wish

She would have been 17 today.

To celebrate a life that continues to encourage, inspire, and give us strength, share the power of "I GET TO" with some one new, as a way to celebrate her with me today.

For those of you not familiar with this practice, don't say "I HAVE to", say "I GET TO". Gratitude is the key to overcoming adversity. You can use it in all circumstances. She didn't say, "I HAVE To have chemo". Instead, she said, " I GET TO to have chemo!", realizing children don't always have the hope of a cure. Realizing not everyone has access to medical care. Instead of saying, "I HAVE TO bury a child today." I said, "I GET TO release her into the hand of Our Loving Father". I can't describe the shift that occurs when you find gratitude in the most difficult of circumstances.

If you haven't seen Jonnae's tribute video that TTV produced for the Celebration of Life event we had for Jonnae before her "Heavenly Birth" watch it at Tribute. She talks about "I GET TO" on it.

If you have an "I GET TO" share, post it here. Let's CELEBRATE Jonnae in a special way today!

Monday, August 24, 2009

God's 3 Answers:

"Not Yet"

"I have something better in mind!"

I read this on a plaque this week and truly, I know it will change my life. As a person who's been impacted far too negatively by the word "No!" and the feelings of rejection that came from it, I will no longer allow it to have power over me. What was once perceived as a human "no" will now be interpreted as God's "Not Yet!" or "I have something better in mind". God knows best! I know all too well, fighting against His plan, because I'm too stuck on my own, only leads to frustration, sorrow, and exhaustion.

Nearly a year ago I heard "not yet" when I was dreaming out loud. I was frustrated by humans rejecting my dream of giving birth to a book and aggravated that God was asking me to wait. As it turns out, He had something better in mind. Now, the realization of that dream is upon me. After a long gestation period and intense labor, the baby's head is finally crowning.

When Jonnae relapsed in Sept '07, I began blogging daily for two reasons, I needed to update everyone on her condition and I needed to share what I was feeling. Things I would probably not have shared in person, were purged through my written word. It was very powerful, therapeutic, and enlightening.

I constantly heard God speaking in me and through me. As a result, the readers and I were blessed abundantly.

As I stumbled and fell through my first year without Jonnae, the words and thoughts contained in the journal, pulled me back up and gave me solid footing again. Even though I had heard the words before and HAD LIVED THEM, I needed reminded of the powerful moments and lessons they contained.

I've never wanted so badly to share something, as I do the love, joy, and peace I've found through the gift of those nine months. I was blessed as I lived them, as I recall them, and as I use them to enhance my life now. Intense pain and sorrow are contained within that time period, but the lessons that came from them are beyond invaluable.

It is my prayer, that by publishing the journal, those who weren't blessed to walk the journey with us as we prepared to let Jonnae go, will be still. I reread the journal for the first time in April and have again three times since. Each time, I'm blessed more than I anticipate, even though I know what's coming.

God is so amazing. He is my source for everything. When I allow Him to be all He is in me, I find strength, as well as rest. He gives me comfort, wisdom, love, and light. I'm in awe of where I am, considering what it took to get here. But that is GOD. With Him ANYTHING is possible!

When things seem difficult please be empowered with Jim Stovall's words in The Ultimate Gift, "Anything worth going through gets tougher before it gets easier. Learning is a gift, even when Pain is the teacher."

People from all over the world have encouraged and supported me this first year without Jonnae’s physical presence. Their and your prayers and emails have blessed me beyond measure. I couldn't possibly repay you, but I’m more than thrilled to offer something back as I share this journey with each of you. It is my prayer that you will be filled with a sense of wonder and grace as your eyes fall upon yet another one of God’s precious miracles, Heavenly Birth.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

....but I don't want to!

Today was another wild and Wacky Wednesday. I do believe this dream is coming closer to being a reality.

A couple of months ago, I was getting on the elevator to head up to the 7th floor of the children's hospital (the one we stayed on through Jonnae's treatment) to get my wacky wagon and get the wild party started. A nurse asked me what I was doing. I let her know that I was there to replace the sickness with silliness and provide the best kind of medicine there is....laughter. The only side effect is a smile :)

She loved the wacky outfit I had on and the whole concept. She begged me to come to the 8th floor, which is post op recovery, and visit "her kids". She said her staff would love it too. I was more than ready to oblige, because up until this point, I had pretty much been throwing out invitations to everyone and no one wanted to join in.

For the last couple of Wacky Wednesday's the nurses on the 8th floor have been participating, wearing wiggly antenna headbands, silly hats, wigs and glasses. Today the anesthesiologist was even going around bonking people on the head with a wacky hammer that had sound effects.

