I Get To

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When I looked at my calendar for this week I saw I had three curriculum nights scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, one for each child.  I was honestly overwhelmed at the thought of going to all of them.  Then tonight as I drove into the parking lot I had an "I get to" moment.

"I get to" be here at curriculum night.  "I get to" meet my child's teachers and classmate's parents. "I get to" do the mundane tasks as a mom like go to three curriculum nights this week.

Last spring I would have done anything to experience these moments as a mom instead of going through my cancer treatments.

I share this because I am not the only parent who has curriculum night(s) this week.  Yet I may be one of a few who had an "I get to" moment tonight.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the commitments the start of the school year brings, remember there are parents who would love to be doing the mundane beside you but who aren't able to.  And as grateful as I am tonight for my "I get to" moment, my heart is with those families who don't get to be there for whatever reason, including the families in Houston, those in the path of Hurricane Irma, those impacted by the fires out west, (the list could go on and on) who right now would love life to be as comfortable as ours is right now going to curriculum night(s).

Opening our eyes to see the broader picture of what's really in front of us can give us perspective.

I invite you to join me in taking a moment to...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

As grateful as I am be to be here and experiencing life with my family, I hope I never forget to look beyond my own circumstances and gain perspective on what really matters in life and that is loving other people; from those right beside us to those half way around the world.  

I pray that those of us whose lives are comfortable right now not settle in and get stuck in our routines.  My hope is that instead use what we have - whether it is our time, energy and/or our resources- to reach out to help those who could use it.

It's a privilege to "get to" be the one who helps others, brightening their future, and our own.

With hope,

Shawn

Give A Little Love

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So this happened. Yes, that is my kindergartener's little forehead peeking out.  Today is his first day of school...

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

All three are back to school and filled with joy for their day ahead.  

Me? 

Well, I am happy for them and sad for me.  

I had a nice cry but now I have a choice to sit and dwell or live out love instead. 

I choose to live out love instead.  

What do I mean?

I learned when I was diagnosed back in January that I could get wrapped up in my story or continue to live out love.  It was a seesaw between the two but I kept trying to lean into living out love.  

Why?

Because love heals the soul.

For example, within days of my diagnosis a need came my way and I was able to coordinate a clothing collection for kids in Haiti.  Every day when I walked in my breezeway, I was filled with joy because I knew we were doing God's work, even with cancer.

The sadness I feel right now is tempting me to sit here and dwell on it. But instead, like my diagnosis, I want to use these emotions as fuel to see more clearly the work that is mine to do for God.

Houston is on my heart, as I am sure it is on yours.  I am not coordinating a collection but I did want to ask each of you to consider this...

Make a choice today to NOT spend money on something and instead choose to donate what you would have spent to our neighbors in Houston.

OR

Make a choice that whatever you spend on your family today, you will match it, donating the same amount to Houston. 

Many of you have been keeping everyone in Houston in your thoughts and prayers.  Praying for others is all some of you may be able to do.

But for those that have resources available, please join me by living out love towards our neighbors in Houston; caring for them as we would like to be cared for if we were in the same circumstances.

Whether you have a little one heading off to Kindergarten or there is something else weighing on your heart, choose to live out love today - to those in Houston or wherever else you see a need.  It is a gift to be able to see beyond our own circumstances and meet the need(s) of someone else.  Choosing to come beside those in need is what we are here to do.  And while we are helping them, we are healing ourselves at the same time.  

With hope,

Shawn

"Love your neighbor as yourself" - Mark 12:31

Life Lesson

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School starts tomorrow for my three kids. My little one goes off to kindergarten and let's just say my husband offered to get me a fish to keep me company. Yep, I am one of those moms who will send them off with a big smile and then shed tears after the bus has left. The only bonus is I will have more time to write... 

I will have A LOT of time to write... 

Anyways, I thought I'd take some time to talk with my kids about what it will take for their year to be successful.

Reflecting back to our trip to Acadia, I showed my kids pictures of them hiking Cadillac Mountain. It was a 3 1/2 mile hike with a steady climb. Watching them do this hike had me think about the character qualities it took them to get to the top of the mountain.

Patience
Perseverance
Focus
Courage
Determination
Being flexible to the pace of others
Willingness to do the work and overcome challenges
Strength of heart to see it through to the end
Encouraging words toward self and those around you
Endurance

At the top of the mountain, as I watched them look at the beautiful view with gratitude and appreciation, the sense of accomplishment they had was priceless.

I complimented them, not on being great hikers, but on the character qualities they exhibited while hiking to accomplish such a feat.

My hope for Stephen and I is that our children know we are not focused on their grades or test scores.  Instead that we are focused on developing their character so they can be successful in school and in life.

What it took for our children to climb that mountain will also serve them this year in school. And just like on that mountain, Stephen and I will be there beside them, not doing the work for them, but walking beside them, encouraging them every step of the way.

