[Guest Post by Jenifer Jernigan – Like all authors meet, we met through social media. I love her vulnerability, her voice, and the desperation behind her story. I am honored for Jenifer to share her story, and if you, like her, have felt like taking …
[Guest Post by Heather Von St. James – When Cameron, Heather’s husband, reached out to me asking if he could help share his wife’s story — I was inspired. I wish all husbands were excited to celebrate life with their wives. Today, if you are struggling with life — why not celebrate? Don’t wait for tragedy to strike! Celebrate today.]
Fear – we’ve all faced a form of it at some point in our lives.
I’ve learned that your fears don’t define the person you are, but rather how you deal with them. Humor is the way that my husband Cameron and I handled one of the most terrifying and trying times in our lives.
In November of 2005, after a series of biopsies and other tests, I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. I was a candidate for a risky procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy – this was no routine surgery. It required the removal of my left lung, the pleura (the lining around the lung), the left half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart.
I was already overwhelmed and what made it worse was the fact that I was a new mom.
My daughter Lily would be turning six months old two days after my surgery. When I found out my surgery date was February 2nd, I nicknamed my tumor Punxsutawney Phil, or just Phil for short. I joked about when they removed the tumor, asking if it saw its shadow, would I have six more weeks of recovery? It took the seriousness of the procedure and made it not as scary.
Throughout all of this, my sister kept me laughing. Her and I share the same weird sense of humor and we can always make each other laugh with just a silly phrase or sound. My husband and sister started talking about how we should celebrate such a day.
If it was going to save my life, why not celebrate?
Now, we refer to February 2nd not as Groundhog Day, but LungLeavin’ Day — the day my lung left.
The basic idea of writing fears on a plate and smashing them into a fire during LungLeavin’ Day came from my sister, who had done firewalking. In firewalking, you write your fears on a plank of wood, throw it in the fire, and walk across it – very symbolic. We wanted to take a similar approach, but instead of wood, my husband came up with the idea of plate, and instead of actually walking through the fire, we would smash the plate.
From that moment a tradition was born.
On February 2nd, 2007, one year to the day since my surgery, my husband went out and bought two stoneware plates and a sharpie. We spent a few minutes writing our fears on them before venturing outside. It was bitterly cold that evening, but that didn’t stop us. Cams cleaned out the fire pit, and got a nice little fire going. We bundled up and went out to the fire and smashed our fears in the fire. It felt GOOD! We decided right then and there that we needed to share this with our friends and family.
The following year, we made it an official celebration, and every year since then our little party has grown to include over 75 friends and family who come to celebrate life with us.
Within these past few years, Cams and I felt the need to make a difference by using the occasion as a fundraiser for mesothelioma cancer. We donate all the money raised to the three organizations that have been such an important part of our lives. The International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization all played an important role of who we are and what we do.
LungLeavin’ Day is not just for cancer survivors or warriors, but also for everyone.
This year, we wanted to reach out to an even broader base of people, and besides webcasting the event live via my Facebook page, we’ve also created an interactive page where you can go write your fear and smash your own plate virtually.
We hope that you take a moment to be thankful for the simple things, and all that life offers. Even in the face of adversity, something good can come of it, and our LungLeavin’ Day celebration is how we took something tragic, and made it a positive in our lives.
Heather Von St. James is a seven-year mesothelioma cancer survivor and continues to provide unending inspiration to mesothelioma victims around the globe. She carries out her mission to be a beacon of hope for those afflicted with mesothelioma by sharing her story of faith, love and courage both as a keynote speaker at conferences and through social media. Read more about her and LungLeavin’ Day at http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday/.
[Guest Post by Ashley Ramps – When I asked is something is missing from your life on my new blog, I got this amazing post. I just KNOW she’s not the only one. If you, like Ashley, find yourself scratching your head wondering what’s wrong–you’re not alone!]
When is it going to be my turn?
Not even sure what that feels like anymore.
How did I get here?
When did I become 31?
Why am I the only one of my friends not married?
Why don’t I have a family?
Why am I not in my dream job living out the purpose that God had created me to live?
I moved away, followed God, I didn’t party, I tried to be perfect, I tried to get everything right so God would see me and know I was faithful and ready to fulfill the calling that he had placed on my life!!
Now I sit here, behind this same desk for the past 5 years, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook wondering “when is it going to be my turn to hid my elf on a shelf for my kids?” “When do I get to change my status to “Engaged”, when does the life that God promised happen?
Have you been at the point in your life where you can’t breathe and lose sleep and think to yourself “I just can’t do this one more day.. not again.”
I am there.
At that place where you just want out. At that place where you want to un-friend the next person who posts an “I LOVE MY PERFECT LIFE” status.
Yes, that is me.
That is where I am at.
What do you do when you feel like you have held up your end of the deal but God has totally forgotten about you?
You stay hopeful.
You remind yourself that God has not forgotten me.
You tell yourself that each and every day is a gift from the Lord.
You learn to enjoy the little things in life.
You become thankful for the season that you are in.
You learn to enjoy life. You spend time with God.
You gain an understanding that God loves you unconditionally.
You begin to understand that you are where you are because that is right where He intends for you to be at this moment.
You stop living life with a rain cloud over your head and open your eyes to see the gift of each moment.
I can’t help but wonder how many gifts from the Lord I have missed because I am sad, unfulfilled, hopeless, restless, wanting more. I can go on.
I want to encourage you, and myself today, that God has not forgotten about you.
That He loves you unconditionally.
That there is nothing that you could do to make Him love you less or more.
Let’s stop letting that little rain cloud of hopelessness steal the gift of today that God is giving us. Collapse that little cute umbrella of yours and if you still don’t feel the sun shinning, learn to sing and dance in the rain.
