Watch the heart

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It’s hard to believe that my favorite heart stopped beating four Fridays ago. And then started again. And then stopped again. And then, well, for those that have been reading along, you know the ‘and then’.

I know someday will be “just another Friday”, but for now – and the foreseeable future – I’m counting. Today is Friday number FOUR from “that Friday.” Friday and I have always had a thing – but more in the abstract, the idea of Friday as a season, which emerged from the disciple Peter’s experiences on that fateful “Good Friday.” When shock, loss, and mourning collide. When the unreal becomes real. I’ve always said my “first Friday” was going through infertility – our unplanned unparenthood. Heck, even the Bible Study I wrote is called, of all things, ‘Friday’s Rain.’  Walking through my proverbial Friday is how I learned that lament is worship and what it means to praise a GOOD God in the midst of UNGOOD feels and reals.

So it’s not lost on me that “the call” came on a Friday, too. The literal and figurative Fridays colliding in a scene that is still surreal, though the flashbacks hit with shocking realism.

  
This morning I woke up thinking about all that I didn’t know four Fridays ago. ICU-Nurses-turned-friends. Campus-security-officers-turned-heroes. A hospital I didn’t know existed. Medical terms that were previously obscure and irrelevant to me. Doctors I would hug. A naivety and innocence that I didn’t know was naïve and innocent.

But also the depth of community, the power of prayer, and the LIVING nature of Scripture. Just how rich we are in friends. Just how miraculous each breath is. These are all things I knew, but now I KNOW.

This morning my guy decided that it was time to kick me out for a little beach time before I went to therapy – both some of the healthiest things for my soul. When I got down to the water, the clouds were still perfectly thick, keeping everything sleepy and just the right amount of Southern California chilly. But as it generally does, the sun started to fight off the clouds, and as I took in the sun’s warmth, I thought about how the last few weeks have felt just like that … a taking in of the sun as it slowly burns off the clouds. And makes your eyes burn if you stare right at it.

 Direct staring not recommended, but paying attention: highly recommended. Walking the beach, I thought of my hours in the ICU, where I remember wondering if there would be a day that I’d walk the beach again in full contentment. And while I don’t miss the hospital or that ICU room, there’s one thing I do miss. Okay two. Okay three.

First, the definition within its walls. Second, Nurse Nancy. And third, the breakfast burritos.

The second two I can go visit. The first, the definition, may sound like a weird thing to miss- because a hospital is full of UNdefined possibilities, more questions than answers, chaos, and is constantly ON. But one thing a hospital does just right is having a single focus: LIFE. Life has one very specific, distinct, simple meaning in a hospital, especially the cardiac floor. You watch the heart. You watch it’s rythym, it’s beat, it’s pace, it’s consistency. Life inside the hospital walls means one thing. Watch the heart, keep it beating.

Life outside the hospital walls is not so simple. And that’s SO GOOD, and so healthy, and a little tricky. Because life outside the hospital walls includes deadlines and decisions and diets and directions and dog-hair and dust and deep sighs.

And still, watching the heart. Yes the physical – low sodium, cardiac rehab, etc. But also the heart-heart. The soul-part. The one that doesn’t come with a monitor – but oh my gosh can you imagine if it did!? Yikes. Because even when everything changes, you still bring the same self to the table. You’re forever different, but you’re also not.

Watch the heart, for it is deep, and varied. It can take in wonders, and can expand beyond what you thought possible, and ache in unknown places, and echo dazzling light and love. Watch it. Watch your hot-mess heart as it LIVES. I think you’ll be surprised what you find, whether it’s a Friday or “just another Friday.” One sign of LIFE returning this week were the tears and the laughter and then the laughing-tears when a kinda rough conversation led to Jason saying to me, “You know you’re the hot mess that I WANT to do life with, right?” You better believe that I laugh-cried right then and there.

You guys, these hearts of ours. Goodness they are a sacred mystery. They need watching. They have a lot to process and prioritize and participate in. And maybe life outside the hospital walls isn’t all that different from life within: watch the heart, keep it beating.

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We are living a miracle: on time, and life-vests, and all the first week home things

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Some people cross the bridge from care-free to care-full slowly, one responsible vitamin at a time. Others get pushed off the bridge and inherit a pillbox and a bunch of ‘ologists overnight.

  
Our first week home has been a crash course in all things care-full – if you’ve ever seen a life vest, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, just think gun holster meets inspector gadget. It’s like wearing a bomb that will SAVE your life instead of end it, and it requires some quick-change action between showers.

