So there’s this Girl [new book giveaway!]

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So there’s this Girl. And I love her. And I’m so excited for you to meet her.

I met her about six years ago as I was living her story. The story of a Girl who needed to remember some big things. Some big truths – like who she is, Whose she is, and what makes her heart truly beautiful. She needed to remember that she’s enough without any of love’s trinkets. Because love itself is already hers. Priceless love. Without cost. And timeless beauty. Without expiration.

So I took this Girl to meet an artist friend of mine, the amazingly talented Jenny Lewis. And she loved her too. And she poured that love onto page after page of beautiful hand-drawn illustrations.

And now, thanks to the cheerleading of countless friends … A Girl and Her Heart is ready to meet you! This is the first illustrated storybook of a series I’ll be releasing under Big Truths for Little Hearts – and it’s only right that this first one starts with the core, the heart of everything, reminding us that love and beauty don’t start with us: they are gifts we receive and share.


This Girl is ready to bring those big truths into the hearts of all the littles – and bigs – YOU love. She releases on October 23, 2016, in honor and celebration of my Jason’s (miraculous) birthday.

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So it’s BIRTHDAY WEEK! Which means GIFTS – I’ll be drawing a name each night to GIVEAWAY an autographed copy of A Girl and Her Heart! Watch every day for how to enter.

ENTER TODAY’S GIVEAWAY:

One entry for each of the following:

  • Comment below
  • Share on your Facebook or Instagram
  • Tag girls who you want to tell: YOU ARE LOVED, SO LOVED, JUST FOR BEING YOU!
  • One entry for every friend you tag – and when you tag them, they are automatically entered to win too! (Be sure to tag me too so I can count it!)
  • Entries close at 7pm every night (PST). You can also skip the wait and GO PRE-ORDER HERE. Books will ship immediately after October 23 and I’ll personally sign every pre-order 
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That Walk Around The World: Dreams > Plans

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Ten years ago today we started a walk that took us around the world in 225 days.

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Sometimes it seems like yesterday. Other times like someone else’s life.

But as the sweet naïve babies that we were (look at that natural hair color, I mean come on!), we hiked up our backpacks and set off. We had one-way tickets and dreams that were much bigger than our plans. We wanted to see the world. And it was before the days you wanted the world to see you back. We were anonymous. Our cell phones didn’t work where we were headed, we took pictures on actual cameras, and WiFi was still relegated to Internet Café’s. Blogs and Facebook were barely a thing, and Instagram/Twitter/SnapChat weren’t even a sparkle in Social Media’s eye. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It was.

I remember surrendering my phone to a friend as she dropped us off at LAX and snapped this picture. I remember thinking I felt a little lost without it as we wandered into the airport and I knew I’d be without that lifeline for the next eight months. And it was a flip phone.

So, my hair color isn’t the only thing that’s changed in the last ten years.

And I decided that in honor of this ten-year-mark, I’ll be recounting our steps, wandering back down the cobbled streets of Istanbul and Jerusalem and re-climbing Table Mountain and the Great Wall and remembering the sights and sounds and, yes, even the smells of that walk. Because I need to remember that dreams can be bigger than plans.

So I invite you to join me over the next 225 days – I’ll post some old photos, some old blog posts from the trip, and every now and then some current perspective. Some of the what-I-know-now stuff that I would tell my sweet 27 year old self. Though Lawd, I don’t think I’d tell her everything. I wonder, sometimes, if she would have wanted to know that ten years after strapping on that backpack, she’d know the loneliness of an empty womb, and the rythym of a heart monitor. Or that she’d see life restored in both of those places. That she’d be living a miracle. Or that she’d be living in a terrifying SNL skit about the 2016 Presidential Ballot.

I think she would have curled up into a fetal position. I know that’s how she felt about just reading up on Dengue Fever and the other diseases they were told they might encounter in their travels. Which they did. Fears came true. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because today, today is about those dreams. Those sweet doe-eyes of ours that dared to dream of a year spent walking around the world. And then did it. You guys, it was so fun. And so hard. And so great. And so tough. And so something I’d like to talk myself into again. It could happen.

