Unique and Unified

Last night, the Family Advisory Board of NC Children’s Hospital kicked off a new year with a fantastic session!

Truth be told – my nerves were high as this would be my first meeting as Chair, the responsibility heavy on my mind.  But as our members filed in, ease filled the air.  Individuals with unique stories, varying experiences, different personalities and a variety of skills.  Parents, patients, care providers, and clinicians. What an eclectic bunch!

I began by recognizing journeys in healthcare often include pain.  Yet within those trials exists what I have come to call the “treasure trove of suffering”.  Unfathomable gifts wrapped in unexpected packaging.

Resilient strength of children.
Fearless love of parents.
Pity replaced by compassion.
Counting each day as a gift.
Recognizing the miraculous in the familiar.
Beauty in the broken.

As everyone shared their stories and acquired treasures, eyes filled with tears, heads nodding with empathy.  Stories of strength, stories of trial. Stories of love, loss, and hope.  Unique journeys walked by one-of-a-kind individuals.

Through acknowledging our unique experiences, we found ourselves remarkably unified!  Unified by the treasures gathered along the way and respect for the trials endured.

How easily comparison could sneak in:
“But my child is still alive; yours died!”
“My journey was short; you’re still on this difficult journey!”
“My kids are healthy; what could I possibly bring to the table?”
“I’m just a healthcare provider.  I’ve never had a sick child.  How could I contribute?”
“I only…  I just…  But I haven’t…”

In one accord we voiced that comparison would have no place on our Board.  We acknowledge our unique experiences, roles, etc.  We honor the treasures our troves have wrought.  And together – parents, patients, and providers alike – unite with the common goal of serving the healthcare community that served us well.

NC Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Board: Unique AND Unified!

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Filed under Chapel Hill, Family Advisory Board, UNC

So God Made A Sister

As God looked upon the world He’d made, upon the family unit He established, He saw a heart cry for a specific life companion.

So God made a sister.

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He saw children’s desire to explore and dreams of adventures far and near.  He knew princesses would twirl, delighting in each other’s beauty as they wore dresses five times their size.  He knew outfits held more fun when worn in tandem with a close friend.  He created them to nurture and be nurtured, to inspire and to be adored.  Before they could even walk, kindness lavished was needed.

So God made a sister.

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He created daughters filled with joy, brimming over and longing to be shared with others.  Laughter needing sharing, victories (even the smallest ones) needing celebrating, and griefs needing carrying by strong, sympathetic hearts.  Secrets bubbled for entrusting as songs echoed in hearts craving harmony.  Joys to share and burdens to bear.

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So God made a sister.

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He knew this fallen world could be cruel, whispering lies stripping value and beauty from rightful beholders.  He knew a woman’s worst critic would often be herself and how desperately she’d need her vision readjusted by another seeing more clearly.  As valleys low loomed and high mountains called for climbing, He desired entrusted history and friendship to never leave her side.

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So God made a sister.

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From sidewalks to school halls, down aisles and through delivery wards, He desired she not be alone.  From Nana’s shoe closet to dress-up trunks, from prom dresses to wedding gowns, He desired her beauty be shared and celebrated.  From little league to Varsity, from summer camps near to excursions abroad, He longed that His daughters experience adventures, make memories, transform from girls to women together.

So God made a sister.

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In 1986, the world changed as a beautiful curly-headed ginger entered the scene.  Her bright green eyes and dimpled smile sparked inspiration as her contagious joy filled every darkened space.  Strangers became new-found friends and the insecure found encouragement.  She shone light as though she’d soaked up the sun.  Dance partner, adventure companion, sleepover snuggle bug, and persistent friend.

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Through life’s darkest valleys, she would inspire strength and resilience among her family, often giving them cause to keep going when it seemed easier to give in to cynicism.  Infectious joy, she would grow to hold wisdom beyond her years and compassion beyond reason.  Love for the broken, kindness for the downtrodden, and enduring hope through it all.

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God knew a family would need reminding over and again of His goodness, His faithfulness, His love through dark seasons to come.  As darkness sought to tear apart, He desired they be knit close together.  Someone to pray, someone to encourage, someone to inspire and trust. Confidant and best friend.