Turns out a broken heart takes a long time to heal. There has GOT to be some amazing spiritual and emotional parallels as a physically attacked heart has to go through such intense recovery and rehab. So much I never would have known before, but it really is TIME that is needed most. Time, sleep, and quiet.

Oh the Quiet. No heart monitors. Birds instead of balloon pumps. Heck, even the occasional jet planes overhead have a soothing new rhythm because they remind me we are NOT IN A HOSPITAL.

  
I’ve never enjoyed silence like this. We sit. We read. We rest. We savor. It’s some sacred quiet. Slowly, bit by bit, we talk through all that has just been, and turn our attention to all that will be. (Because there is a will be!!!) 

And slowly, the pace of “normal life” is creeping back in, too. Which is beautiful and also not at the same time. I don’t miss the hospital at all, but I do miss some of the single-focus-clarity that two weeks in a hospital forces, and I’d like to adopt some new filters as we readjust into our new normal.

One thing that’s ever-more-evident is just how different our two experiences are, and therefore our healing journeys will be. We knew that within the first 24 hours of him leaving ICU, of course – his journey involves sleeping through some of the most vibrant, haunting, and sacred hours of my life. His journey involves disorientation and shock on a whole different level. His journey involves wearing a life-vest. His journey went from a basketball court to a hospital bed in a blink of an eye. His journey involves the emotions inherent in heart-attack recovery … everything from “glad to be alive” to “damn this hurts” to “I’m not worth all this attention” to “when can I get back to work/school?”

We’ve decided that miracles are allowed to be grumpy. 

And me, well, I’m still experiencing a layer of grace that I can’t take any credit for. I’m still being held up by a Mighty Right Hand (Psalm 63:8). That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of Deep Feels going on.

The tears – they come at surprising times. As I open a can of chicken. As we play cards. As he chokes on a cough and I feel the pain on his face.

The sighs come when the flashbacks zap me. When images flash in my mind of monitors, wide-open but un-seeing eyes, and the wail that defied words. Some say I was strong. I wasn’t strong. I was simply a girl in love with the guy on the ventilator. Some say I’m strong now. And still, I tell you, it’s love making me breathe “thank you” even as I echo “ouch” as I watch my man – my active, vibrant, strong, athletic, bold MAN – learn how to re-enter life one five-minute-walk at a time.

Hold out for that kind of love, ladies. It’s worth every high and low.

  
The deep thoughts come with classical music, haunting me with the ways it can say what my words and actions can not, just as it soothed both of us while it played in the ICU.

The chills come when I remember that I should be a widow, and I look up to receive comfort from the very man who has instead kept me a bride.
The smiles come when he reaches for my hand. 

The goosebumps when each kiss becomes just a little bit longer.

The laughter when the right pun hits at the right moment, or when Mrs Chanandeler Bong is so much funnier than before. Or when I win at the card game.

Because miracles laugh, and cry, and shudder, and go silent, and get grumpy, and dream of the future. Because miracles get a future – we just enter it slowly.

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We are living a miracle: The first 100 hours

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The last hundred hours have been the most unreal, surreal, and at the same time vividly raw real of my life. It will take days, months and probably years for my mind and heart to fully process it. But here’s what I know: we are living a miracle.

In the last hundred hours, a fierce, brutal, powerful tale of redemption and resurrection has unfolded in these hospital walls. One still very much being written, with many questions yet unanswered, yet infused with one miraculously answered prayer after another.

At five o’clock on Friday night, I got “the call” – the one I’ve dreaded with every story of Jenny Lee’s Alec, Mary Crawley’s Matthew, and Meredith Shepherd’s Derek. All at once, I was in my own tv drama nightmare, complete with the perfect morning together preceding it.

As a friend drove me to the hospital, I learned only bits and pieces – CPR had been performed at the scene, he was in the cardio department awaiting a “procedure”, and the procedure could not wait and needed my consent over the phone – ending with a promise they would “do everything they could.” I’d never heard words that struck more terror … I had no idea how many more terrifying words would come to my ears that very night.

When we finally arrived, we waited. In silent agony and with the ER admission nurses avoiding my direct gaze as they asked me to wait for the social worker. I met the men who had performed CPR, the men who had used an aed at the scene. I listened as one might read a newspaper – distant, cautious, as if about a country far away. 

