Breast Cancer Awareness Month

“I hate cancer. I hate thinking about another person having to battle cancer. I hate that you will walk the painful treatment road. As much as I hate cancer, I want you to know from my experience that God used cancer to expand my heart. I have met some of the most remarkable people on this journey. I have been blessed in thousands of ways by the thoughtfulness and generosity of so many. I am not the same woman today because of cancer.”

-excerpt from letter to a newly diagnosed cancer patient in “Warrior In Pink”

What? October!? I’m seeing pink everywhere. Two enormous horses towering outside PF Changs Restaurant at the Mission Viejo mall are painted pink. It must be October.

This is going to be one crazy month! The first Breast Cancer Awareness month after the release of Warrior In Pink. Yesterday I relished the sweet reunion of half of the Oasis group, Mellanie, Paula and Annie, along with Leila of the Awesome Threesome (those of you who haven’t read the book yet, these descriptions will all make sense after you read the book).

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The five of us drove up from Orange County to Los Angeles to participate in Kaiser Permanente’s Pink Day Celebration. I shared a bit of my cancer story with 1000 folks comprised of cancer patients, friends of survivors, employees at Kaiser, and fellow “Warriors In Pink.”

signing "Warrior In Pink" for a fellow warrior in pink

We marveled together thinking back over the past five years, never imaging the doors God would open. These dear friends are at the top of my list when I think of examples of people who love well.

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The Pink Day Celebration served as a great kick off to what will be a very exciting month filled with book giveaways. I’ll be linking up on this blog to other websites hosting book giveaways or highlighting the book. This is your chance to win a FREE book. Or if you have friends who are interested, please let them know about the giveaways. FREE COPIES. What’s not to love?

Some of the remarkable people I refer to in the excerpt above are authors like Robin Lee Hatcher. She has won every award in existence for Christian Fiction authors. Robin was the first author to endorse my book. A fellow Warrior In Pink, she has generously promoted my book from the moment she read the unedited version sent by my literary agent. Robin has posted an interview on her blog that I did with my friend and fellow Redbud Writer, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun (also in the remarkable category), who interviewed me about my cancer journey and road to publishing. Thankfully Dorcas is gracious and understanding. I forwarded the interview we did together to Robin thinking I would reconnect over the content, and then didn’t follow-up (#newbieauthor #loopybrain #notgoodwithdetails #thestruggleisreal). With Dorcas’ permission, we have reposted the bulk of her interview.

I will be linking in the different websites and book giveaway opportunities on this website, so you will be receiving a good chunk of short posts in the next four to five weeks. Please share with your friends. And if you are the praying type, I would deeply appreciate your prayers during these next couple of months.

  • Book Giveaway over at Robin Lee Hatcher’s website here.
  • Blog over at CaringBridge (the medical blog I used during cancer treatment) here.

Stay tuned! More to come!!

 

Gearing Up for Fall

Hello again. I’m back.

Three months. No blog posts. Actually, I wrote some great posts in my mind. They just never transferred from thought to actual words on page. All sorts of things fly around in my little brain each and every day. Entire conversations take place in my mind with “invisible Darrin.” (Darrin is my wise and wonderful husband of 23 years. He is not very fond of invisible Darrin). Invisible Darrin and I work through problems and reach all sorts of agreements the real Darrin learns of later. Lots of “Whaddya mean? I thought we talked about this already.” “Uh. No, Viv. You talked it through with invisible Darrin. Not me.” note: this method of conversing with an invisible spouse is extremely inefficient.

A lot of terrific happenings occurred these past three months:

  • My first Susan G. Komen, Orange County speaking event:

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Honor Roll and VIP reception for team leaders for the Race for the Cure

  • We spent a month living in the University of Hawaii dorms helping train and equip these wonderful staff and student leaders:

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“Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”(1 Thessalonians 2:8)

  • helped with our church’s annual Kid’s Fun Club and Mom’s Fun Club

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Some fun events happening this fall:

  • After a five year detour, you know– battling cancer, writing and releasing a book and stuff, I have returned to Talbot Theological Seminary to work on my Masters Degree in Bible Exposition. This fall I’m taking Hermeneutics (how to interpret, understand and apply the Bible). First on the agenda: learn to spell Hermeneutics correctly.