Our plans were about as simple as they come. We sold our stuff. Filled our backpacks. Bought a few one-way plane tickets to places where we knew some faces. We didn’t even have all the places mapped out. We just knew our first few stops. We bought our plane tickets in stages, once we knew when and where we were headed. Yeah, I wanna do that again. For reals, though. Who wants us to come visit?

From the very first inkling of the idea, we knew we wanted the trip to be about people, and a puzzle started taking shape that involved missionaries and teachers and ex-pats and locals and different faiths and very different foods and, well, maybe one of the most beautifully relational years of our lives.

And today, this week, this year, I just need to remember that dreams CAN be bigger than plans. That plans are good and right and responsible things, but they are also inherently smaller than what we can dream. Because a plan is something you can figure out. A dream is usually something you can’t.

So I invite you to join me. In re-living one dream and exploring others. In asking yourself what dreams are bigger than your plans? And if you don’t have any, to open your heart to something that’s bigger than what you can figure out. Because maybe, just maybe, I’m not the only one who needs that reminder today.

Because the plans were oh so small. But it was the dream that took us around the world.

 

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Holy nap-time

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Holy end of September. I feel like I’m just waking up from a nap. One of those crash-your-face-into-the-pillow and wake up chagrined by the drool kind of naps.

And actually, August and September were filled with a lot of those. I’m real sad I was such a jerk to naps when I was a kid. I guess I’m making up for that now.

Recovery is no joke. Right now I’m in the tired phase. I mean, we’re talking exhausted on a level that is totally foreign to me. But also in a way that is just real. And just recovery.

See, crisis immediately slows down and shrinks your world – in a good way. It instantly becomes obvious what needs your time and attention and what does not. Coming out of crisis means expanding that world – also a good thing, but tricky too. Finding a post-crisis-pace requires new definitions and new priorities, but the old ones are the habits that already know your name. And they taunt and test and sometimes trick you … thus commencing the drool-inducing-naps.

It’s no mistake that my current reading includes Present over Perfect, The Year of Living Danishly, and a novel about knitting (that I’m actually enjoying!). I’m learning the sacredness of slowness in a fast world.

A few weeks ago Jason taught on a passage in 1 Kings – I love me the Old Testament, but I haven’t hung out there in awhile. He taught through the passage where Elijah stood on Mount Carmel and tested the Baals – the false gods – in an epic dual with the true Living God. He literally saw fire rain down from heaven.

And then … he took a nap. No, for real. The day after he lived a miracle, Queen Jezebel threatened his life and Elijah ran into the desert to hide. He was wiped out, and there in the desert God met him with kindness, and food … and naps.

This is the amazing God I’ve been cuddling up with the last few months. The one who is all-powerful and all-kind at the same time, whose glory is seen not just when He allows us to have a front-row seat to miracles, but also when He cradles us as we collapse.

So be your fall fast or slow, may you find Him near, whether you’re standing on a mountaintop proclaiming glory or snuggling in the shadow of His wings.

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Wonderland

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We did it. We took a vacation. In a post-crisis reality, this is a big deal. You better believe there was some big celebration of what before was taken for granted. Because post-crisis, there are a lot of things you say goodbye to. Some forever, like naivety. Some for a short while, like vacationing. And because of Hank, this much-hoped-for vacation was not green-lighted until the day before we actually left. And oh my goodness, for those who didn’t see the update ala Facebook and Instagram, Hank is a wuss and NOT a cancerous tumor!

So as we come up on the six-month mark after Jason’s heart attack, we jumped a flight to Alaska and joined up with besties to explore Wonderland. It delivered. We rested. We played. We danced in the rain and shine. And I only had 2-1/2 panic attacks.

But seriously, what a wonder-full world. And even on the rainy days, we carried the sunshine in our pockets.

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His name is Hank.

