Kinsey Lee is a college student pursuing a career as a sports broadcaster. In a culture where we become captivated by positions, titles, and platforms, this young women shares what truly holds steady in world that constantly reminds us we aren’t enough. Please take a moment to read and share with a friend.
This month’s Guest Post contributor faced the limitations of comparison and inadequacy to write this post. And it’s a good one! I know you’ll be blessed by Gayle’s words as she speaks into your heart regarding her own determination for freedom.
People often say “I’m not a writer", but as our Guest Larry Lichlyter shares….if you’re a parent you’re a writer— composing messages in the lives of your children, grandchildren and future generations. Be motivated and sharpened by this heartfelt inspirational Father’s Day post from one Fab Dad!
*a special post from a special guest*Life is short I want to live it well One life, one story to tell ~“Live it Well” by Switchfoot
When my mother (who was also my BFF) passed away in 2013, I was let in on a little secret. The secret was what life is really about and how we should all be living it. The thing is, it wasn’t like this information was hidden from me. It was there all along… but I, like most of us, had been walking around with blinders on.
We’ve all seen the words “Life is short” on bumper stickers, inspirational posters and coffee mugs. We’ve heard the phrase “Live like there’s no tomorrow” and some of us (that listen to country music) have sung along with the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” But when it comes right down to it, how many of us actually take this sentiment to heart?
My mother thought she had plenty of time left to do things. Again, just like most of us do. But when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in March of 2013 and passed away just six months later in September 2013, she ran out of time.
She had wanted to live in a condo at the beach, drive a VW Beetle Convertible and do a bunch of other things that she always said she would do “later.” Except now later would never come.
It was after watching her go through this experience and then reading her journals after she passed and see her talk about, in her own handwriting, how she had let fear hold her back her whole life… that I knew my life had to be different.
Both for me and for her.
See, my mother and I were very much alike. And I could very easily see myself ending up in the same place – writing in my journal at 65 years old, about how I hadn’t really lived my life either.
But I didn’t let that thought discourage me and I didn’t let the grief of losing my mother and very best friend send me into a downward spiral.
Instead, I decided I was going to live my life. And I was going to live it well.
So, I set out to “clean up” my entire life. I fell in love with the idea of a tiny house and made plans to have a 160 square foot home built. It was something that before I would’ve only talked about and dreamt of doing, but in honor of my mom, I wasn’t going to just talk about it… I was going to do it.
To get ready for the big move, I downsized and got rid of about 80% of my belongings. It was amazingly freeing as I was able to let go of things that represented someone I used to be, someone I never became or someone that I thought I “should” be.
I let go of all the excess that was never really necessary in the first place and kept only the things that I really used, needed and loved. It made those items even more special and freed up my space and energy immensely.
But as I went through the process of downsizing, something else happened along the way. I started letting go of emotional clutter too. As I got rid of physical clutter, I let go of old guilt, shame and regret. I finally let myself feel pent-up grief for people and things I had lost, so I could truly move on. And I got more in touch with who I truly am than ever before.
It wasn’t a coincidence that all of these things were intertwining at the same time. God was having me do a major clean out and there was one other “room” to be cleaned. My body.
Right before my mother was diagnosed, I had been struggling with some severe health issues of my own. Basically, my body felt like it was falling apart – headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, digestive issues, brain fog and more. I had been to every doctor under the sun and came up with nothing but dead ends (or prescriptions for unwanted antidepressants).
But in God’s perfect timing, as He was leading me through this process of pruning – both physically and emotionally – He brought the right people into my path that would eventually bring about healing.
Through naturopathic medicine, exercise and meditation, we were able to finally begin repairing all the damage that advanced adrenal fatigue had done to my body over the past several years. Yes, my body had been feeling like it was falling apart, because it was. It had been pushed beyond its limits.
After a string of traumatic events that included the end of an almost 4-year abusive relationship, the death of both of my parents and an extremely stressful and toxic job, my adrenal function had been overworked and overused. But there was no “magic pill” that would make it all better.