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  • I have joined the Epic National Field Ministry team directed by the wise and wonderful real Darrin. Epic is the Asian American ministry of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ)
  • I was interviewed by Worldwide Challenge, Cru’s magazine for the September/October issue on “Suffering Together”:10527706_10152227685976073_929868995084747981_n
  • I’ll be giving the message at our home church, Crossroads Community Church on Sept 14th at 10 a.m. Join us if you’re in the area!
  • Excited to speak at the Texas Epic Fall Conference at the end of the month! And a couple women’s retreats in October and November. I’m writing my first article for Today’s Christian Woman and participating in a Webinar with Elisa Morgan and Fulfill Magazine.
  • Several friends will be hosting Warrior In Pink book giveaways on their blogs in the coming weeks in light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’ll be sure to connect you to those sites.

So, what’s been happening in your corner of the world?

FREE Extended Preview of Warrior In Pink

Excited to share:

For your weekend reading pleasure: (click here! click here!) FREE ebook download for Warrior In Pink!! You can download to Kindle, Nook, iBooks, as a PDF! Please share with your friends. There are share buttons for Facebook and Twitter on the page or you can share this post. You’ll get FOR FREE the intro and the first three chapters and the appendices:

  • sherpa: thoughts for caretakers
  • a thousand stitches: thoughts for parents with kids still at home
  • letter to a newly diagnosed cancer patient

Warrior In Pink on Noisetrade

 

No need to dump $20 into the tip jar. Those monies will not be coming to me directly. If you want to give directly to our ministry, feel free to check out the contact and link tab instead. :)

Thanks for sharing the book with your friends and family. I’ve heard so many encouraging stories. I joined the Susan G. Komen Orange County Speaker’s Bureau this week and will be sharing my story next week at a SGK Team Leader’s Appreciation event.

Have a wonderful weekend!

#amwriting

Unless you count writing in my mind (aka: attempting to make sense of the jumbled thoughts tumbling around my little noggin, clunking endlessly like a pair of sneakers in the dryer) I #amwriting–not really. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter the number sign is a hashtag. Hashtags help people who tweet find and follow interesting topics. #amwriting is a popular hashtag used by writers. Other hashtags are just funny and have nothing to do with specific categories or subjects. I’m not explaining this well, so google hashtag or read about Twitter in Wikipedia or #askateenager.

I received, however, two invitations from two writers I admire, to participate in a Writers’ Blog Hop. A new writer friend, Kate Motaung, asked first so I jumped in with her. We met through my fellow Redbud Writers Guild friend and gifted writer, Browyn Lea, who generously hosted me along with a “Warrior In Pink” book giveaway on her blog. Kate won the giveaway. We emailed back and forth. Drawn to her heart for God, shared experience of walking the cancer road, and interest in learning this crazy world of writing, I instantly felt bonded to Kate. I could tell we would have a lot to talk about over coffee irl (text abbreviation for “in real life”). Her skillfully woven words blessed me deeply as I read the book review she wrote on her website about “Warrior In Pink.”

The way the blog hop works is I answer four questions about what I’m writing and introduce you to three writer friends who will also answer the same four questions and introduce three of their writer friends, and so on. A bit reminiscent of those chain letters from back in the day sans the horrible omens from failure to participate. For those of you from more recent times, chain letters refer to a practice long ago involving envelopes, handwritten letters, stamps and the use of the metal box, commonly known as a mailbox, found at the end of your driveway.

Anyway, I figure what better way to return to a place where I #amwriting than to introduce you to other writer friends and answer a few questions about writing. So here goes:

 1. What am I writing or working on?

Can I count the “writing in my mind” material? Or the fact that I downloaded Scrivener (a word processing software helpful for organizing and writing books)? I have as a goal to have a book proposal for my second book to my literary agent by the end of summer. I’m excited and nervous about embarking again on the book writing path. So many lessons learned along the way the first time around. Now with one book under my belt I return with a little more experience but a whole host of new insecurities and fears. I wonder if marathon runners feel the same sort of excitement and dread after enough time has passed and they begin training for the next marathon? I wonder. But I’ll never know. Ever.