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There’s a new threat in town. His name is Hank. We don’t know much about him yet, except that he’s most unwelcome and potentially the culprit behind Jason’s mysterious clotting. Maybe even behind the heart attack itself.

Hank is a mass snuggled up against Jason’s kidney and abdomen. He was discovered yesterday when, on a loooooooong shot, one of our amazing ‘ologists ordered CT scans to rule out a rare syndrome where tumors can be associated with clotting. He didn’t expect the scans to find anything. They did. They found Hank.

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Hank is between the size of a golf ball and a baseball. He is not jagged, but appears to have a rim, and hard to say yet whether he is solid or liquid. So the next step is an MRI, and then a meeting with an Oncological Surgeon. Yep, all those words strike fear to my heart, even though at the moment we are in the limbo land of “maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that”, and at least some of the maybes are not dire. But some are. And sympathy is a terrifying thing to see on a Doctor’s face.

And miracles are allowed to be scared.

So we want to ring the bell without sounding the alarm. Because fear is not the boss of us. We’ve seen the power of prayer and know the greatest Physician of all, the ultimate Head of Household who can evict Hank with a single vote (that one’s for you, Jared!). I’d love it if we showed up next week and they couldn’t even find Hank.

In the meantime, we are amen-ing the heck out of the long road.

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Also, someone stole Jason’s computer. So there’s that. And without further proof, I’m blaming Hank.

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Friday’s Rain Bible Study: now in paperback. And real pretty.

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Ah friends, it’s Friday number fifteen. And I could not be more excited to tell you about the new paperback version of Friday’s Rain: revealing what grief washes away. It’s real pretty.

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Some of you joined in on last year’s e-version release and I can’t thank you enough for the amazing feedback. This summer, not only is it available in paperback but I’ve ALSO added a week, making it a summer-friendly six-week bible study, great for individuals or groups.

And I know grief is a scary topic, but as life teaches us how to lose things, let me dare you to pick up this book and find Life from Loss.

Also, the new week is, no joke, on Martha and Lazarus. I was in final edits when we started living our miracle. Never would I have dreamt that Martha and I would walk such a parallel path, being asked to declare who our God is in the midst of the darkness, and standing in awe as the stone of death was rolled away.

If you are ready for a summer of cleansing, healing Rain, if you’re standing on the edge of a storm – perhaps yours or maybe someone else’s, if you want to feel even more of your heart beat, I promise you that Friday’s Rain brings refreshing truth as it washes away facades and reveals what is most true:

we are deeply loved, by a wild Belover.

 All this month, I’ll be sharing more about this study that brings a part of my heart and soul to your table. I can’t wait to hear how God reveals more of Himself to you through it.

ORDER HERE, and be sure to use the code FRIDAY15 for free shipping this week!

xoxo,

print only Brooke Mardell

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“I highly recommend Friday’s Rain to anyone who has walked through grief, heartbreak or unanswered prayers. Grief is such an ugly word with so many negative connotations and unknowns. It is often journey that is taken alone and not talked about. As a society we like to avoid the elephant in the room because grief doesn’t have an easy “fix”- we wait until enough time has passed and then maybe bring it up, holding our breath hoping it is over. But the reality of grief is that it is never really “over” and the beautiful part about Friday’s Rain is that it allows space for processing while speaking truth that God has promised in His word. Brooke is transparent and speaks from a position of understanding. It is evident she has allowed God to take hold of her entire story and challenges each person embarking on the journey to do the same. Prepare to be challenged, encouraged, inspired and assured in how great God is. I went through the study and left feeling hopeful and a part of a community. The most important piece is realizing you are not alone. There simply are not enough words to express the impact this has had in my life. Do yourself a favor, step into the discomfort and embrace Friday’s Rain.”

– Hannah H.

 

 

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On Being MARVEL-us

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Yesterday I got some of the final Christmas things stashed in their proper place in the garage beams. I figured it was a proper way to welcome June. And also, by I, I mean friends who are stronger than me, but I pointed and supervised like a champ.

