Sunday, September 16, 2012

{connections} and a guest post!

"therefore, encourage one another . . ." 
 ~ 1 thessalonians 5:11

when i began this blog back in the summer of 2009, my intention was to tell bella's adoption story and that was it.  get in. get out. funny how plans can change. funny how even the story can change. after bella's adoption and homecoming, God just continued to provide writing material for me.  that's kind of how i look at these past couple of years. well, at least partially how i view them.  i am pretty sure He intended me to get far more from my recent blessings and struggles than just a few extra blogposts.

but here i am, 3 years later, still writing.  one of my favorite parts to this blog is the mini-ministry it has created for me. it began with advocating adoption.  who couldn't look at that sweet little face of bella and not feel some kind of tug to adopt? i think it is is pretty safe to say, she could be a poster child for ending the world's orphan crisis. and that has been pure pleasure to write about and encourage others in.  but the story continued with other chapters.  when i began my journey with cancer last year, the writing really began to pour forth, and this time it took on a whole other layer.  with this new twist in the story, i started receiving emails, inboxes and messages from others who were also going through the tough, ugly pieces of life.  i was amazed at the outpouring of words and love,  especially from so many i had never even met.  and these connections have continued to come with our move to minnesota and with crazy life just in general.  

it was about a year ago when i met with one of the pastors at our church back in atlanta.  i was getting all kinds of encouragement about "doing something more" with my writing.  while that encouragement was well, encouraging, it also left me a little bit frustrated.  WHAT was i supposed to do?  so i set up an appointment with a pastor who had some experience in this area and we chatted about this grand, ambiguous WHAT.  we talked about different directions ...different options...different opportunities.  but at the end of our time together he said to me, "jody, what if all God calls you to is writing in your blog and reaching out to other women?  what if all God wants from your writing is for your words to encourage a hurting woman up in ...let's say... wisconsin?  what if that's all this ever comes to?  is that enough for you?"  i left his office and played that conversation over and over in my head.  i had never really thought about it like that.  but the more i did, the more certain i became, that i was okay with that.  i really was okay connecting with just one woman at  time.  if that's what God wanted.  now, if He'd like to make me a famous author, i'd probably be okay with that too... (just sayin).

but truly this blog has been such a blessing to me as it allows new connections with women from all over.  we've shared stories, encouragement, prayers, hopes and dreams.  i love this.  i love the letters and notes and, of course, the new friends.  i love that so many out there desire to be raw and real -- to be honest.  i have written with women who have lost husbands through infidelity or death.  i have heard from countless women who have lost their health or their hope.  i have received emails from women who have been gravely disappointed in their dreams and sadly discouraged in their days.  women who have encountered major life crises and minor daily chaos.  one dear gal (from minnesota, not wisconsin, but really close) and i connected through my blog several months ago, and now that i am here in her home state, we are friends in "real life."  this fellow mother of five has a son who went to live with Jesus this past spring. her oldest boy. how do we in our earthly way, ever understand that kind of loss, that kind of pain? it has been my privilege to first write with her and now walk with her.  in the months before moving, we wrote weekly, daily i see her at volleyball games, in carpool line and around the hallways of our kids' schools.  occasionally, we even carve out some time, face to face.  just yesterday we sat for a small hour and chatted in the afternoon sunshine.  i hate what she's been through and is going through, i wish i could remove it far from her. in all of our writing back and forth, i have realized, more deeply than ever before,  there are only so many words.  but i love her and i give thanks for her friendship and for how our God began to weave that together before i ever set foot in minnesota.

through this blog, i have connected with friends from childhood, high school and college. this chance to catch up, has been far better than any awkward class reunion.  one of my favorite things is hearing from old students.  these are kids i taught in high school english over 15 years ago back in ohio, and some of them stop in now and read my blog.  i couldn't get a few of them to read their novels and poems and plays back in english class, but they read and check in with me here.  how cool is that?  and, often, i am not just hearing quick hellos, but hearing stories -- journeys.  hearing about the twists and turns of their grown up lives.   recently i had one former student write me a beautiful note of encouragement.  i was her sophomore english teacher 15 years ago, now she was teaching me.  ah, this age of technology... so much is possible. even wonderful. 