 2. How does my work differ from others of this genre?

As a nonfiction writer, I bring myself, my worldview and experiences into my writing. I naturally weave in aspects of my Asian heritage into my writing. Unfortunately, at this time, very few books by Asian-Americans authors are found among the bookshelves in any given library, bookstore or online. I’d like to see the landscape change to include more Asian, Latino, Native-American and African-American voices. We grow a more robust understanding of life when exposed to people who see the world through different lenses.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m a teacher at heart. Usually there is some teaching point to whatever I write. My greatest satisfaction comes from helping people regain perspective, expand vision, or consider a life principle through daily life experiences. As a Christian the why of what I write is summed up in this verse: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

4. How does my writing process work?

In my pretend world, my house is spotless and quiet. My clothes are ironed, teeth brushed. I spend hours sitting comfortably in my little nook upstairs typing diligently on my laptop with classical music playing softly in the background. Occasionally I would need a tissue to dab my eyes when writing and recalling a particularly painful memory. My giant mug of coffee would magically refill as needed.

this is my nook

this is my peaceful nook

 

But the reality is usually the dog occupies the chair (unless I cover the chair with books, but even then he still seems to find open space to sleep). And the dog passes gas. Choking, tear-producing foulness. My house is in constant chaos and covered in dog fur and dust. The unending piles of paperwork, laundry, and dishes makes it hard to concentrate and write at home.

 

dog in the chair. me on the floor?

The dog in the chair. Me on the floor? What!?

Even if the stars align and some semblance of order is established, I have a hard time staying in one place for extended amounts of time. So I write a little here and a little there.  I’ve been known to write in my car during soccer practice, at “my Starbucks” with earbuds stuffed in my head, the dining room table, my closet floor and a myriad of other places. I haven’t developed a habit and discipline of writing. And honestly still feel painfully insecure about how I write and what I write. When someone mentions anything regarding author or writer I usually turn my head to look behind me to see who the person is referring to.

Usually a blog posts come to me as I’m going along with my regular activities. I start writing in my mind getting ready in the bathroom or out running the dog or waiting at a stoplight. Sometimes the ideas come out of conversations with friends over life’s challenges.

So that is a peek into my writing life.

Now to introduce to you some great women writers:

First, my dear friend, Ann Suk Wang.  Ann and I met back when she attended UCLA and Darrin and I were Cru campus staff assigned to that great campus (go Bruins!). Our paths crisscrossed back and forth over the years but recently we have been able to connect over writing. Ann is also a Redbud Writer, newspaper journalist and writes children’s and young adult fiction. She usually has at least a half a dozen story lines going simultaneously. I’ve been blessed by her friendship. Through Ann I’ve learned to appreciate the work and mind of fiction authors.

Ann’s Bio:
Ann enjoys painting God’s goodness in words, helping others come one step closer to Him no matter where they are in their journey.
     She has loved writing since she was in elementary school when she made her best friend memorize her original rainbow song (they are still best friends and still sing the song together willingly, 30 years later.)
     Now, Ann is a columnist for a Los Angeles based newspaper, writes features for a San Gabriel Valley magazine and enjoys creating fiction for children. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s teaching a Hot Hula Fitness class, playing board games with her 3 boys (includes her infinitely patient hubby), sipping tea or cuddling with the only other female in the house — Bree, her hairy daughter and 4-legged writing partner.
Connect with Ann:

Twitter- @imwonderingwhy
Facebook- annsukwang

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My next friend is fellow Cru staff, Terry Morgan. I haven’t spent time irl (remember the text abbreviation: in real life) with Terry, but I know we share a similar heart, Terry’s writing is laced with themes around changing the world, developing leaders, especially women leaders, personal growth and appreciation and love for coffee. We have many mutual friends. Conversation over coffee, I’m sure, would last all afternoon into the late night. I’ve admired Terry’s ability to share honestly as well as bilingually. She writes her posts in English and Spanish!

