A Day of Love and Heartbreak

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Yesterday I woke up excited to wish my family Happy Valentine's Day and then last night I tucked my children in holding on to them a little longer.  My heart breaks with the parents who will not have that moment again with their child, or the child with their parent.

I simply can't believe another school shooting happened - again.

There are so many layers to these tragedy's.  And what all these layers reveal to me is that the way we are doing things is backwards.

We put money over people.

We put words over action.

We put tests over character.

We put shame over compassion.

We put selfishness over selflessness.

Our world is upside down and living from the outside in.  Things need to change, from within the walls of our homes to our government's laws and policies.

The questions this leaves me with are...

What is mine to do?  

What can I DO today that can be a part of the changes that are needed?

I wish I had clearly defined answers, for both of us.  If you have ideas, please share them with me.  

As I brainstorm, here are some action steps...

- We need to make time to connect with our loved ones consistently in person and let them know that they matter.

- We need to invite others into our homes that need connection too.

- We need to be an example to our children with our words and actions that violence is NOT an option to resolve conflict.

- We need to step in and stand up for what is right, even when it is hard.

- We need to listen to our children when they speak.  Their truth may seem insignificant to our troubles but it is significant to them and their hearts and voices need a safe place to be heard.

-We need to break free from our comfortable circles and extend the hand of friendship to people different than ourselves.

- We need to judge less and love more.

- We need to demonstrate to our children how to build strong relationships with others - and if we don't know how, we need to humble ourselves and learn for their sake.

- We need to acknowledge our teachers are spread very thin and what is expected of them is superhuman.

- We need to put teaching the whole child at the center of education.

- We need to get programs established in schools (such as the Positivity Project and Growing Leaders)  that connect with children, from the ones who are smiling with depressed hearts to the ones who are given in-school suspension or are expelled, and equip them with life skills that can help transform their life.

-  We need our children to know we care more about their hearts and minds than about their test scores.

- We need to reach out to our lawmakers and demand they make decisions that are in the best interest of the children of our country (not based on who they are funded by) because that is a legacy that is worth leaving behind.

- We need lawmakers who will put people over money, who will stand up for what's right, even if they are standing alone, and who are compassionate and humble enough to see they are part of the problem - and the solution.

- We all need to choose to serve one another above ourselves.

These are some thoughts yet there are so many layers.  I'd love to hear your constructive thoughts.

My hope is that we all take a moment to...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

May we wrap these families and communities with our love and prayers and then go do what is ours to do, even if it feels like nothing.  As Confucius said, "the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."

Let's move one stone at a time and together we will move this mountain so no parent will have to lose their child, or child a parent, this way again.

With love, prayers and hope,

Shawn

 

Traction In Life

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Last week while I was walking along the icy trail with Georgia I had to be mindful of my steps.  After I slipped a few times, I realized that the best path for me to take was to step off the trail and create my own path beside the trail, I had better traction there.

It made me think about this truth in life.  For most of my life I was following the trail where other people were leading me or following other people’s footsteps.  I often found myself slipping and sliding along those paths.  It was when I chose to step off that trail and start establishing my own path in life, that I gained traction in my life and my footing became purposeful and secure.  

I share this in case you, or someone you know, may be on that slippery trail and/or following other people’s steps rather than establishing your own.  

I invite you to join me to...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

And let’s get off the slippery trail of following other people’s paths in life. Let’s choose to establish our own unique path in life as the people we were made to be, taking steps that are firm and secure.  And although the paths we are in may be different, I am grateful to walk beside you on this trail in life and see who you really are, from the inside out.

With love and hope,

Shawn

"Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure." - Proverbs 4:26

Unplugged and Recharged

This weekend Stephen and I went away to Vermont.  As we drove towards the mountains, the service on our phones became spotty.  Then when we arrived at our destination we realized we would have to go through our weekend unplugged.

Hmmmm...not what we expected but we went with it.

Don't get me wrong, we were headed to the mountains to snowshoe, not to sit on our phones or computers all weekend.  Yet I had planned to finish a couple things while we were there.  

Well, those plans changed.  And I am so grateful they did.

Spending the weekend unplugged from the world was just what I needed.  I needed fresh air, sunshine, Stephen's company, time in nature, some good food and R&R.  Often I found myself...

Pausing. Breathing. Praying.

It was lovely.  It made me think about how the best connections for me are not through texts, email, and social media.  Yes, those are in many ways beneficial and convenient but it really does not fuel me the way in-person connections do.

Being unplugged and tuned into where I was and who I was with is what really recharges my batteries.

I am sharing this in case you too are needing to recharge.  We don't need to go away to a mountain top in Vermont or maybe for you it's to a beach in the Caribbean.  Instead I invite you to join me to...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

We simply need to create moments of pause throughout our days and put our screens away.  We need to be present where we are and connect with who we are with.  To put this into practice, at some point today lets choose to lay down the phone, or shut off the computer or tv, and just be.  Spend some time alone in silence and take in our surroundings or soak up some quality time with our loved ones  - or even entertain the company of a stranger.  

Wherever we are, lets be there, and choose to make an in-person connection that will truly renew your Spirit.