The key to recovering from adrenal fatigue is lifestyle changes – eating healthier, using non-toxic products, practicing relaxation and mindfulness and cutting out stress. All pieces of the puzzle that fit in perfectly with what God was already doing in the other parts of my life.
So I started eating clean with no gluten, dairy or sugar and plenty of fresh vegetables and clean meats. I got rid of all of my personal and home care products that were laden with chemicals and replaced them with healthier alternatives.
And I began making my health and my life a priority. I started living NOW, going after my dreams and marking things off my bucket list.
Which, I believe, is how we all should be living all along. Why do we wait until we are at death’s door to make a change? Why do we walk through life telling ourselves we’ll start living “later”?
Why do we let ourselves get caught up with things that don’t matter like cell phones, iPads and celebrity gossip? Or fill up our bodies with unhealthy foods full of sugar and fat, while slathering our bodies with products that contain known carcinogens?
I decided I didn’t want to do any of those things any longer. I wanted to live a life that was stripped down and cleaned up, NOT to deprive myself… but to finally actually start living.
And you know what? I haven’t looked back once.
Remember, life is short. You’ve only got one life, one story to tell.
So, live it well.
Want tips on how to clean up your own life? Grab my FREE 5-part “Jump Start Guide” right here for tons of information on downsizing & de-cluttering, clean eating & non-toxic products, emotional health and “bucket list living”!
Jenn Baxter is an accomplished writer in Charlotte, NC, who has been published in numerous print publications, as well as featured as a columnist on Beliefnet.com. In 2015, she launched her website, Live a F.a.s.t. Life, based on her own experiences with clean living, emotional health and downsizing into a 160 sq. ft. tiny house, and released her first book, “Tiny Abundance: My Journey to a Simple, Yet Fabulously Abundant Life in 160 Square Feet,” which is available on her website and Amazon.com. She also helps others learn to clean up their homes, their bodies and their lives in her e-course collection, “De-Clutter, De-Tox, De-Stress.”
A Little Thought from Heather: Jenn & I were connected back in July as prayer partners for a writers/speakers conference we were attending. God guides and directs every detail. She has sharpened me through my writing and speaking endeavors, and her friendship has become a beautiful blessing to my life. I pray you are encouraged and motivated in your New Year by her sharing her journey here. All the best to you in your 2017, Heather ❤️ ****Three ways to help us grow—share, comment, subscribe.**** Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event? Click here to contact us! Choose this link to see a video of our story
*a special post from a special guest* Hi there! My name is Courtney. I'm a daughter, sister, wife, and mother of two. Most people know my most defining role of the past three years is as a "heart mom," a mom fighting the world of congenital heart defects while encouraging her brave three year old in his fight against Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
Caysen was born in 2013 after a pregnancy that went smoothly until about 33 weeks. I began having health problems uncharacteristic to my norm, and after MRIs, spinal taps, extensive blood work and multiple specialists; it was determined I had optic neuritis. My body was attacking my optic nerves and taking my vision. After receiving my diagnosis, my mom turned to me and said "there's something special about this baby". It was literally attack after attack, and ironically we had NO idea of his heart defect until after birth. What foreshadowing that sentence had!
Caysen was born "healthy" and we took him home thinking our troubles were behind us. After 15 hours at home he began panting, and it was worrisome. We rushed him back to the hospital where I will never forget the NICU team coming out to us, shaking their heads and barely able to make eye contact with us as his situation was so grim. He was crashing and during the crash he had brain bleeds, liver damage, his lungs were sick, and his kidneys took a hit. This is where we learned of his diagnosis and that it was incompatible with life.
You see, HLHS essentially means half a heart. The three stages of surgery for it are called "palliative care". If he stabilized, he could potentially sit for the surgeries and have a shot at living a good twenty years or so with half a heart and then potentially need a transplant. There of course are many risks, but the other option was to let him pass.
It is here where we met some of the most encouraging nurses (Heather included!), and where we met doctors with such strong faith and hope in God that they would grab our hands and pray with us over his little incubator all while machines clicked and whirred keeping him alive and allowing him to heal and hopefully sit for his first surgery.