This is what recovery looks like. Coming back online, back to life. Surging ahead and then slowing down. Working but resting. Inhaling but also exhaling. It’s tricky business, catching up on things that have had a four-month pause. Making new choices about how to use new time. Paying attention without being a hypochondriac. I mean, seriously, if I read the side-effects-call-your-doctor-if list long enough, I start feeling all the side effects of Jason’s medications.

It’s living in the middle of the both-and as life returns to normal, but an entirely new normal. A good normal, don’t get me wrong. Just a new one. Instead of dancing in the driveway, which he still doesn’t remember, we take an occasional spin around the living room. And we’ve instituted a new personal holiday that precedes Memorial Day by one week: We call it life-vest-no-more-day, basically a celebration of bra removal everywhere. Wait, that sounds awkward. Oh yes, that’s because life vests ARE awkward, and watching Jason take his off after three months of having it strapped to his chest was like watching him embrace the freedom that us ladies taste when we get to remove THE thing that truly lets us know our day is done and we can let our hair – and, umm, other things – down. Also, NO ARITHMEAS in the past three months. Cue happy dance.

Jason’s been back at his McSmarty-ness, logging hours at the library and hitting the books with a new love and fierceness – when he started this PhD program, we both knew he was tapping into a deeper, truer version of himself. He’s a teacher at heart, always has been, and soon he’ll have the degree that confirms it. In fact, as he was waking up from sedation and taking it all in, one of the first things he talked about was getting back into the classroom -that having received his breath back, he wanted to spend them in developing the next generation.

At the same time, we are still meeting new ‘ologists as explorations and tests continue. Jason has officially been deemed a ‘medical marvel’ as doctors review his charts and we review their eyebrows as they inch up into a state of surprise. There is great comfort in hearing things like “your test results are extraordinarily boring”, but also some confusion surrounding my guy’s body and heart and why it stopped fifteen Fridays ago.

So some days the road feels like this

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And other days like this

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It’s not the first time we’ve heard how MARVEL-us we are … in fact, in some ways you could say we’ve been pre-conditioned to live without answers to everything.
But since science can’t answer why he woke up, I won’t be surprised if it also can’t answer why it first happened. Because we’re only the boss of little bits. So again with the being tricky …

And so we put away the Christmas decorations in June. We open and sort the mail that came in three months ago. We call doctors with questions and we remember who the Great Physician is. We work and make choices again. We pay the medical bills with a deep sigh of thanks … both to the doctors and to the givers that have made check-writing a thing of celebration. We have movie marathon days. We live in the knowledge that we’re not the boss of it all. And we embrace this most holy of truths:

IT IS NO BAD THING TO CELEBRATE A SIMPLE LIFE.

– J.R.R. Tolkien as Bilbo Baggins

Also, Bilbo said that on his 111th birthday. Amen to the long MARVEL-us road.

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Mother’s Day, Jesus, and Dolphins

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10171617_10154644169180134_4907199022451003141_nYou guys, Jesus is so funny. I think we will have some good belly laughs someday. Like that time He asked the barren woman to give the message on Mother’s Day. I mean, who doesn’t want to hear about infertility. At Church. On Mother’s Day.

But really, this is about learning to be His child while I pursued being a mom. And just how BRILLIANT this God of ours is even though He – and life – are often not what we planned. In the face of barrenness – of loss, disappointment, confusion, emptiness, whatever the variety – Isaiah tells us to sing, and to make room for more, not less. So this was my Mother’s Day song.

Also, don’t worry, I don’t really sing. It’s an analogy. As are the dolphins.

 

 

P.S. Loss doesn’t have the last word. That’s why I wrote “Friday’s Rain“.

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Mother’s Day: She and Me and All of Us

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I thought I’d dig up a little re-post as taming down the Mother’s Day hoopla to protect us non-moms has been trending …

It can get uncomfortable, right? Mother’s Day has all these rules now.