Terry’s bio:

Terry is an international mentor, coach, and leadership development strategic partner at Cru. She is on a heart journey as a wife, mother, ministry leader, friend, and daughter of the King… taking on life with a strong, black cup of coffee in hand.
Connect with Terry:
on twitterLinkedIn, or blogging at MaturitasCafe.com.

terry coffee web

 

Finally, I’d like you to meet my friend Karen Yates. I met Karen through the Redbuds. Ann, Karen and I meet regularly to encourage each other and affectionately refer to ourselves as “Palm Tree Buds” as we represent writing in community here in Southern California. Wise, generous, fun, humble, and kindhearted, I’ve been blessed by Karen’s friendship and insight. Karen is pursuing her Master’s at Talbot Seminary in Spiritual Formation. This major fits Karen well as she is one person I admire who integrates a keen mind, tender heart, and a soul sensitive both to God and the people God has placed in her life.

Karen’s bio:

Karen Yates lives in Orange County, CA and is a Jesus chaser, mother, adoption advocate and loved of sushi. She has worked 12 years in the Christian non-profit industry and has a passion for missions and the global Church.

Connect with Karen:

her blog: KarenEYates.com or on Twitter @KarenYates1

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I’m so glad to introduce you to these wonderful writers! Hope you’ll check out their websites and the writers they introduce to you next week. Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting in my nook, avoiding the piles and trying to stay true to the hashtag: #amwriting.

No Accidents

I’ve been turning the house upside down looking for my driver’s license. Flying out tomorrow to Baltimore and remembered identification is necessary to clear security. That, and small earrings. Don’t wear jumbo big metal ones. Trust me. I remembered the passport for identification option but discovered mine expired in September 2013. Sigh.

Online last night, around midnight, I found out the next available appointment at the DMV landed on May 21st. Sigh. So after dropping Julia off at school I gathered my coffee, big water, big bag-o-stuff (Darrin keeps telling me I should get a wagon!) and headed off to the dreaded DMV. Sigh.

The line ran out the door. Sigh. 

Temperatures are hitting the mid 90’s today and the sun was beating down. Sigh.

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Bumped into a couple from church so we caught up a little while waiting for our numbers to be called.

Two hours of waiting. Sigh. 

All the while I thought about my to-do list, my overturned wreck of a home, packing, prepping and which nail polish goes best with a hot pink dress. Finally, finally, FINALLY the electronic voice announced my number over the speaker. I smiled and worked my way up to the counter. Rainbow loom bracelets in little clear baggies greeted me. I thought to myself, “I bet she’s a mom.” Then I noticed the Bible verses tacked up all over her cubicle. I smiled wider and said, “I’m a Christian, too.”

Instant connection.

I shared how I needed my driver’s license because I was flying out tomorrow to speak at a church in Baltimore about my cancer journey. Whipped out a bookmark from my big bag o stuff, and  shared about the crazy journey to publishing. She shared, “I’m a two-time survivor.”

No accidents who we meet.

She showed me a picture of her beautiful daughter. I learned she was a single mom. Finances were tight. She wanted to know if the book was available on Kindle since the prices generally are cheaper. I smiled even bigger,

“I’ve got a book for you in my car.”

“Really?” She brushed away tears, “Oh, these are happy tears.”

We both agreed. It’s never an accident who we meet. And even when life seems “off” or inconvenient, God is at work. We are on assignment. A much larger tapestry is being woven and spun and you and are I part of God’s plan unfolding.

My new friend and sister in Christ, Angelica, is a shining bright light in the otherwise dismal DMV. God is using her to make a difference in the lives of hundreds who walk through the doors of the DMV. How grateful I am to have met her. How grateful to know I will see her again.

Navigating Chaos

I watched this YouTube clip of the Ethiopian Intersection today in the quiet of the house. Kids in school. Husband at another ministry meeting. Second cup of coffee. Face still unwashed. Unsettled soul. I laughed out loud. Then cried. This video describes well how I currently feel.