At last I was taken back to meet a doctor – my husbands cardiologist. The words didn’t go together in my mind. He had no heart trouble, no forewarning signs, no family history. Nonetheless, I was told he’d had a heart attack, and had 100% blockage of an artery. They had put in a stint. He was in recovery. And the doctor “has seen people make full recoveries” from these types of attacks, though brain activity was a large unknown. Someone had pulled up a wheelchair; I found myself accepting it.

An hour or so later, after he was stable, they led me back to see him.

As I arrived at the door to his room, I saw the tubes, the monitors, the wires, the hospital gown. And then the monitor flashed a red zero. And the light above his door flashed blue. And nurses and doctors from every direction came running as I became an extra in my own episode of Greys Anatomy. 

Jason coded twelve times that night. I can’t put into words the terror of each one, or the ring of words like “flatline”, “paddles – clear!” being within earshot, and being about the man I love.

My prayers were fervent and clear: life, breath, life, breath. 

Yet life and breath were the most elusive things of the evening. I watched nurses work tirelessly. Doggedly. Fighting death back only to have it come running at them again. And again. And again.

At some point, I became aware that their efforts were more for me than for him – that they were doing everything in their power to show me that they had done everything in their power. I stared at the love of my life as he stared blankly ahead, while machines kept his body alive.

I knew to sing. I don’t know how or why I knew that. But I knew to sing over him. Hymns and songs of worship, praise, and a promise – to him and to me – that I would declare God is good. In the shadow. Songs that defied what the eyes could see even as it was breaking my heart in half to think what it would mean to keep worshiping in a world without my Jason.

At 5:30am on Saturday February 20, 2016, I was told that I would soon be a widow. 

That there was nothing left they could do. That he was on one hundred percent life support, and that time would make no difference. That it was time to say goodbye.

I heard a wail. A deep guttural moan filled with pain. I realized it was coming from my own mouth. From the depths of my soul. 

And even as my mouth said the words goodbye, even as my hands caressed the skin not covered in needles and wires, even as my mind recognized that I would never see him again this side of heaven, my heart refused for it to be true.

As the doctor walked in, I told him I had only one question. My tear-soaked eyes begged him to tell me why more time wouldn’t make a difference; why we weren’t giving him a chance to fight.

His eyes filled with discomfort, and he squirmed with the truth of what he had to tell me. That there was almost zero chance that time would make any difference at all.

I clung to almost.

He agreed to wait a few more hours. I knew even then that it was merely to give me the confidence that we had tried.

I took each step in a hollow fog, understanding each one was leading me to my unwanted new chapter of life as the former Mrs. Jason Miller.

One hour later, he woke up.

He. Woke. Up.

He was responsive. Answering to his name and simple commands. The doctor couldn’t explain it. The nurse grabbed my hand and said “I’ve never seen anything like this!” as she raced me down the hall to his side. 

His still unfocused eyes started searching as he heard my voice. My hand went to his forehead and my heart leapt in hope. He was awake.

He was also incredibly unstable, and I was rushed out as quickly as I was rushed in, as doctors realized that stimulation was causing his blood pressure to plummet and his heart to race erratically. 

Still, he had woken up. Against all odds. Life had returned to the room.

And so began a delicate vigil, a teetering dance around vital signs and organ failure and shallow breaths and v-tachy spikes and bodily tremors and countless medications and machines.

So continued a battle of heavenly proportions, where prayer requests went out around the world and loved ones flew in from around the world. Where we saw every odd beaten and every prayer answered. Where I have learned more about love than ever before as we’ve been surrounded these twilight and daylight hours alike. 

Where life has returned. Resurrected life.

Today ended the dependence on drugs and machines. Even now we are beginning the weaning from sedation. With it remain many unknowns, and I keep receiving warning that we have a long road ahead, to which I say “AMEN it’s long!” The short one would have ended with a funeral.

But we, we are living the long road of a miracle.

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Pray Life

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The love of my life is in the fight of his life. These are the first words I’ve penned since he had a heart attack on Friday. Someone else will post them, just as someone else has fed me, clothed me, and at times literally held me up over the last 84 hours.

This isn’t the first time we’ve fought for love – and with every hour, I pray it’s not the last time.

I know the voices of hundreds have stormed the gates with us in prayer. I know it because of the hundreds of unread texts/emails/messages – that someday I will read – but mostly I know it because I am witness to its power. The angel of death still hovers, but he has been pushed out of this room over and over and over again – only by prayer. Only by grace.

Jason’s life verse is Zephaniah 3:17. We have seen God in his midst as a warrior mighty to save. We have seen him calm Jason with his love. And we continue to rejoice over Jason with singing.