10 Things to Never Say on Mother’s Day

17 Ways to Destroy Your Church by Handing Out Roses on Mother’s Day

12 Do’s and Don’ts for Retail Clerks this Mother’s Day

I mean, it can get a little overwhelming. As a non-mom, I’ve got some messy thoughts on this messy subject.

IMG_1735I mean, the day is about Moms. And I’m not one. So it’s not my party. But there’s all this talk about how I should be treated on their day. Wha????

The thing is, we are uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. And I get it. My heart has bled on Mothers’-Days-Past as I wrestled with my unplanned unparenthood. But it’s also bled on Christmas and Fourth of July and days ending in Y. Pain is no respecter of holidays and dates.

And pain also isn’t satisfied with being just the boss of its victim – it wants to be the boss of everyone in the room. Pain would love nothing more than to see a room full of people feeling awkward and unsure how or if to celebrate something because it will make someone else uncomfortable.

This isn’t about embracing pain. I don’t like pain. I don’t like discomfort. I’m not the girl who signs up for the gym because it-hurts-so-good. Also, I don’t sign up for the gym for any other reason. But I do know that pain and celebration can happen at the same time. That they can GIVE to one another instead of taking away. There’s this sacred dichotomy of grief and celebration happening all around us every. single. day. And if we let it, it can make us stronger.

A few years ago, my bright-eyed-newlywed baby sister and I were out Christmas shopping. Now, you should know that she is ten years my junior, surpasses me in all things hair and makeup, is an opera singer and a beauty queen (literally) but somehow not a drama queen. Oh, and she farts rainbows.

So there we were. As we crossed the parking lot, her little button nose wrinkled up at the scent of grease wafting towards us from a fast-food restaurant. “What, are you pregnant?” I asked, jokingly-because-of-course-she’s-not-pregnant-she’s-a-baby-and-babies-can’t-have-babies-what-a-funny-joke-I’m-making-ha-ha-ha-ha. But then her feet stopped, her eyes widened, and she silently nodded yes.

You guys, my world fell out. I’d traversed hundreds of pregnancy announcements from the time we started “trying”, but my BABY sister was going to have a BABY?

Nothing humbles you faster than the ugly cry. In public. In a parking lot.

And bless it, that was my reaction to my baby sister’s news. It definitely wasn’t the way she wanted to deliver it; it definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to receive it. But I’m so glad that neither of us had a chance to be fake in that moment. I’m so glad we didn’t have time to prepare or take deep breaths or brace ourselves or plan speeches. I’m so glad there was no time for white gloves.

Together we hugged and cried and wiped snot (our own, not each others – mostly), and we found our way THROUGH it, not around it.

And you know what, it was hard. Like hard-hard. At Christmas she announced their news – she made cute little jerseys for each of the littles that make up the family “team”. Each had their number, their birth order number, on the back. It was adorable. And painful as hell. Because with each kid that unwrapped a jersey number, 1-9, and as my parents opened their “surprise Number 10”, I was sitting there with a big fat zero.

But my zero and her 10 were two totally completely separate things happening. They were both happening at the same time, but they were not the same thing.

With the snot-fest out of the way, we got to have crazy-real conversations throughout her pregnancy. I was honest when it was hard. She was honest when it was hard. Spoiler alert: sometimes it can be just as hard to figure out how to celebrate while someone you love grieves, as it is to figure out how to grieve while someone you love celebrates.

Also, she just had her second baby. Powering through the grief storm together makes these celebratory moments that much richer.

See, every day we encounter those who are grieving and those who are celebrating. Sometimes we know it – often we don’t.

At every wedding, there is someone grieving the pain of divorce.

At every birthday party, there is someone grieving the death of a loved one.

At every Church service, there is a mama celebrating as her son walks with the Lord while another mama grieves as her son has walked away from Him.

At every grocery store and fairground and park and office and schoolroom there is a heart that is full and a heart that is empty.

So should we stop celebrating these things? Should we just tame it by saying “you know what? Every woman gets a rose today – or no one – or men too – or you know what let’s plant a rose garden – no not roses, succulents – so no one feels left out.”