We have walked a long and grueling path over the past few years. Initially we were told Caysen wouldn't make it. God said otherwise. He had his first surgery, then we had a problem with his patched up stents in his heart at five months old. He crashed again. We were told the pump of his heart wasn't good. They told us then we would need a transplant. Then our cardiologist made a last ditch effort in the cath lab doing an intervention procedure and relaxed the heart. Again, God said otherwise.
After a grueling third open heart surgery and recovery, complications have now led to us being listed on the heart transplant list. We continue to recognize God's hand in everything and His perfect timing. God has the ultimate plans and holds our future. He has shown it time and time again!
Throughout our entire journey we as a family have learned so much about our faith in God. Just when you think you can't take anymore, you're beaten down from the journey and utterly exhausted - you will find God will give you exactly what you need to carry on. You may not know how, but when you least expect it God provides the way. We've learned so much about God's timing versus our timing, and how His timing doesn't always make sense but when we look back you can see how that timing saved us from another complication or difficulty. God is never late.
We have learned when the pain is just too much to bear, check your perspective. The greatest lessons often come during life's most challenging trials. What can you walk away with? Better perspective? Strength? A reminder to take things one day at a time? To be present in each moment, no matter where you are - even if living in a hospital away from your family - because we aren't promised anything and it's a blessing to still have your child? Find the good. Find the joy. Anne Lamott once said, "joy is the best makeup". Putting a smile on your face can change the whole outcome of your day. On the bad days you might have to look exceptionally hard to find the joy, but choose joy.
Praising God through the storm is difficult, but such an intense form of worship. When the world is crumbling around you, still praising Him and acknowledging His goodness keeps your mind and heart on track. It allows you to lean into Him in the valleys. If you can do this, the view from the mountaintop will be that much sweeter.
I would be honored if you felt led to follow and pray for Caysen's journey as we wait for a new heart. We can be found at Caysen's Heart Updates on Facebook. But most importantly I want to encourage you all today. Everyone has pain and suffering and turmoil, it's impossible to escape in this broken world. It's up to you how you choose to respond to it. I, for one, couldn't have made it this far without my hope in God and our future promises! Such a comfort to know He has this all figured out and a beautiful eternity is the end result!
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” Romans 8:18 NLT
Update: When I contacted Courtney back on September 22nd, I could’ve never anticipated what would transpire by the time this post was composed and published. When she sent it back to me, I knew it was perfect, but not the right time. So like all our posts, I waited for the Lord to nudge me when to share it. Allow me to share what occurred in the meantime….
The call came on October 13th. Caysen received his new heart in the early morning hours of October 14th. He came home with his family on November 13th. After a lifetime in the hospital, going home was a process. Courtney said, “Caysen spent the ride home telling us he didn't want to go home. I think he was confused as he just didn't feel like he lived with us anymore. When we told him Daddy would mow - his attitude changed completely and he was more than excited.”
I asked Courtney if she knew how many days of Caysen’s life have been spent in the hospital. She answered, “Hard to say. This stay was our longest at 184 days. Before that it was 86. Our NICU stay was 72. We had another at least 60 days inpatient between that too, and that might be minimizing.”
This little baby and his family touched my heart over three years ago. The optimism and strength at work in their life is evidence of their relationship with the Lord, their unwavering faith and trust in Him. From the earliest days of their hospital stays, Caysen’s room was filled with praise and worship music. It can be difficult to find something to praise the Lord for when nothing seems right, when your baby is in critical condition facing more unknown than known. But we don’t praise and worship because of our circumstances, we praise and worship for WHO GOD IS. We don’t let our circumstance define God. We let God define the circumstance. And we’ve had the blessing of seeing that demonstrated in The Allen Family.
I pray Caysen’s story brings joy to your holiday. I pray you are encouraged to see God’s hand at work in the trials. I pray your heart overflows with gratitude. And I pray this precious boy inspires you to enlist as an organ, eye and tissue donor. May Caysen’s journey in getting his new heart bless your heart this Thanksgiving.
“After transplant our life quality has changed SO MUCH. He is happy and chatty and interacts with people…….So thankful for life outside of a hospital. For God bringing us a happy heart to allow us more time with Caysen.”- Courtney Allen
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