365 Because of 1

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ONE YEAR, people. One year of this miracle is upon us.

Jason’s heart attack was February 19, 2016, and we decided the best way to celebrate was to go back to the place where we all gathered those fateful days. This time, to say THANK YOU. And also, this time Jason will be AWAKE.

So we’ll be gathering on the lower courtyard between the two towers of PIH Hospital on Sunday, February 19, at 2pm, where so many meals and prayers were shared that week, to share again. First with each other via hugs and stories and food (potluck style). And then with the hospital as we put together a love gift for our amazing nurses.

If you’re local, it’s open invitation. An RSVP here would be great, but not required. Please bring these things:
– food to share (potluck style)
– your stories/memories
– your praises
– $ to go towards nurses’ thank-you gift (suggested donation: $10)

Another way to say THANK YOU, especially for those that are not local, is to donate to the Hospital directly – PIH is a non-profit hospital, which still blows my mind. We asked them to set up a donation page dedicated to the Critical Care Unit and would be honored if you’d consider giving. 

Because what they do every day is why we’re coming up on 365 extra days.


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2017: Let there be LIGHT

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This is my anthem for 2017. My fight song. Let there be LIGHT. I’m really struck by the word let. Because I wonder how often I just … don’t.

And let here is not about us somehow giving God permission to be God, to be Light, because He already is. No, this song isn’t about that. It’s about letting that Light be true in us. And through us. And me thinks I probably stand in the way of that more times than I know.

One thing I definitely know to be true about light, about life, about good, is that sometimes we have to first face the dark, the loss, the ungood. That’s why I wrote Friday’s Rain – because grief is the way we work out what has found it’s way in.

While Jason and I worked hard together on writing and releasing Friday’s Rain last year – with a chapter in process about Martha and Lazarus when Jason had his heart attack – yes, for reals … sorry, I digress. Anyways, THIS YEAR, we are opening it with new eyes and new hearts and, honestly, new griefs too. Actually, I haven’t yet met someone who isn’t carrying something pretty major from 2016 …

So if you’re like us, and realizing that 2016 brought some stuff IN that you’d like to work OUT, well, I want to invite you to join us.

Grab your spouse, your friend, your best. Every order placed this week for Friday’s Rain will come with a FREE second copy. Because let there be light. And let us find it TOGETHER.

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O Holy Light: The Pell-Mell of Hope

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I can still hear it. Our crashing pell-mell down the stairs on Christmas morning. We sounded like a herd of elephants. I can see my little brothers in their PJ’s. I can feel my elbows crashing into one of their rib cages to ensure I got there first. I can remember racing back upstairs to pick up my baby sister as she whimpered at the top of the stairs because she was both scared and excited at the same time.

And I remember somewhere, at some point, deciding that racing pell-mell was ‘for the kids.’ Right up there with the magic of all things Christmas.

It’s been a long time since I’ve pell-mell-ed.

This year, I’ve recaptured the wonder of pell-mell-ing. And also, a bit of its desperation.

Even this morning, while my body slept in and adulted through Christmas like a childless-champ (including a stocking full of fur baby toys – yep, that’s a thing) … this Christmas my heart was pell-mell-ing towards hope. Towards light.

Because this year I’ve tasted darkness I didn’t know to be afraid of. This year I’ve lived in the shadow of death. This year I’ve seen fears realized. My own. Those of others. I’ve seen darkness come in to steal joy and marriage and money and life itself. I’ve seen darkness flood hearts and minds with doubt, anger, and terror.

Maybe you have too?

I don’t know your story. But I know OUR STORY. And it’s one that starts in darkness, that feels surrounded by impossible, but has a God racing to us in redemption and light – what if we dared to pell-mell in return? Because the God we celebrate today is the God of the impossible. He’s the one who brought a baby through a virgin. The one who brought a King through a baby. And life through death.

This video captures the story many of you have walked with us this year, where HOPE was found even as it was lost.

So Merry Christmas, friends. The light has come. And in that, we have HOPE. Unexpected. Unearned. And unlimited.

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Thankful fistbumps

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A few years ago we developed (and confessed) our childless fistbump: The fist-bump about celebrating the as-things-are-right-now moments.

This year, that’s how I’m thinking of Thanksgiving. This year there are some big, OBVIOUS things on my gratitude list. Only the easiest year ever to answer “what are you thankful for?” There are also some less obvious griefs. I know Thanksgiving tables everywhere will be filled with equal and sincere doses of gratitude, grief, and granax (Xanax-induced-gratitude). 

My friends at Homefront Magazine invited me to write about how I learned to give thanks in all things, something I had to wrestle to the ground in our unplanned unparenthood – or better said, something that had to wrestle me down. Also, that’s very different than gratitude FOR all things. So very different. Tuck that one in your back pocket because it’s name is grace.