The post op staff had told the pre op floor about Wacky Wednesday and they wanted us to come visit them too. The staff on that floor had not seen us before, but were eager to take things of the cart for themselves to get their kids to join in and it ended up being the best Wacky Wednesday to date. (funny thing, the volunteer leading us around had just asked who stocked the cart and how often I placed orders. I told her up until this point, I was stocking the cart with proceeds from I GET TO bracelets and ordered once a quarter. If participation continues like today, monthly orders will be necessary and I will GET TO find a corporate sponsor or establish a fundraising committee for assistance. Definitely a sign of growth and progress :)

These hospital visits are not a walk in the park for me. They are a walk down memory lane. I don't imagine many parents who've lost a child would choose to revisit the place that holds the most painful memories imaginable in one's life. There's always a lump that forms in my throat and a heavniness that lands on my heart when I'm outside, and in, the room we told Jonnae the fight against leukemia was not going to end as we'd prayed for. Most would want to forget those the void that will never be filled and things that created such sorrow....but I don't want to!

If I forget those courageous sweet sick children:

I will forget to be grateful for every healthy thing that exists in my body.I will forget to give thanks for the ability to walk and will complain about my aching back and knees. I will forget to be grateful that I have freedom and enough energy to move about and will complain about a full schedule or being tired.

If I forget those parents who feel so helpless and cut off from the world:

I will forget to be grateful for active, healthy children and will complain about running all over town for their needs. I will forget to be thankful they are teenagers and complain about how much stress they create.

I will forget to give thanks for a job and an income and complain I have too many bills to pay.

I will forget to give thanks for a good night's sleep and complain about needing to get up early.

I posted a quote in the central forum yesterday.

"Any process worth going through is going to get tougher before it gets easier. Learning is a gift, even when pain is the teacher."

There's a story behind how we found the movie, The Ultimate Gift. I'm not going to elaborate on it now, but that movie is where I heard this powerful statement.

I've learned alot from Jonnae, leukemia, and pain. If I forgot the pain, I would forget what I've learned. I would forget how to accept broken dreams and move on to something better. I would forget to not "sweat the small stuff" I would forget how to live with an attitude of gratitude or how to forgive everything and everyone. I would forget how pride, my own and that of others, contaminates a spirit-filled life.

I've been able to leave the world's way of seeing life through a cheap view finder, and have found the gift of life, in ALL things, as I see it on God's Hi Def big screen.

Abandoning the Wacky Wednesday dream and moving on to something easier would allow me to forget a lot.....but I don't want to!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

How Much More Can I Stand

There are times when I'm just overcome with life. Overcome with AWE, as tragedy gives birth to unimaginable strength, love, faith, and dreams.

Of course I can speak first hand. Unless I had experienced it, I wouldn't have believed that the pain and suffering of my daughter, and saying good bye to her, would bless me in such profound and beautiful ways. I've become so in tune with Our Father, seeing Him present in ways that I had overlooked, that many overlook.

What my daughter's life and Heavenly Birth continue to produce is nothing short of incredible. Hindsight revealed the blessing of the crucifixion. Would anyone who witnessed that horrific day have believed the magnificence that would spring from it?

I don't know what's triggered this last phase of heightened sensitivity, but I find tears streaming down my face several times a day. Not tears of sorrow, mind you. My kids witness the tears and ask, "Are you okay?" To which I reply, "More than!" Just a few moments ago, it was, "Why are you crying?" I explained, "I love witnessing love!" My oldest looked to his best friend and shook his head as if to apologize, "She's so lame.", he said. I laughed and said "Then I love being lame!" And I do.

I know many feel sorry for me because of what I've been through, but I find myself feeling more sorry for those who can't get past adversity to see the gift in it. We are all so blessed and have too easy a time forgetting.

My family is big on watching movies together in the evenings. I live with four guys and a "daddy's girl", so you can imagine how outnumbered I am when it comes to pickin the movie for our viewing pleasure. I reluctantly sat down last night to watch a movie called, "Defiance". I had already stereo typed it as another one of those violent war movies that the guys love and I don't. Just another lesson in how far off we can be when we are quick to judge by a cover or outward appearance. It was a movie based on a true story about three brothers. Simple farmers who were outnumbered and outgunned, in the forest on the run from the Germans, yet they led and saved a group of war refugees as they fought for freedom. Their story was one that truly was a testament to the human spirit. I felt my gratitude for the life I've experienced, the strength and protection that comes from my faith, and the freedom that we have in this country, increasing with every minute. As the credits rolled, I wiped away tears and exclaimed to my family anyone who complains about "HAVING TO go to work" is just incredibly paralyzed in the gratitude department. We have so much to be thankful for.