And when He looked upon this beauty, He smiled knowing His creation was indeed very good.

For God made my sister.

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Fog Of Failure

She set out to conquer her morning run.  Shoes laced, water bottle in hand, her body stretched and fueled. The familiar path brimmed with potential. 3…2…1… Run!

No stranger to the road, this experienced runner girded herself for the task ahead.  Hills.  Turns.  The mental struggle to keep going right before that euphoric “runner’s high”.  Nothing seemed to phase her focus and stride. She was ready!

But then the fog set in.

imageOut of nowhere dense clouds descended upon her path. Her surroundings faded like intricate stones beneath snow – all detail, all guiding markers lost in a blanket of white. She’d run this path so many times before undaunted through rain, wind, blinding sun, and fading light. But as the fog fell thick, her stride slowed to a timid stroll. All experience, all previous runs faded like her surroundings as her bearings blurred to gray. Though she could not hold the fog in her hands, its presence surrounded her to a stop.  Which path to take?  Which direction to run?  Where am I going?  Where am I now?!  Frozen.

Whether we’re runners or not, we’ve all faced this similar dilemma. Course set, skills honed, yet become wary of taking the next step ahead.

When the fog of failure falls, how quickly courage fades.

Perhaps its a familiar road. Perhaps its a new trail. Perhaps its a path long traveled, preparations years in the making. When failure rears its loathsome head, everything goes gray. The fog of failure can render us lost, afraid, immobile.

What if it happens again?
What if you fail?
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember when…
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
You can’t. You can’t. You can’t.
Failure……

Failure immobilizes like a fog. But thanks be to God who shines in our darkness, who lights our path! (Psalm 119:105) Like a ship lost at sea, the Truth of God’s Word and character will give us our bearings, guiding us safely to our destination. It may be slow going for a time but we need not be frozen in the fog. He has given us mileposts, markings, lights to guide our way out through.

What if it happens again?
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8)
What if you fail?
“My grace is sufficient for all your needs for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:)
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
“For there is a Friend (speaking of Jesus) who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember that past pain?
“”We rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
“I lift my eyes to the hills from whence does my help come? My help comes from The Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)
You can’t.
“For I am The Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13)
Failure.
“The Lord is my light and my salvations – whom shall I rfear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will life me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:1, 3, 5)

Failures fog will fall. Rather than freezing in fear, we can fix our eyes on the unchanging One who stands strong, His faithfulness sure as the coming dawn. The going may be slow but with our focus set on the Light that shines in the darkness (and the darkness CANNOT put it out), we can navigate through the fog back to clear skies and full strides.

Keep moving forward, Beloved. You are not forsaken.

You are not a failure.

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Filed under Faith, God, Running, Thoughts

Take Me Back

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Take me back down traveled track
where sands stretch out to sea
where wheat grass grows in golden rows
on rolling dunes set free

Take me down to yonder town
who lights shine sparse each night
while ocean’s song plays on til dawn
‘neath heavens canvas bright

Take me where I breathed sea air
as eastern winds blew strong
their salted breeze, my soul, did ease
its breath a soothing balm

Take me east that farthest reach
of Carolina’s Isles
whose beaches sparse refresh my heart
whose sunsets stretch for miles

Take me back down traveled track
where sands stretch out to sea
where in the grains my heart remains
Salvo, I long for thee

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When The World Goes Mad

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Chaos.  Confusion.  Crisis.
War.  Violence.  Hatred.
Disease.  Death.  Despair.

It seems the world’s gone mad.  Suffocatingly mad.

Mad to an astronomical degree.

Lately I cannot even glimpse the news without overwhelming dread.  Here. Abroad.  The downward spiral seems spinning faster with each passing day.

And the questions.  Oh the questions!  “Why?!”

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”?  It has been already in the ages before us. (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1‬:‭9-10‬ ESV)

Evil runs rampant but this is not the first time.  Egypt.  Rome.  Slavery.  The Crusades.  World Wars.  The Holocaust.  Genocide upon genocide.  Human Trafficking.  Fallen people committing unspeakable crimes in the name of their proclaimed “truth”.