My literary agent mentioned, after being in town for The BEST Book Launch Party EVER, on our way to the airport,

“Don’t be surprised if you feel a let down in a few weeks after the dust settles.”

I nodded but inside I thought, “Pshhhheeesh. I’ll be fine.”

The same response I had when Darrin and I attended a marriage conference as an engaged couple.

“Psshhhhheeesh. I doubt we’ll deal with any of the stuff that guy talked about.”

Almost twenty-three years of marriage and I humbly admit we have dealt with all the stuff the guy talked about and more.

So, of course, my wise agent proved wise. Except I didn’t realize the funk I felt until I watched the video. Life feels chaotic but somehow no one has gotten run over. Yet.

If left to myself I hold my breath and expect one pile up after another. And yet, in the midst of chaos, everyone in the video is getting to where they need to go. Even the pedestrians walking THROUGH the center of the car maze (did you see them?).

Honestly, when I think about life nowadays, I’m sobered. More often than not, life does not line up neatly. No lanes, just a general sense of the overall direction. Most of us are living lives different than we pictured. I realize, as I watch the video, my tendency to want to play it safe. Why even head into the chaos? Why not just stay put. Maybe watch. Maybe criticize the road designer. The drivers. The pedestrians.

But I have heard the Shepherd voice. My life is not my own. Currently He is leading me through external chaos like the intersection. Terrifying. Unknown. Stressful.

But I have pledged to go where He leads.

And I trust in the end that His path proves most worthwhile.

How about you? How do you navigate chaos?

Offering Everything Back to Him

She asked me to tilt my head forward, combed my wet hair straight through to the ends, and then looking at me while we both faced the mirror she said through her smile, eyes twinkling,

“It’s long enough to donate, you know.” 

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Wow. It would be like coming full circle!”

She threw her head back laughing, and with her warm, Alabama accent she declared,

“That’s exactly what I was thinking! Full circle.”

Last Wednesday, the official release date of “Warrior In Pink,” I had an appointment with Jesslyn to get my hair cut. The same Jesslyn who has always, always cut my hair. The same Jesslyn who knew I was pregnant before I knew because she could tell the texture of my hair had changed. The same Jesslyn who gifted me with the sassy magazine haircut when I was diagnosed with cancer and knew I would go bald. The same Jesslyn who came over to our house to shave my head when the harsh chemo meds began taking over my body and my hair began to fall out. The same Jesslyn who styled my crazy “muffs” when curly chemo hair grew back.

Fighting back tears I replayed in my mind those milestone moments with Jesslyn.

Full circle.

And how wonderful. How absolutely appropriate to donate my hair back to someone who would be walking the now familiar road of cancer treatment.

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And symbolically the donation of my hair reflects the place the book holds in my heart. I’m seeking to offer everything back to Him.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things…

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Cancer has altered my hair from stick straight to wavy curls. And cancer has altered my heart. The One who remains unchanging through each and every twist and turn is the One who has sustained, provided, led, and loved with perfect faithfulness.

To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

We are blessed to be a blessing.

He is worthy of our all, our everything.

It’s No Joke: Warrior In Pink Has Released!!!!

I can’t smell, taste, or hear. Pulled a muscle in my chest last night from coughing so hard. But all of this pales in light of the excitement I feel having “Warrior In Pink” officially releasing today.

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What is an official release date? I’m not exactly sure. I do know that now the book will be available on Kindle and Nook and on iTunes and will start showing up on book shelves in real book stores. Amazon has been sending pre-ordered books out for the better part of March, so it feels kind of like the book is already out. But today, April 1st, 2014 is the OFFICIAL BOOK RELEASE–so bring out the pom-poms and cowbells!! It’s time for celebrations!!

The Book Release Party is taking place on Saturday, April 5th at Mariner’s Church from 2-4pm. Can’t wait to celebrate with friends from near and far. Special out of town guests include my parents coming in from Nevada and my literary agent, Karen Ball, flying in from Oregon! And of course Darrin, Michael and Julia, the Oasis women, the Awesomes, the California Cohort, and so many who loved our family so well and prayed us through cancer treatment and someday-book-turned-actual-book.