With love and hope,
Shawn

Build Your Life on the Rock

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This week we took an inspiring walk along the shore of Acadia, Maine.  We walked on the coarse sand at Sand Beach and on the captivating rocks along the shore from Sand Beach to Otter Point.

As we walked along the rocks God laid on my heart "live life with your family and teach them more about me through your experiences."  

I was so enraptured by this wisdom.

Teach them who God is by experiencing life with them- not just sitting with them at home teaching them about God or sitting beside them at church, but by experiencing life with them.  

Kids learn better by experiences!

I loved this idea and as we walked, I kept seeing opportunities to teach our children about God and His character.  I started taking pictures to capture those moments and figured I would show the pictures to my kids teaching them more about God from our experiences together.  

One lesson from this walk was about the difference between the rocks and the sand.

When I asked them what it was like to walk in the sand they shared it was soft and moves with your feet rather than supporting your feet.

"What was it like to walk on the rocks?" I asked them.

They shared the rocks were solid, stable and didn't shift.

I continued by asking them if they were to build a home, which surface would they prefer to build their home on, the rock or sand?

They all confidently stated on the rock.

"Why?" I inquired.

Because it is a strong foundation.

Because it's doesn't move easily.

Because it is stable.

"When the storms come through, which house will hold up better against the storms?" I questioned.

They all agreed the house built on the rock.

I concluded by sharing with them that each of us is building a house and that house is our lives.  We have a choice on what foundation we will build our life; on the solid foundation of God, the rock, which is a strong, stable foundation - or -on the shifting, unsteady sand of society/other people's opinions, etc.  And when the storms of life come through for you, which foundation will you prefer to have built your house/life on?

The rock.

And just like the rest of us, my children have a choice to build their lives on the sand or the rock.  I can't choose for them but I will do my best to show them by my own life how choosing God has given me a solid foundation and has helped me through the storms in life whatever they be.

With hope,

Shawn

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” - Matthew 7:24-27

Good news...

Beautiful day in Boston.  

My appointment went well. My head scans look good👍🏻 I do need to get a biopsy on my thyroid so continued prayers are appreciated that that will go well. From here on out, unless I hear otherwise I am considering myself cancer free😁

I am grateful for all my doctors, nurses and support staff at Mass Eye and Ear and MGH. It is comforting to be in such good hands🙏

Thank you for all the love, prayers, positive thoughts our way.💝🙏😊

Now I am going to sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride home with my guy and hug my kids a little tighter when I get home💝

Oh and one more thing, please join me to take a moment to...

Pause. Breathe. and Pray for those who got different results today.

Thank you💕

With love, gratitude and hope,
Shawn

A Heartwarming Gift

So this happened last night💝

For our son's 10th birthday we gifted him tickets to see his favorite musician, Brad Paisley.  When we arrived in our seats we struck up a conversation with the couple next to us.  Interestingly, it turns out they are from Charlestown which is where I stayed during my time in Boston! I thought that was pretty cool...Anyways, in our brief conversation I had shared that we were there for our son's birthday.

Well, halfway through the show we took our children to get some ice cream.  When we walked back in I was with my son, the birthday boy, and he asked for a shirt.  I told him no.  And he said "okay, but if I got one I'd want the jersey." I smiled and restated we weren't getting a shirt and we continued on back to our seats.

About ten minutes later our concert neighbors left their seats.  When they came back they had this shirt in their hands!  They handed it to my son and wished him a Happy Birthday💝. He was in shock.  His smile said it all. 
Happy tears started flowing out of me.  I mean really?! How incredibly thoughtful of this couple to give him a gift?!... and without their knowledge they gifted him the exact shirt he had just pointed out to me!

Doesn't that just make your heart smile?! This selfless act of love inspires me to live out love too💕 It's not in the getting of things but in the heart of this action that is so beautiful to me.

This weekend has been packed full of extraordinary memories for our family.  As Brad Paisley says, 

"And the memory of a day like today, can get you through the rest of your life." 

All these memories are captured deep in our hearts and we will carry them forever... 

As for today?  We will go back to making memories doing ordinary things like the laundry, legos, and visiting the library😊

With a grateful heart,
Shawn

Inspired to Raise Awareness for ACC

This is Gabriele Grunewald. She is in Sports Illustrated this week. She is fighting her third battle with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, and this is her fourth battle with cancer. It is bittersweet to share this article about her. Bitter in that I wish no one else had to deal with cancer at all, especially not four times. It is sweet in that Gabriele's platform as a runner for Brooks is raising awareness for the rare cancer we have in common, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. 

This is her story. I am not sharing this thinking I will have a reoccurrence too, only God knows that truth. Whether I have one or not, I strongly believe part of my purpose now is to raise awareness, and funds, to help others like Gabriele, who do have reoccurrences with ACC. 

We need more research on this rare cancer. 

I am grateful that there are ACC researchers right in Boston who took my tumor post-op in March to use in their research. I pray everyday that more and more strides are made in understanding this cancer and finding ways to fight it so that we won't have to think about reoccurrences. Yet in order for that to happen, we need to raise more money to fund the research.