Today my body has declared it a day of rest and recovery. I slept very little Friday night and got to enjoy a long day yesterday. I've been on the sofa, in our quiet home, surfing the site and enjoying a marathon of America's Got Talent. Again a show I had judged as a waste of time and as a result had not watched before. There are a lot of people wasting time pursuing fame with no talent what so ever, but tucked away in the midst of them are some incredible stories that touch the deepest part of one's heart and soul. There was a trio of sisters who were so amazingly close. You could tell how genuine their love for one another and shared passion for pursuing their dream was. Even more beautiful was a couple of teenage brothers and their sister who had discovered their talent while singing at their mother's bedside while she was in a coma. They were amazing. (an inimaginable dream born from a tragedy) A stay at home mom completely won over everyone who witnessed her voice. She's in remission, after having battled cancer for 5 years. Living a dream unimaginable. She said, "When you have hope, you keep going."

I have more than hope. I can't put it into words. I've just today experienced another one of God's revelations that's impossible to relay. Sometime's I feel as if I'm ready to self combust with the realization of God's presence and masterful plan. No being can create what God's love, mercy, and glory can. I don't wish for you to experience pain to obtain a vision that allows you to see His Hand in your life, but I sure want you to experience Him in ALL things.

I'm not sure how much more I can stand. :) God is in the details. I hope you are open to seeing, hearing, and feeling Him always, IN ALL WAYS!!!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Hope for the "knuckleheads"

"FINALLY! Poor little knucklehead! It took forty one years; a lot of mistakes, a lot of disappointment, a lot of pain,
and a lot of faith and perseverance, but she finally gets it"

what God smiled and said this morning.

It's my spirit that's developing into something more when I'm in the gym pumping iron or pushing myself through a cardio session. What I love about my workouts these days is my body is just along for the ride. (although it benefits immensely) I'm so far from where started.

I spent years being a co-dependant, people pleasing, girl, teenager, and woman needing to draw attention to myself. What that meant most of the time was using my body to do so. Why? Because I needed love and didn't know how or where to find it.

Through my confusion and discontentment, I thought having a beautiful body would compensate for what I didn't feel in my heart and soul or what I didn't like about my face. I had more control over changing the shape of my body than I did changing the look of my face would get people to pay attention to me.

In highschool I dressed very differently, not in a sexual way, just an odd attention grabbing way. Through college and much of my married life, different turned into provocative. I've just very recently become uncomforable with that style of dress and the reason just struck me this morning during my workout.

Before my intent was to draw attention to myself. Now my intention is to draw attention to God. Before I needed to be praised and adored. After some real eye opening lessons, the thought of someone directing that adoration and praise to me, instead of to God, is very disturbing. I have found a self love for who God created in me, through acceptance and forgiveness for all the mistakes I've made. I know God's love in the most intimate, authentic way. No human's love can compare.

I'm in awe with the path it took to lead me to this amazing place. I've pulled off of the road at one of those breath taking "look out points". (We have those here in the mountains.) It's not a place to spend a lot of time or to take up residence. It's merely a place to take a moment and appreciate the magnificent creation of God's hand. That's what I'm doing.

The climb to this "look out" point took a lot of energy, pain, falling, forgiveness, perseverance and faith. My pain propelled me into Our Father's embrace. I misused my body, sought love in the wrong places, jeopardized my marriage and family, and let go of my daughter's physical body as God waited for me to get to here.

Our journeys and the mountains we climb in the midst of them are different, but I believe they are also very similar. We often look to receive attention from other human beings. It is my prayer that if you aren't already there, you soon look in the mirror and know the person looking back at you is the loving source you need to draw from. Ultimately it is that person you see in the mirror who needs to love you enough to look out for your best interest. People come and go. Some you want to say good bye to, some you desperately want to hang on to.

It's not love from someone else that you need, but love from within. Ultimately, no one or nothing can be our "everything" That love doesn't come from who you are on your own, but who God is in you. Peace doesn't come from what we have, but from what we are willing to give. I'm simply in awe of the journey. I'm amazed at how desperate I was for someone else to provide what I already had. When you stop looking for love outside yourself and open up to God as your source of love from within, you'll transform from "knucklehead" to "one who gets it".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Prevailing with a Powerful Presence

It began as we drove down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for our first family vacation in three years. We last visited this condo and beach after Jonnae's initial leukemia diagnosis and 16 months of chemo (with another 12 months to go). She was feeling better than she had in months and looking so forward to a week of fun in the sun and her going back to school. (She had been homeschooled since her diagnosis.)