Psalm 63:7-8 is a picture of what the last four days have been for me. 

Please, continue to storm the gates with us. Pray life.

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Dear 2015, Thanks for being Ridiculous

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Here’s 5 ways to make 10 resolutions to have 1 best year with 14 friends while avoiding the top 13 mistakes of 7 secret calamities that lead to 1.4% success rate … guaranteed to get you 150k followers in 3.2 minutes while losing 18 pounds.

As I slide past the 2015 finish line, I feel a bit like that girl in the corner clutching a beat-up, dog-eared, tattered and mud stained notebook while everyone else is cracking open bright new shiny pages in their 2016 composition books. Complete with cute etsy designs on the front cover.

If you can relate, read on as I pay a brief tribute to a hard, messy, and sometimes flat out ridiculous year. 2015, you will always remind me that weird is the new normal.

  1. Remembering Cupageddon

You guys, remember cupageddon?

Those red cups. The hashtags. Embarassing Christians

people who use Christ as an excuse to be petty

people who talk about people who use Christ as an excuse to be petty.

We made it. We will go on. We will hold our heads high as did the who’s of who-ville now that the coffee-company-who-stole-Christmas has been exposed.

Actually, in honor of cupageddon, I fed $6.95 into the Starbucks machine and got back this shiny red cup ornament.

IMG_0066It’s stamped “2015”, so I can always remember the year that was ridiculous. It will hang on our tree (yes yes, a pagan symbol in our Christian home) as a reminder to me about the War on Christmas, because it is very real. And very over. Thus the whole “good news to men and peace on earth” bit. When I see this red cup, I will hear the angels whose trumpet song was a cosmic call to arms because Death was about to be defeated as the greatest secret weapon of all time had just been born: God in the flesh.

Cupageddon, thanks for the reminder.

  1. Hoverboards Boards with wheels and our Presidential “candidates”.

Umm, yeah.

  1. Syria. And Paris. And San Bernardino. And Prayers.

I mean, really, the collective aches that echoed around the world this year left us all with bigger questions than answers. And 2016 will probably bring more crISIS. All while we keep manufacturing and wearing adult diapers. It’s too much, you guys. It’s really, honestly, too much. We are living in unprecedented times fighting an unprecedented enemy. You better believe that these things are gonna keep knocking me to my knees in prayer, where I believe we do our best battle.

  1. Life from Loss.

You guys, finding Life from Loss is one of the hardest, bravest things we can decide to do. Digging through loss to find the life, even though every fiber in your being wants to run the other way, means you will get even messier. And Loss is everywhere. All around us. This year has cemented for me that loss forces us to our knees, but that’s where we do our best digging in the dirt. 2015 knocked me flat in so many ways. My heart broke and ached more ways than I can count. But 2015 also brought rainbows and sunsets and snuggles with my best guy. I found wide open spaces, and realized my siblings are some of my best friends and favorite people on this planet.

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I spent money on counseling and started embracing self-care, not as a trend, but as a necessity. I left toxic places and people and breathed deep of healthier skies. I learned am learning to be inefficient. Friday’s Rain came out this year and my muddy hands got to hold others as we dug in and declared together that loss doesn’t have the last word. Life does.

  1. Go Mermaid hunting.

As a sister of the girl who farts rainbows, I guess it’s only fitting that I would be invited on a mermaid hunt this year. I learned a lot about mermaids as my niece told me what to watch for. The full moon was out (the only time they show themselves), and it was the time of night when the sea is the same color as the sky – something I’d never noticed before but now vigilantly pay attention to. And the sign, the way you know if you’ve seen them and they’ve seen you: a thumbs up. So now I call this the mermaid emoticon.

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While as a general rule I don’t associate with mythical creatures, I realized I could probably find more magic if I was watching for it. Mermaids are rare creatures. And sometimes I think we forget – I forget – the value of being rare. I forget to watch for it. I forget to appreciate it. In myself and in others. And let’s be honest, being rare can be exhausting, costly, and even dangerous. But someone somewhere thinks you are worth searching the horizon for. So be you. It’s actually more rare than a mermaid sighting.

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—–

So, thanks 2015, for being Ridiculous. And helping me be just a bit more, too. I’ll be holding onto these tattered pages and keep drawing on them in the new year, because somehow I think they’ll be better teachers than bright and crisp new pages with 8 ways to be a better me in 13 minutes and 27 pounds lighter.