but here's the deal, none of us have to look very far to find someone in the midst of serious struggle.  someone in pain.  i don't always do a good job in the arena of compassion and mercy. (my kids might tell you that).  i just don't. i'm utterly selfish at heart. sometimes i choose to check out, instead of dive deep into someone's need.  but even through this little blog, i have learned, am learning, how important we are to each other.  how much we need one another.  men, i may seem to be writing mostly to women here, but you are not, in any way, exempt.  we are created to care for one respond to one come alongside each other.   i had no idea God would use my piddly little writings to encourage others and to encourage ME in this way. but He has. 

"first, i thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, 
because your faith is proclaimed in all the world."  ~ romans 1:8

recently, i got to "meet" another gal with a story.  (by the way, we all have them).  but my new friend, heather, has a particularly inspiring story which i am including today.   heather also was handed something hard -- as the new mother of a beautiful baby girl, it was the last thing she expected.  but, as i continue to proclaim, we serve a God who wastes nothing.  what is horrible and ugly, can be used for good and for His glory.  and this is why we write.  why we share. and mostly, why we have hope.

i am ending today with a guest post from heather.  she writes to raise awareness, to inspire others and to share the good...

Appreciation Learned Through My Battle with Mesothelioma

Some dates stand out better than others but for different reasons.  August 4, 2005, was one of my best days ever while November 21, 2005, was one of the worst.  Just a few short months apart, both impacted me as I faced one of the biggest challenges of my life.  Both gave me a reason to fight for my life.  

I received a grim diagnosis on November 21, 2005.  Malignant pleural mesothelioma was a serious diagnosis, indeed.  Without treatment, my life expectancy was about 15 months.  I had been exposed to asbestos in my childhood.  30 years later, it resulted in a cancer that threatened my future and that of my daughter.

Lily was born August 4, 2005.  She was beautiful and lively.  I wasn’t so lively in the months after her birth, but I figured it was the blues.  This was normal for new mothers, but when I just kept feeling more fatigued and even breathless, I scheduled a physical to make sure.  The diagnosis stunned me.  The need to fight was obvious.  I couldn’t fathom allowing Lily to grow up without a mother, and my husband and I were determined to fight hard.  Our support system began to draw near in anticipation of the battle.

My husband’s parents, along with my own, became a staunch support system for us.  Additionally, friends and extended family made themselves available to assist.  Lily went to stay with my parents while my husband and I departed for Boston for a February 2 surgery date.  One of the best mesothelioma doctors available was on my team, and the extrapleural pneumonectomy was successful.  18 days of hospitalization were followed by a two month recovery period before I moved into the chemotherapy and radiation stage of my mesothelioma treatment.  I developed a support system in the hospital while my parents’ support system in my childhood home of South Dakota also grew.  

In my teenage years, I babysat quite a bit.  Now, those I once babysat were filling in by watching Lily when my parents had to be at work.  When people say that it takes a whole village to raise a child I think about my village coming to my assistance during my time of need.  My family has grown closer, and I am thankful for the positive things that have come of this challenge.  

Today, I am cancer free.  I spend my days enjoying my daughter’s developments, appreciative that she doesn't have to rely on photos.  I don’t take things for granted, and I encourage everyone to live life to the fullest.  Things can change drastically in just a matter of moments.  My diagnosis wasn’t the end, but it was a call to action and appreciation.  Words cannot express my appreciation to those who have helped me through this time.


Simply LKJ said...

You truly are an inspiration to many, many through your words written for this blog. I have had the opportunity to read Heather's story before. It is an incredible, and much like yours, inspirational one. I am glad to hear you are all settling in up north!!

Aus said...

Hey Jody - thanks for the words to the guys too! ;) Just keep writing - when it's from the heart it's always right. As for the rest - you've heard me say this before but it's always true - God'!

hugs - aus and co.