I’ve enjoyed taping two pre-recorded radio interviews and giving two live radio interviews so far about the book. You can check out the Speaking Schedule page for other radio interviews coming up. I think most of the interviews will be available to listen online at the links on the websites.

So grateful for your love, encouragement and prayers leading up to this day. Appreciate all of your help in getting the word out about the book. Please keep on sharing, reposting, tweeting, etc.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

The Book Has Birthed

I love the Fed Ex man.

Not like I love Darrin, the kids, our dog and Jesus, but the Fed Ex man is on my current top ten list. Every few days the Fed Ex man leaves packages on my doorstep. Boxes of bookmarks. a banner, bookplates.

IMG_2188IMG_3101IMG_3119Yesterday I returned home from enjoying a tasty lunch out with some church friends and found a small brown box on the doorstep. I was on the phone with Darrin and brought the box inside. Our dog, Koa, greeted me like I had been gone a month, or five.

As I ripped through the packing tape, I wondered out loud to Darrin,

“I wonder what they sent me this time?”

The last I checked the Fed Ex tracker (at least three times that day), three boxes of books had made it to Chicago and were scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.

I lifted the packing paper and found a hand addressed card, some book plates, and then under another formal looking envelope with my name typed out, I saw, then gasped. Then said loudly,

“Oh my goodness, Darrin. It’s here. The book. It’s actually here!!”

Darrin congratulated me and we finished up our call.

I pulled out the book and flipped through the pages. My first thought: the book seems thinner than I thought it would be. My second thought: these books will fit nicely in purses and bags of women sitting in waiting rooms and infusion rooms.

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I checked the time and jumped in the car to pick up Julia. I decided to see if she would notice, so I placed the book prominently between the seats, resting it in the coin holder section, up against the dashboard. Julia clicked in as I drove off and started rattling off all the happenings of the day and sighed deeply,

“I wish I could do a reading counts test on your book, Mom. I wouldn’t have to read it. Except I wasn’t at the Epcot Center so I wouldn’t know how to answer questions about that part.”

I picked the book up and handed it over to her,

“I guess you could read about that part in here.”

SCREAM. Instant happy tears.

“Oh. My. Goodness! Your book! It’s here! I’m actually holding it! I’m crying!”

We screamed together again, eyes filled with happy tears.

Thank you all for journeying with me all these long months, and years, really. Thank you for your prayers, for believing the book would really happen. Thank you for your enthusiasm, encouragement and support.

Please join me in praying the book will bless many walking the road of cancer.

The book has birthed, and just like with each newborn, I wonder if I’ll ever sleep through the night again….

….the journey has just begun.

 

 

Here

Another full week. I can tell based on the volume of dog hair I vacuumed up this morning. Differing levels of disorder fill the rooms. The flat surfaces around our home are covered by either dust or stuff. Or dusty stuff. Our dog intermittently has donned the dreaded cone-of-shame for an infected anal gland. He started on his second round of antibiotics today. Very little on my to-do list or the way I wanted my days to look turned out how I wanted this week. Mild irritation began growing into full-blown frustration. And then today I stumbled upon this TED talk:

And now I sit here humbled, sobered, grateful, sad.

Jennifer and I both were diagnosed with breast cancer the same year. Five years ago this week I lay in bed recovering from my first surgery to remove what ended up being a 4cm by 6cm tumor. A call from my surgical oncologist came with the devastating news: cancer had spread to three spots on one of my lymph nodes. A second surgery was quickly scheduled to remove all the lymph nodes under my arm.

My story didn’t turn out like Jennifer’s, but it could have.

Now I sit with renewed perspective.

I am still here.

Here.

And regardless of the circumstances around me right now, God has gifted me with more days and years to live and love.

Life is a gift.

As I look around at the mess, both within and without, rather than annoyance I find myself whispering prayers of gratitude and thanks.