Thoughts of my girl visit me every day, but the last two weeks have been different. It's been a flood of memories.

In trying to relay this beautiful place I've inhabited the last couple of weeks, I compare it to the experience a child has with an imaginary friend. I'm 41, but feel like a child in heart and spirit :) Much of that is because of what I've learned through my daughter's illness and Heavenly Birth. My imaginary friend is not imaginary at all, she's very real. She's more than a friend, she's my daughter, my soul mate, and my God given guide. I continue to be taught by her example every day.

A stomach bug paid our family a visit at the start of our vacation. It introduced itself to Johnny on the drive down, spent the first morning with Lydia, and a couple of days with me before departing. I can't recall the last time I've felt so awful. I found myself in thanksgiving as I realized I have had such a very long string of healthy days and how seldom a day like this was to me. I reflected on how Jonnae, and so many dealing with chemo, have experienced so many days similar to the one that was so painful and challenging for me. I know she doesn't need it from me, but I found myself apologizing for her having been asked to endure so much sickness. I don't believe I was experiencing sorrow, just a more profound admiration and appreciation for a young girl so courageous and strong. She's been keeping me company since and I'm enjoying her "stay" .

For the last couple of weeks it's as if I can hear her saying, "Hey Mom!!! Remember when.....?" In reflection of those memories she's called up, I've shed some tears. But more than sorrow, I've felt joy and an embrace of great LOVE.

A couple days ago I decided to run to the playlist she had created for her ipod. It was very early in the morning and the memory that I headed out on the run with, was of the early morning run I took the day she joined God in Heaven. Every single song I heard on her playlist this week had a line that spoke volumes to me. Most of them were very poignant. But there were lighter moments too, like when I giggled and picked up my pace as Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walkin" came on. (Jonnae could have that attitude about her when she wanted to. :) My run ended with a song that sang, "peace like a river; joy like a fountain, flows" was as I finished that run and has continued to.

This past Wednesday was another Wacky Wednesday at the Kosair Children's Hospital. They never start out being easy. Much like the run I had experienced, I began the day feeling heavy, stiff, and more like a dying ember. However, I ended feeling light, free, and on fire with a LOVE of life and all I've experienced to get to this place. All of it being by the grace of God and the strength and protection I find in my faith.

Many have written lately about going to see "My Sister's Keeper" and how it has reminded them of Jonnae and I. One person even stated, "It's your life, you must see it". I went in with a mild anxiety, anticipating sorrow might be the prominant emotion to be pulled up. I was equipped with plenty of tissue and ready. A good cry can be cleansing. I had already begun to experience a mild "cleansing" earlier in the week as my husband and I went and saw "The Proposal". I had a "weepy leak" just watching the previews for the movie "Fame" I'm an emotional person. I cry for every emotion and often. Anytime I see someone obtaining a dream by throwing their heart over the bar, I get emotional. I'm just a sap when it comes to romance, comedy or not, so that's where the tears came from for The Proposal. I ended up blowing my nose in my sweat jacket (gross I know, but I was snotting and unprepared) With "My Sister's Keeper" though, I found myself comparing our story to that of the family in the movie. I didn't cry much because more than anything I saw the "storybook" version of leukemia. Even though it wasn't all "pretty" and there were moments when you felt through the characters, just how painful the journey can be, I didn't get to experience with Jonnae what that mother did with her daughter.

Jonnae didn't ever have a boyfriend. She didn't get to experience a prom, a dance with a boy who cared about her, or a first kiss. She didn't get to have that last day at the beach (her wish that Make a Wish had intended to grant was to see one of the beaches of the Caribbean. She wanted to ride a horse on the beach. Someday I'm gonna do that to celebrate her) I thought briefly about all the things that this mother and daughter were experiencing that we did not. However just as the movie states in the end. "the point is not that I didn't get to experience those things. The point is I GOT TO BE HER MOTHER! and I experience A LOT of beautiful wonderful things with her!!!"