With love and hope,

Shawn

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." - Romans 12:2

Let Go and Trust God

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Last year, the day before I was diagnosed, I was flying home from Nashville with Stephen after an incredible getaway.

I wrote this blog post on our flight home but chose not to post it for some reason.  Little did I know then how much the message I was writing about was something I needed to be rooted in my heart for the whole year through...

My husband surprised me for my birthday with a trip away for a weekend.  We have always wanted to go to Nashville and finally got to!  Stephen knows I get travel anxiety and is hopeful my fear of travel will pass in time...and what better way to get over it than to take me away?! 

This was our weekend away.  The moment our kids drove away with my inlaws I ugly cried.  From there my stomach got tied in knots knowing I had to tackle two flights away from my bubble of comfort to enter other people's bubble in Nashville.

With my heart in my throat I boarded the planes, said my prayers and listened to my favorite music trying to get my mind away from the dis-ease I was experiencing within.

Once we got there I settled into our new space and had a great weekend with Stephen exploring Music City.

I sit and write to you often about my journey to live from the inside out yet I often write to you from my bubble of comfort where I have lived for 34 of my 38 years of life.  Yet today I am writing to you on my travels home from Nashville while 41,000 feet in the air. This is far from my bubble.

As I soar above the clouds right now I see clearly that I have no control over the outcome and my fear of the unknown is bigger than my faith.  I know I have to truly put my life in the hands of others.  I have to have faith in this skills of the engineers who designed the planes, the mechanics who built them and care for them, the air traffic controllers who direct them, pilots who fly them, the stewardesses who are present for our needs on them, and in God's plan.

Sometimes, like right now, I have no choice but to let go and trust God.  Yet is sounds much prettier than what it looks like for me because right now it is a wrestling match in my mind, my stomach is in knots once again and my heart is beating wildly in my throat. No one around me can see the discomfort I am experiencing within.

Yet I know that sometimes I have to do things I don't want to do to unfold into the person I need to be and to grow deeper in relationship with God, and others.

Today I have been...

Pausing. Breathing. Praying.

A lot.  

Having faith doesn't mean I will always be at peace - although I wish it did.  What it does mean is that I believe every experience is an opportunity to grow in faith trusting that no matter the outcome all will be well - in time.

It isn't always pretty but to have made those memories with Stephen this weekend - and our children with their Grandparents - I know is worth it!

This blog post is as significant today as it was last year.  As I move forward, I don't know the outcome, just I like I didn't on my flight.  And although I do not know what the future holds, I know who holds the future, God.  

My practice is to wake up each day and practice letting go and trusting God, with my heart, my health, my family and my future.  It is easier said than done but I know trusting God is what will bring me the peace I am seeking.

I share this with you today in case you too are unsure of an outcome and are feeling uneasy about it.  I offer for you to join me and...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

May we practice letting go of needing to know and being in control.  May we instead surrender ourselves into the loving hands of God who will carry us through, this day, and everyday...no matter our circumstances, no matter the outcome.

With love and hope,

Shawn

Beautifully Broken

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I have written a number of posts to you recently but I have hesitated to hit send.

Why?

Because typically I share with you when I am in a good place and recently I have been in a rough spot.

I wanted to get to the other side before I shared but I know there is healing in sharing your heart with others.  So today I am inviting you into the pit with me.  

This week marks the year anniversary of my diagnosis and I am flooded with memories and emotions.  Leading up to this week I have been experiencing a sadness and I was unsure why.

I am alive and well.  I am home with my family and we are back to life.  How can I be sad?!

In the past couple of weeks I have had some clarity.  I realize I have felt ashamed at the way I feel.  Before you start thinking of what you want to say to that, please hear me out.  

Having walked so closely to the edge of life and having received such peace within me in the process, I questioned how deep my faith was if I was in a funk like this.  I want to walk the walk, not talk the talk and I was unsure if I was walking the walk beside you anymore.

But then, last week, while I attended a funeral, I heard the pastor say, "grief and sadness are not a lack of faith in God, they are emotions you need to move through because you have experienced a loss."

And there was my answer.  This wasn't a lack of faith I had been experiencing.  I have been grieving and didn't know that I was.  

I have been grieving the old me and how life was before cancer entered our life.   I have been grieving how close I felt to God during my time in treatment and how I went from a convent to Grand Central Station spiritually.  I spend time with God every day yet there are so many more distractions now that it is harder to hear him over the echoing of the voices and the coming and going of trains around me.

I have been grieving the loss of what was.  

I know in my heart that God has a new path for me and this is a stepping stone for me to get there. I need to sit here and grieve, feeling the sadness as I let go of what was so I can wholeheartedly move forward.

I am not sure how long this process will take.  I hope it will pass quickly but it is where I am today.  And I share it with you because I know someone else is in this space too and when you're in it, it is a lonely place and I just want them to know, you are not alone.

We can be beautifully broken together, though apart.

May we trust that the light we are meant to shine will shine brighter when we stop trying to hold ourselves together and let it shine through our broken places.