Please don’t give me a rose on Mother’s Day. Please give it to those who didn’t get a full night’s sleep. Who respond to “why?” and “what for?” and “how?” hundreds of times a day. Who juggle soccer schedules and math homework and dinner menus like a champ.

And please don’t cancel the celebration. Because celebrating her is not a way of not celebrating me. I want us to teach each other that. Together. In my Community, my Church, my Family, I don’t want us to tame the celebration, and I don’t want us to tame the grief. I want to be in a place where both grief and celebration have a chance to play into one another and say “aha, yes, I see you there.”

I want both to be okay. Because both are okay. Even when it hurts. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Really.

 

 

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Hope Heals: Redefine healing. Manifest hope. Live your miracle.

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Jay and Katherine Wolf are living a miracle and telling their story of ‘Hope Heals’. In mid-February I signed up to read their book as part of a launch team and help share their story. Just days later, we were living it. In fact, I emailed them from our ICU room before Jason woke up, asking for the book to be delivered STAT.

It arrived the day after we got home from the hospital. Complete with a personal note from Jay and Katherine.


We read it as sleep healed, and quiet healed, and yes hope healed.


Written from the proximity of loss, reading this book felt like kneeling beside Katherine and Jay inside the holy of holies, daring to voice both lament and praise. We’ve practiced this voice before. In fact, just before picking up this book, my J said: “I’m thankful; but damn, this hurts.” We know we’re ‘allowed’ to think that way, but it’s still a hard line of truth for a miracle to speak. And then it was echoed when we read this from Katherine’s pen: “I can give God the glory, and it can still hurt.” (p.16) It was like meeting friends who spoke the same language to the same God: the God who can take it. And the God who meets us in it.

And true to Katherine’s words, this book brought both glory and hurt. Glory in hearing another story redeemed by our amazing God in the midst of loss; hurt in facing the exquisite ways that Jay Wolf describes his time in the ER, the hospital room, and their amen to the long road. There were many days that my Jason would ask me to stop reading, sometimes even just a paragraph or two in for the day, because it was just too painful to hear what “the awake spouse” experienced.

I would pause, close the book, and silently agree that Jay and I had walked a parallel heart-path as we said goodbye to our spouses and hello to our fears, wondering if we would “no longer be a casual observer of the pain but the recipient.” He speaks of the sound of silence being broken by the sound of his own wailing (p. 26), and I too remembered how hearing my own wail was at once foreign and familiar. Something that was coming from inside me, yet as if from a distance too.

Jay speaks of his rush to the ER desk and the nurse there using a tone reminding him that it was his crisis, not everyone else’s. And I could see in my minds’ eye the nurses that wouldn’t make eye contact with me when I arrived to the ER and was ushered into a private waiting room. They didn’t need my break-down to interrupt everyone else’s waiting.

But slowly, day by day, we would read a little more. And then close the pages of their story and discuss the pages of our own. This book was like an elbow-to-the-side from a friend, saying “hey, talk about this partyes, that part too. Don’t skip it.”

There were moments in Katherine’s pages when I would see Jason nod, or sigh, or close his eyes in recognition of a moment of ICU despair. Of walking a sacred road that included being asleep for the most dramatic moments. (Confession: we did scan over some of the details of the physical healing, as that section got long, but this story is powerful enough that even scanning over it is impactful.)

Jay speaks of the day “I released Katherine from my feeble grip and into God’s. I knew that, though Katherine may well lose her life, she would never lose the indomitable goodness and inexplicable love of God. And neither would I.” THIS is the healing of which they speak. The healing this book offers goes far beyond the physical, and dares us all to think of how “we all walk through this life on the edge of a blade, and yet we rarely allow ourselves to feel the weight of our potential losses or the grace of our potential gains.” (p. 66)

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*Released TODAY; go grab a copy and dare to meet Jay and Katherine in the pages of this book. Dare to go even further and feel the elbow-nudge as their story unlocks your own … 

 

 

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