I found myself laughing at a couple of things that were comparable. For instance, how ridiculous some people can be when they think they have something helpful to say. There was a visit at the hospital where the mom and daughter in this movie were just smiling and zoning out as the visiting friends and family simply had no clue how absurd they sounded. Another giggle came as the girl (Kate) had made a scrapbook and there was a page dedicated to why her dad won at scrabble - he cheats. HA! Johnny cheats at boardgames to win. It's no secret, we all know to keep an eye on him, lol. Jonnae LOVED playing scrabble. I think I laughed out loud at that point of the movie. Also, the mom shaves her head to prove to the daughter she's placing too much emphasis on her outward appearance. I offered to do that and my sweet, precious daughter let me know I have a long nose and shaving my head would just draw more attention to it. lol. When I suggested the boys shave theirs to make her more at ease when we were out, she replied matter of factly, "they would be butt ugly if they were bald" :) That was her way of disguising the fact that she really didn't want us to do anything on account of her....that she was okay. (we all know she was more than okay :)

Through all of the reflection, whether the tears came at times out of sorrow, feeling her loving presence, or experiencing the grace of God wrapped in the midst of it all, I know I live life in a way that would be impossible to live had I not experienced everything that I have.

I'm able to see more, hear more, feel more, love more, all as a result of leukemia and my daughter's early exit from this world. I am existing from a plain that I would not have reached had I not used the adversity, pain, and lessons, as stepping stones to get me here.

I believe we all have gifts that we use or abuse -healthy bodies, intelligence, spirituality - I witness people using, abusing, and misusing their gifts. It's easy for me to decipher now because of the heightened sense God's gifted me with as I've remained open to His guidance. I'm using my gifts now, but that's not always been the case. Before Jonnae's illness, one of the gifts I abused was my body. I didn't take good care of it. Once I started taking care of it, then I misused it. Not anymore. I was in a vicious cycle and God used Jonnae to save me. She accepted His will, knowing I, and many others, would be saved through her faith and my sharing our stories. Regardless of how I miss her physical presence and the memories we could have shared, I can not find myself being sorrowful for the life I have now and how God will continue to use it to bring those who are lost back into alignment with Him.There's no greater experience than one that's led and blessed by God! This smile in the midst of a battle with cancer proves it!

She prevailed with the powerful presence of God. Even with the immense void I feel without her physical body, as her spirit accompanies His and lifts me up, I will prevail with a powerful presence too.

Seeking to have a heart more like His (and hers), always in ALL ways, Denise

Friday, July 3, 2009

So Ready for a Delivery

Last June, only weeks after Jonnae had passed, I was intent on moving forward and sharing all that I'd learned, we'd learned, together. I talked of publishing the journal I'd kept those last months of her earthly life. Some people were supportive; some expressed their concern, they didn't feel I was allowing myself adequate time to feel the loss. (I've used analogies of pregnancy and birth throughout the year. The comparisons are so easy and don't seem to ever stop.) Sometimes parents lose a baby and immediately try to get pregnant again. Some support it, some worry. But God is the determining factor and if it's His will, when the time is right, He'll create a new life. He's done that in me. I'm not talking about a baby in the literal sense as a human being, but in the figurative since, as with this book.

The talk of my creating a book began in June, but it wasn't until October that God "announced" to me it was time. Much like the first trimester in a pregnancy, there was an excitement that came with the announcement, as well as the question, "Am I really ready for this?" The initial months didn't reflect much was growing, but I remained in faith and moved naturally with God, the Father and Creator of this baby.

I got excited as He scheduled my first ultrasound in March, an event in CA with agents, publishers, and professionals in the book industry. The picture didn't produced the results I had hoped for. It was like those first shots I saw of my real babies. (ultrasounds have come a long way since then) Back when I was in the "baby making business" the shots weren't real clear. You could only make out enough to see there was indeed a baby there. And that's about all that was confirmed in CA, a book was there.

It wasn't until April that there was evidence the book was undeniably developing and a due date established. The birth of this baby is near and I'm finding myself very much like a pregnant mother in the last months of pregnancy. Exhausted, emotional, and just ready to push it out. lol. You think I'm kidding? I told my publisher, "When a mother gives birth, the nurses take over for a few days, to give her rest. I'm so ready for you to be my nurse." :)

I'm eager to give birth. A mother sacrafices a lot to do what's best for the baby. This book experience is the same in that capacity as well. For the miracles I'll witness as a result of them, it's so worth it, but I'm ready for this phase to end and the next one to begin. It won't come without the challenges a new mom (or author) faces, but it'll be something different and I'll be able to reclaim some of my prepregnancy life that I've been missing :)

You'll get an announcement when the baby's born, just incase you'd like to hold it. I'm anxious to witness how God's Light and Love will comfort and lift you when your eyes fall upon it, just as with any of His precious creations.

The name's been chosen already - Heavenly Birth - A Mother's Journey, A Daughter's Legacy