Ashley Ramps is a Country/Christian singer and songwriter. She was born in Boardman, Oh and raised in Fort Myers, FL. She moved to Nashville in February 2008 to pursue her passion of music. Since moving to Nashville she has been leading worship for different churches and events around town as well as pursuing her songwriting career. Ashley is also the Founder of Everything Beautiful Ministries and the EBTV show which airs on the Christian Television Network nationwide. Connect with Ashley on her website or on Facebook.
[Photo: Aaronth, Creative Commons]
Singles need love this holiday season. The month before I met my husband Marc was the loneliest month ever. I hated the thought of spending one more holiday season alone. After spending almost my entire twenties single, December and I did not get along. That is why …
Recently I shared my story about why my dream died.
I already wrote that I can’t sugar coat things anymore. And now? The gloves are off.
“What kind of God would stand back and watch a dream–a good dream, for ministry and impact–fall apart?”
That’s what I just read in Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer (the creator of VeggieTales®).
I devoured his 80,000 word memoir in less than half a day. Seriously couldn’t have come at a better time. (Thanks Brett Burner for the recommendation).
“Why would God want us to let go of our dreams? Because anything I am unwilling to let go of is an idol, and I am in sin. The more I thought about my intense drive to build Big Idea and change the world, the more I realized I had let my ‘good work’ became an idol that defined me. Rather than finding my identity in my relationship with God, I was finding it in my drive to do ‘good work.'”
Writing had become my idol.
It’s humbling when God continues working on you in a certain area that you thought you already learned. Am I right?
“It wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience. It wasn’t about making stuff up; it was about listening. Eventually it struck me that I no longer felt the need to write anything. I didn’t need to have any impact at all. Whatever needs I had were being met by the Scripture I was reading and by the life of prayer I was developing. My passion was shifting from impact to God. It took several months, but what I was starting to feel I can only describe as a sense of ‘giving up’–of ‘dying.’ It actually frightened me at first, because I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT was dying in me. And then one day it was clear. It was my ambition. It was my will. It was my hopes, my dreams. My life.”
It’s as if Phil started speaking directly to me. How did he know I was taking a writing break? How did he know that I felt a part of me was dying inside. My will. My hopes. My dreams. My life.
“God loves you. Not because of what you can do, or even because of what you can become if you work really, really hard. He loves you because he made you. He loves you just the way you are. He loves you even when you aren’t doing anything at all. We really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in him alone.”
Not in the fact that my efforts to write, publish, and market a book have failed. I can only be obedient to publish what He tells me and leave the rest (sales) up to Him. My worth is found in my identity in Christ, not in the fact that churches acknowledge this and invite me to speak.
In fact, no church has asked me to speak on my recent book Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. The book I spent pouring out my heart and soul. The book that was contracted by another publisher and then canceled. I thought this time would be different. That there would be some spiritual significance to the fact that I literally wrestled over this book for years, and it was finally here.
“The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God. In 2003, my dream died. And I discovered, once all the noise had faded away, what I had been missing all along.
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul plants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
Let it go. Give it up. Let it die. Let Christ shred your dragon skin and lead you into a whole new life. Trust me. It’s worth it.”
Thanks Phil. I’m trying.
My heart is broken.
Will I ever write again? Should I write to fill words on a page? Should I give up completely and get a day job?
I don’t want to care anymore. I just want to be obedient. I know. Not a flashy word. Not comfortable.
Maybe, like Phil, I’ll have another ‘big idea.’ Maybe not. For now I choose to serve with integrity, not pretending to be somebody I’m not.
I’m a great writer, but I’m not as good at marketing as I thought. In fact, I’m terrible.
I’m learning, like Phil, that it’s none of my business to plan the next 5 or 10 years of my life. Maybe one of the reasons why I can’t-for-the-life-of-me plot out my next life map is because I’m not supposed to. It feels amazing to accomplish all my dreams I set out to accomplish 7 years ago, and even more gut wrenching to see them all crumble at my feet.
I just want to be used by God.
I just want to be obedient (there’s that word again)–no matter if my dreams are resurrected or not. No matter if I write another book or not.
Question: Have you ever experienced the death of a dream? How did it make you feel, and what encouraged you through?
Starting in January, I am looking for women to share their story. I hope my story encourages you to hang in there–even if you have no idea how God is writing the beginning, middle, or ending.
I am not looking for you to tie a big red bow around it. I just want you to share your story.
Before I share the requirements, I feel it is important to prayerfully consider why Jesus wants us to share. Here are 3 reasons why I feel it is necessary share your story publicly:
1. Tell the Whole Truth. ~ Mark 5:33 says, “Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” This woman had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had suffered much at the hands of doctors–even became worse including spending all her money in the process. It’s important to be honest with what happened even if that means sharing about those who hurt you.
2. Healing Happens. ~ Mark 5:34 says, “He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” When we tell the whole truth in front of many witnesses including Jesus is where we find healing. Are you struggling to share your story because you need closure, healing, or hope? Consider sharing your story publicly.
3. Don’t go Unnoticed. ~ Luke 18:47 says, “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.” Healing wasn’t enough for Jesus. He wanted to know who touched Him. He wants to notice each and every one of us personally. It’s not enough to come to Jesus and receive His touch.
When you and I share the whole truth–we find healing while encouraging those around us! Daughter, is this what you are longing for? What are you waiting for?
Share your story today, and be set free!
If you are interested in sharing your story, please read below. I prefer queries on one of the six categories:
+ Health & Body
+ On Writing
+ The Church
But if you are the kind of person who likes to write it out first–here are the requirements: I am looking for a post between 500-700 words in length, including a 3-4 sentence bio and a current picture. Feel free to contact me to share your story.
[Photo: >>haley, Creative Commons]