With love and hope,

Shawn

"God is close to the brokenhearted." - Psalm 34:18

My Snow Day Truth

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We had a snow day here yesterday❄️ I realize I don’t take pictures when we are all being lazy or when we are having ... hmmmm 🤔 ... we will call them “moments” in our home. Those were a part of our day. I guess I capture moments more like this one, aka the highlights.

I share this with you because the last snow day we had was a day I was having trouble showing up for myself, let alone my kids.  It was a very lazy day and when I hopped on social media I saw all the things people did with their kids and places people went. That snow day the three places our kids went were to the couch, the kitchen table and to bed. If that was you yesterday I invite you to... 

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

And please know you are normal and not alone. There are others out there, like me, who have unpinteresting days too.

We are all doing our best, moment-by-moment, day-by-day. Yesterday’s snow day was a little more eventful than the last one. I was tempted to share my pictures but realized there was someone out there who was feeling the way I was the last snow day. I share this one picture now only to come beside you and share with you this message.

Whether we gave our kids the laziest day of their life, the most exciting adventure or something in between, we need to remember they are learning from every experience we give them, even the boring ones. And the bottom line is the most important thing we need to give them any day is our love💕

With love and hope,
Shawn

Thank You Martin Luther King, Jr.

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A little video at breakfast this morning to remind my children why they are off from school today and to show them an example a person who dedicated their life to helping others. Thank you Martin Luther King, Jr. for standing up for what is right, even though it was hard.

I invite you to join me and...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

May we allow his example to inspire us to live a life of lifting others up (and not pushing others down to raise ourselves up).

With gratitude and hope,
Shawn

Do What Matters Most

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I had a really convicting moment the other day...if I don’t make the time to do what really matters in life, I’ll be looking back in regret on what I wished I would have done rather than looking back with gratitude at the memories I made.

So I took a spontaneous trip to visit my 92 year old Grandfather yesterday💝 

I share this with you in case you too are moving with the current of life flowing around you.

I invite you to...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

And take a moment to step out of the water. Once you get your footing, ask yourself if there is something you need to make the time to do, today, this week, or this month. And I encourage you to do it.

The little things that fill our schedules each week will fade in years but the memories we make with those we love will be engrained in our hearts forever.

With love,
Shawn

Every Piece of the Puzzle Matters

This picture is of my breezeway at some point that week.

This picture is of my breezeway at some point that week.

The weekend I was diagnosed last year I ran into a woman at church who has a non profit called Helping Haitian Children. She and I have worked together for years doing outreach activities for the people near Carrefour, Haiti. 

I was a bit undone when I saw her.  I had not  yet shared with people what was going on with me.  Seeing her was a breath of fresh air and gave me a sense of normalcy and purpose.  I asked her if there were any needs she had for the families in Haiti.  She said there was a need for clothing.  

So that week  I organized a collection for clothing to be dropped off in our breezeway.  My family thought I was crazy.  No one knew but them what was going on with me but those bags poured in from our amazing community out of their generous hearts.  People didn't know it but they weren't just helping Haiti, they were helping me during that tumultuous time.

My friend brought the clothing to Haiti and said how she smiles every time she goes and sees a child wearing a shirt that says Avon on it.

I have loved giving through her ministry to Haiti.

Then during my treatment, the people of Haiti gave back to me.  

Two women who helped me weekly at chemo were from Haiti.  One shared with me that she calls her Mom back in Haiti every day at 6 to check in on her which I thought was so sweet.  Also, three of the guys who worked the valet at the hospital that I passed every day were also from Haiti.  Their smiles and hellos became a part of my daily routine. And lastly, a fellow patient in radiation was from Haiti.  Although we couldn’t understand each other well, he spoke only Creole, I wanted to learn a little for the next time our paths crossed, although our appointments never synced up again.

Every piece of the puzzle matters.  Every piece has value and purpose.  This is the theme of my book A Place for Sam.  I wrote this book to let people know that our world wouldn’t be complete without their piece of puzzle.

I am grateful for what our community has been able to provide for the people in Haiti and I am thankful for the lovely Haitian people who were an important part of my journey this year.  Their piece of the puzzle matters to me.

With gratitude and hope,

Shawn

For more information on Helping Haitian Children click HERE

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." - John 13:34

Moving Forward Imperfectly

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I am reading this book and wanted to share it with you in case any of you need an inspiring read.

“Developing tolerance for imperfection is the key factor in turning chronic starters into consistent finishers” - Jon Acuf

Coming back to life after having cancer last year has been a journey and at times I have fallen back into a perfectionist mentality. I am six months out from treatment and get frustrated with myself that I am still trying to get into a routine personally while also attempting to layer on getting back to life professionally, writing and speaking.

I am falling short of my expectations regularly.  I love how this quote, and book (I’m only on chapter 2!) have already me encouraged to stay the course.  

It won’t be perfect.  

I won’t be perfect.  

But I need to keep moving forward imperfectly.

And eventually with patient perseverance, I will meet the goals I have set personally and professionally.

I invite you to join me to...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

And choose this year to be imperfect finishers of the goals we set rather than perfect starters who never finish.

With love and hope,
Shawn