What about you? Is this a year you’re eagerly opening crisp new pages (don’t worry, we can still be friends if you are – you might even inspire me), or dragging mud-stained lessons across the finish line?

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Friday’s Rain (Week 5)

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While I didn’t intentionally time this last week of Friday’s Rain to coincide with Memorial Day Weekend, I sure think it’s fitting.

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance – of both the losses and the victories. So too is this last week of the Study.

Writing Friday’s Rain has been a tremendous gift – and not a wee bit of a sacrifice – my husband gets big points in the sharing department! Week 5 is now live for download here. The downloads will remain active for a limited time. Thanks to all who have participated in this initial e-launch – stay tuned for more news of Friday’s Rain this fall!

*Update May 2016: Thank you to everyone who participated in the e-launch to make Friday’s Rain great! It is now available to order here!

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Don’t Cancel the Celebration

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It can get uncomfortable, right? Mother’s Day weekend is here. And there are all these rules now.

10 Ways to Make Mother’s Day Not Horrible

4 Things to Never Say on Mother’s Day

17 Ways you Could Destroy Your Church if you Hand Out Roses on Mother’s Day

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

 Could you not? Thanks

I mean, it can get a little overwhelming. I’ve seen a lot of posts and comments and blogs about taming down the Mother’s Day hoopla to protect us non-moms out there. At grocery stores. Amongst friends. And at Church. I’ve got some messy thoughts on this messy subject.

I 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????

It’s gotten me thinking about how uncomfortable it is to be uncomfortable. Because many of the voices are speaking from pain. And I get it. My heart has bled on Mothers’-Days-Past as I wrapped my head around 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 it’s victim – it wants to be the boss of everyone else in the room, too. 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 uncomfortable.

This isn’t a post about liking 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. That 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 getting some last-minute Christmas shopping done. Now, before this story continues, you should know some important details about this sister of mine. 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 the local 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 eyes widened, her feet stopped, 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 holy cow am I ever 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, thank you), 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 to the whole family. She made cute little jerseys for each of the cousins, all 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.

Celebrating her was not a way of not celebrating me. And we had to learn that. Together.

With the snot-fest out of the way, we got to have real-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.

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 baby dedication, there is someone in the room feeling the ache of empty arms.

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 – 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 have wiped snotty noses. 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.

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.

Let’s trade tame for real this Mother’s Day. And every day.

P.S. Pain doesn’t have to STAY the boss of any of us. In fact, that’s why I wrote “Friday’s Rain“.

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FRIDAY’S RAIN: revealing what grief washes away [Bible-Study]

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*Update May 2016: Thank you to everyone who participated in the e-launch to make Friday’s Rain great!

It is now available to order here!

Friday's Rain Card - Choose Joy 2015 copy FRIDAY’S RAIN: revealing what grief washes away

Week 1 of 5 is now available as a free download HERE. Each Sunday for the next four weeks I’ll be releasing the next week’s study – email subscribers will receive it DIRECTLY in their Inbox. SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL HERE

I’d love to know about your journey through this E-Study. Post thoughts, comments or questions here on this site or via Facebook or Instagram.

Standing in the storm with you,

just name

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Are you one-in-a-_________? Me too.

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Being one brings pain. Being one-of-a brings power.

A few weeks ago I talked my man into taking a day trip up to LA to enter the Newsies lottery for day-of tickets at the Pantages. And by talked into I mean I said “hey you wanna do this?” and he said “yeah”. I know, I’m really very convincing.

We got in line right on time (rule-follower here), and they said they’d be lottery-ing (is that a word?) 26 tickets. Several of us started counting. There were about 26 of us in line. Boom.

But then all these other people started showing up. Not on time. I’m just sayin’. By the time they called tickets, there were a lot more than 26 entries. Sigh. Our chances were now about 1 in 5.

About halfway through the call-outs, I hear my name.

It was a good day to be one in five.

Here’s my cheesy smile to prove it.

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And really, being one-in-a-___________ is awesome when you’re winning something.

But there are other days that one-in-a-_________ is a punch in the gut. I’m one in eight women experiencing infertility. One in about eighty experiencing infertility without any explanation.

As National Infertility Awareness week ends, I find it no small coincidence that this very morning I’ll be in a room filled with brave stories at the Choose Joy conference, sharing both smiles and tears. There’s something fiercely powerful about bringing a bunch of one-in-a’s into the same room together.