So I thought I’d share the article this morning because maybe as you head into a day of thankful fist-bumping, maybe a little reminder wouldn’t hurt that gratitude and grief are not exclusive of one another. That the thankful-fistbump can be an expression of both. And that practicing gratitude is practice – we get better at it the more we work that muscle.

So, my friend, thankful-fistbump to you and yours, whatever you’re bringing to the Thanksgiving table today. 👊🏻

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Homefront Magazine excerpt (Unplanned Parenthood, November issue)

 She’s got angel’s hair – so blonde it’s almost white. With an angel’s face to match.

She’s four. And precocious. And already carries a fierce stubbornness that is going to make her a challenging teen but amazing woman. She’s in her question-asking stage – Why this? How that? I know some of the answers, but not all.

As we sat together and watched Up, she narrated. He likes balloons, she’d say with a grin. Her giggle was infectious as the love story of Carl and Ellie unfolded.

When they started painting the nursery, she turned to me with a conspiratorial smile and half-whispered she’s going to have a baby. I then saw her head go sideways when the next scene shows Ellie sobbing in the doctor’s office: why is she crying?

Ah, this answer I know. She’s really sad because she isn’t going to have a baby, I answered. Why can’t she have a baby? Well, not everyone gets to. She let that answer sit – I could see that it was brand new information for her brain.

But did she get happy again? Yes. Yes she did.

How? Well, she had a different adventure.

Contended, my niece snuggled in and took a deep sigh, as if the breath she’d been holding had depended on how I answered that question. I marveled (and chuckled inside) at how simply her child-heart had accepted that answer. Because it was an answer my grown-up heart had wrestled with for years.

See, I had set out to be a mom. Instead, He taught me about being His child.

I had waited and watched for the day my womb would be full. Instead, He entrusted me with emptiness.

Owning, living, and braving our story of unplanned unparenthood meant learning how to thank the God who gives and takes away.

Even though I knew I was to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18), I spent many days ready to punch the next person who reminded me. And barrenness can take so many shapes and forms, but mine was literal, and my tears were fresh on the day I came across this odd instruction in Isaiah: “Barren one … go enlarge your tents and strengthen your stakes” (Isaiah 54:2). It sounded kind of, well, cruel. And confusing. Two things that I know God is not. So I simply asked Him “what does this mean?”

I looked at my ‘tents’, the rooms in my heart. I looked to expand when I wanted to shrink. I made more time for friendships. I signed up to be a counselor at a camp for foster youth. I dug into Scripture and discovered loss doesn’t have the last word. I turned to my ‘stakes’ – my marriage. I looked for ways to strengthen it. To invest in it. To fight FOR my man and not with him as our hearts wrestled with an undefined future. I guess you could say I began practicing gratitude before my heart knew what it was doing.

And this passage in Isaiah – this odd instruction to expand when everything in your world says to shrink – goes on to tell us that God has compassion on us the same way we have all the warm feels for newborn babies. [Insert eye-roll about God using a newborn baby metaphor to speak to a barren woman, but I digress.] And THIS is where we find the freedom to give thanks in every circumstance – whether our tents are small or large, our stakes are strong or weak – we are His babes. YOU are His child before you are anything else … before being a wife, or a mom, or a non-mom, or a businesswoman, or a ministry leader, or any of the many labels we can carry.

I love that we get to practice gratitude even before we understand it – and even on days we want to punch the next person who suggests it. That we can encourage each other to ‘enlarge our tents’ and ‘strengthen our stakes’ because we know that fullness and emptiness can exist at the same time, and that we don’t have to carry empty, barren spaces silently – be it an empty womb, an empty heart, or an empty place at the dinner table.

You mamas amaze me. You have been entrusted with the sacredness of fullness, even when it means nights empty of sleep. Your tents are stretched and pulled on a daily basis (and I’m not just talking about breastfeeding). Your stakes are tested by the hour. And they hold. I think most of you know what a sacred role you’ve been given as MOM. I love that we get to remind each other that the sacredness is there with or without that title. Because before we are anything else, we are His beloved littles. Having all kinds of different adventures.

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Amen to the Long Road, America

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Last night took us back to a hospital hallway. ER this time. Before I continue: *Jasons fine* – an ultrasound and ekg later, we were probably experiencing a reaction to a drug change.

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So that hallway. I actually spent most of yesterday writing out some big feels about “that other” hospital hallway, because watching the post-election response felt a lot like being there, where trauma can breed trauma. Where hearts are on the line and you can’t believe some of the things that people will say, like they’re missing the whole point.

Hospital hallways trigger me now. There are things I heard in them that I can’t unhear. Things like alarms and bells and monitors yes, but words too.

I think this election cycle is our country’s hospital hallway. Where alarms went off and fears were identified – some fears realized and others averted. And where words have been said that can’t be unheard.

And in moments we least expect, we might find ourselves back in another hallway, and our PTSD may trigger, and even if *everythings fine* that time, we might still shake and quake.

Healing is the long road. Can we amen it? I hope so. I choose so.

Amen to the long road, America.

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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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