As this article states, "Nobody is running 5Ks or giving out ribbons for adenoid cystic carcinoma." Hopefully that will change at some point but until then I am writing to request that you consider donating to Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma Research Foundation, ACCRF. I had lunch with the founder, Marnie, while I was in Boston for treatment. She is incredible, motivated, focused and on a mission, like the rest of us, to not let cancer stop us from growing old, gray and wrinkly beside our loved ones and watching our kids grow into adults with families of their own. 

Here is a link to their website to learn more about Marnie's Foundation, ACCRF, and how to donate:

https://www.accrf.org/take-action/donate/

Thank you for your time and for considering donating what you can to ACCRF, even if it is a dollar. Every bit is helpful and gives hope to all of us who have fought, or are fighting, the battle with ACC.

With gratitude and hope,
Shawn

It is Well With my Soul

Coming home those first couple of weeks was a bumpy ride. I was perplexed because there was no where else I wanted to be than home with my family yet I struggled to do life with my family.

About a week and a half ago I had a moment when I realized why I was so challenged; I was looking at the struggle rather than at God.

You see, in Boston my eyes were focused on God. I trusted God with the outcome of my body and asked daily to be used as a vessel for love during my time there. I firmly believed that if God put me in Boston there was a reason for it. My hope daily was to be a light of His love in that new space; from creating relationships with YMCA, hotel and hospital staff, to handing out gift cards to those in need and even one day being approached by a homeless couple on the street who asked me to pray with them, every day my eyes were on God and my purpose was to live out love wherever it was needed.

Even on the weekends when I came home, my eyes were focused on my family and the joy of being with them. My other Mom responsibilities were what they were and I did them without a second thought.

Fast forward to coming home, I spent time with God and my family but I realize now that I was focused on the struggle of "how do I do my Mom thing again?" How do I get my prayer time in when I wake up after the kids? How do I do the dishes, laundry, cook meals, and balance it out with spending quality time with the kids and down time for myself? etc...

After a couple weeks of focusing the struggle I read a verse in Matthew that became my meditation to help me get back on track.

"The eye is a lamp to the body, if your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. If your eyes are unhealthy, your body will be full of darkness." - Matthew 6:22

When I came home my eyes were focused on the struggle and therefore I was struggling within. Yes, cancer is a struggle yet day to day life can be a struggle too. One isn't more than the other, a struggle is a struggle. 

Since meditating on this verse I have been really mindful of putting my eyes back on God and trusting Him to guide me through my days, like I did in Boston.  

God has me back at home with my family, and therefore He has a purpose for me here, as a wife and a Mom. Like in Boston, my hope to be a vessel of love throughout my day, starting within our home. I am doing what is mine to do but God is showing me that I don't have to do it all. My kids are capable and competent to help with a number of responsibilities around the house so I am delegating more. It helps me now and will help them in the long run. I am finding more balance and getting some quality time in with my kids but also some down time for myself. As for writing, I am still figuring out when to weave it in. I too am trusting that in God's hands.

My eyes are back on God, I have more peace within and I am so grateful🙏

I am sharing this because I know I am not the only one who struggles. If you find yourself focusing your eyes on your struggle like I was, I want to encourage you to...

Pause. Breathe. Pray. 

And put your eyes on God.  

What does that mean?

Wherever you are, in the car, at work, or on the beach, God is with you. You don't need a church building to be with God. Just take a moment to be still with God in the silence of your heart.

Talk openly and honestly.  

Ask for His help and guidance.  

Be patient.  

Listen.  

Trust you will be guided on the path to peace.

And if silence isn't your thing try mediating on the verse from Matthew above. Repeating it over and over and over again.
Know if your eyes need to shift off your struggle, be intentional and directional focusing them on the blessings around you...and if that is hard, start with the blessing that you are here and breathing which means God has a purpose for you today.

Focusing your eyes on God will not only change your perspective, it will change your heart.  

I speak from experience.

May our eyes be healthy and our bodies be full of light💗🙏💗

With love and hope,
Shawn

Celebrate Life!

This week Stephen and I celebrated our 13 year anniversary🥂and our little ones 5th birthday🎈Woven into the joy of those days was also an appreciation that I was here to celebrate these special moments in life with my loved ones. Having cancer has made me realize how I have taken things like anniversaries and birthdays for granted, but I won't any more! 

Have you subconsciously taken those things for granted too? If so, I invite you to join me and... 

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

Each person in our lives is a gift to be treasured. We need to take the opportunities we have to celebrate one another, not just on anniversaries and birthdays but everyday. As the saying goes, "the trouble is, you think you have the time." 

So today, whether it's your anniversary, a loved ones birthday or not, say what you need to say to them from your heart, surprise them with that note, call or random little gift. Take the time today to celebrate your loved ones and make the memory that will last forever and will leave us with no regrets.

With love,
Shawn
 


"Every good and perfect gift is from above." - James 1:17