And the awareness doesn’t end with a week. Having my own one-of-a story has made me all the more aware of the many other one-of-a stories being lived out around me …

… like a nine-year-old cancer warrior with rare genetic disorder that makes him susceptible to recurring cancer – chances are one in about 1.4 million.

… like having an in-utero test to tell you whether your baby has Down’s syndrome because other factors make the chances about one in forty.

… like a cancer that’s so rare it doesn’t even have a name and is only fatal when combined with another rare condition, both of which your husband had – chances are one in a million. Squared.

The thing about being a one-of-a is that you feel so utterly alone when the diagnosis is handed down. And you are. I mean, no one else has ever been you, facing this specific circumstance at this time in history.

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But I think we tend to focus on the “I’m one” and miss the “of-a” part. That’s the powerful part. That’s the part that tells you that you. are. not. alone. That’s the part can happen over a simple cup of coffee or over instagram or at a gathering or anywhere in between. Just last night, as a Choose Joy speaker shared her story of infertility, bringing us laughter as the ridiculousness of hormones and the pee sticks and the what-not is a shared experience in the room, a woman turned around to her husband and mouthed “see, I’m normal.

Isn’t that exactly what we need to hear when we find out we are one-in-a-________? See, I’m normal. I’m one-of-a-new-normal.

So sister, whether you’re one-in-a-handful or one-in-a-million, you. are. not. alone. Find your people. Find your “of-a”. They need you just as much as you need them.

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True Confessions: The childless-fist-bump

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Fist Bump Image

True confessions time: we have a childless-fist-bump. Yep, it’s a thing in our house. It’s code for dodged-a-bullet-there moments. We can deliver it quite subtly. Sometimes. Other times we get caught. Just a month ago we got caught during Church, as our friend realized what we were doing and barely stifled a laugh.

It might sound odd that the girl who’s poured out her heart in longing for a baby also bumps knuckles to celebrate childless moments. And really, it took a lot of tears before I could make it to the cheers.

The fist-bump is about celebrating the as-things-are-right-now moments, without thinking about whether they’ll stay that way. For today, we’re childless. And while that has brought ache, there are also a lot of things about our lives that are way easier than all those poor suckers who ARE parents.

The first rule of the childless-fist-bump is that it’s never used in condemnation. Grace, grace. We are in humbled awe of people raising little people.

The second rule of the childless-fist-bump is to attempt subtlety whenever possible. No flaunting. This may or may not be more of a “guideline” as we age.

The third rule of the childless-fist-bump is to use it properly. As Auntie Boo and Uncle J, we have plenty of snot-faces to clean, boo-boos to kiss, and tantrums to survive. And we love all the littles in our life. Fiercely. It’s just that AT SOME POINT THEY GO HOME. Cue fist-bump.

 fist-bump-1

Other examples of proper childless-fist-bump moments include …

when a toddler is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store … or at Target … or in the parking lot … or at the movie theatre … or at the park … or at Disneyland … actually, especially at Disneyland.

… while in line for TSA at the airport. Yep, you frequent flyers know what I’m talking about.

when a long drippy piece of snot is snaking it’s way down a child’s face and into their mouth. GAH! I can hardly type it.

… when we get to go to sleep WHENEVER. WE. WANT. TO.

… when we get to stay in bed AS. LONG. AS. WE. WANT. TO.

when a scent drifts across the room. You know the one. Chasing your nostrils down like a toxin. Challenging you to keep a straight face and pretend you don’t smell it. (To be fair, our dog makes the same smell, sometimes worse, but at least there’s no diaper to change in her world – yet – oh Lord have mercy if I ever have to change my DOG’s diaper.)

when we have only two schedules to consult before booking a trip. No cross-referencing with school, soccer, dance, gymnastics or chess matches (hey, our kid could’ve been a chess genius, it’s possible).

when our house is QUIET. Which is almost always. Amen.

 when we hear about labor and delivery. Any of it. All of it.

Really, the childless-fist-bump started as a way to capture small victories, small moments to defeat the emptiness and replace it with reminders of the good. Is there any part of your life that needs a fist-bump right now?

When you’ve cried enough, it’s time to laugh. And while not intentionally directed at infertility, I don’t know if I’ve seen a funnier video than this.

And if we ever do have kids, I imagine the fist-bump will look more like this:

 Baby Fist Bump

This post is dedicated to “the other side” of infertility loss, as Resolve.org hosts National Infertility Awareness Week. For a more serious take, go here … or here … or here. And for medical facts on the disease, go here.

For some ideas on how I came to “the other side”, go here and here.

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