As it is written: “There is none righteous, not even one; (‭Romans‬ ‭3‬:‭10‬ NASB)

From the Garden of Eden, sin’s chocking grip has bound this earth tight.  Evil has been.  Evil continues to be.  But praise be to God – evil will not last forever!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭18-26‬ ESV)

God remains faithful.  He remains sovereign and just upon His Throne.  His lovingkindness endures forever.

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.  And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.  This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭25‬:‭8-9‬ NASB)

Do I understand why He allows such pain to continue?  No.

Am I unscathed by the evil rampant on our planet?  Not at all.

Do I still have hope?  Always.

Why?

Because I believe in the living God whose ways are higher than mine, whose thoughts exceed my own. (Isaiah 55:8-9)  Because the devil’s days are numbered and soon coming to an eternal end! (Rev. 20:10)  Because Jesus has the ultimate, the complete, the all-encompassing, the final Victory!  (Genesis 3:15; Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

Grieve the cost of sin.  Cry out to God on behalf of the broken, the beheaded, the battle-worn and buried.  Rejoice in the life, death, and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ!  Know that HE HEARS EVERY PRAYER! HE LOVES YOU! HE WILL HAVE THE FINAL SAY!

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.  But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭51-58‬ NASB)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  Then He said to me, “It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.  He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (‭Revelation‬ ‭21‬:‭1-7‬ NASB)

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Filed under Suffering, World Events

Learning To Let Go

Bright-eyed at 5:45a.  With a jump and a smile she leapt from bed.
The day had finally arrived.  Today everything changes. Today our home will never be the same.

Today Eliana Faith became a Kindergartener!!

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I’ve never seen her more excited.
I’ve never felt such bittersweet ache at her gain.
My baby girl now an Elementary Student.

Last night she slept like a rock.
I slept like a restless child, tossing, turning, watching the clock tick slow.
Like the relentless tide so questions assailed my insomniac mind.

Did I do enough?  Where did I fail in preparing her?  How did the long days of toddlerhood pass in a flash?  Is she ready?  Did I do enough?!

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I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
(‭Psalms‬ ‭121‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

Though she came from my womb, she was knit by heavenly Hands. All her days were ordained before one came to be. In God she lives and moves and has her being. His plans for Eliana brim over with hope and love. His thoughts towards her outnumber the stars. His mercies pour out afresh on her every morning.

On Eliana. And her momma.

Grace.  Grace.  God’s grace.
Grace that will cover and cleanse within.
Grace.  Grace.  God’s grace.
Grace that is greater than all my sin.

Where I lack, His grace covers.  Where I fall, His arms reach low to lift me up.  Where I have failed my daughter, His love remains strong on her behalf.  He has not called me to be a perfect mother.

Just a faithful one.

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Today begins a new chapter of learning to trust God further, to lean on Him harder, to release what is ultimately His into His steadfast arms.

Eliana, you continue to teach me faith, to adjust my eyes to see God’s continued answered prayers.  Walk tall today, sweetheart.  You are ready for this.  Not because of me but because Almighty God walks with you wherever you go.  Listen for His voice.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Enjoy today, my darling girl.  You are ready!

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Filed under Eliana, Motherhood, Parenting, Struggles, Thoughts

Five Years Of Answered Prayers

Eliana – Hebrew origin, translation “my God has answered my prayers”

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Five years ago today our world changed forever as Eliana Faith was born! Bright-eyed from the start, she has filled our world with light, joy, laughter and adventure! As our eyes met for the first time, I knew my life would never be the same.

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She opens her beautiful blue eyes wide every morning anticipating what adventures the day may hold.

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Eliana fills our home with love overflowing. She is kind, generous, nurturing, imaginative, compassionate, hilarious, energetic, brilliant, and all-around amazing! She loves people, gives generously, feels deeply and shines brightly.

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Joyous. Full of life. Nurturer. Friend to all. Protector. Tea party hostess. Adventurer. Builder. Performer. Story-teller. Runner. Sister. Daughter.
Answer to Prayer.

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Sweet girl, the past five years have blessed me more than I can express. My joy, my honor, my blessing is being your Mom. I love you, Eliana Faith!

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Filed under Eliana, Photography