Shouldering the weight

Nov 20

Today I went to Maren’s Thanksgiving Feast at her school.  It is so great to be able to attend events like this.  She loves it, I love it.  The principal and the school secretary were in the cafeteria serving on the line, and the assistant principal was walking around taking pictures and joking with the kids about how they are going to be on dish duty (first graders are so gullible!)  The school’s Thanksgiving Feast is a lovely display of service, community spirit, and, well, thanksgiving.

While I was there, another mom came up to me and introduced herself as a friend-of-a-friend, a fellow former gymnastics mom, and a blog reader.  She wanted me to know that she and her family have been praying for me, that they would continue to pray for me, and she asked if there was anything she could do.  I profusely thanked her for coming to say hello, because I love it when that happens.  Real connection in the school cafeteria?  Yes please!  I wish everyone would blog so that I could experience the other side of this.  She referenced the letter I wrote to my daughters, and tears sprang up in her eyes.   It surprises me every time… I am shocked and awed that my words on this little blog have power.  Upon seeing her tears, my own eyes immediately welled up.  To get to see my impact in the eyes of a Stranger Friend is so powerful for me.  As we are talking, I’m thinking, “I like this lady; we should be friends.  Shoot, she’s praying for me, I want to be praying for her.”  I love that the blog does what I’d originally hoped it would: it makes the facts and the logistics known so that we can get directly to the matters of the heart.  The reason I began writing was so that I could process what was happening, but the reason I went public was for that cut-to-the-good-stuff short cut for my Real Life relationships.  I scratch my head though, at you Stranger Friends who have linked arms with me.

I love it, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t have perspective for it.


My Real Life friend Sensi visited this week and I shared with her how I just cannot grasp what it is like to be on the other side — your side — of these words.  I don’t really read other blogs regularly; I don’t have perspective about what it is like to be a reader of these words.  I was trying to articulate just how humble I feel at the Friends and Stranger Friends alike who comment, and write, and give so generously of themselves.  Sensi is overwhelming me (not in a bad way) wanting to mobilize a movement of support to get some big (BIG) things done for us and I’m pushing back saying, “No way Jose.  I’m not special.  People don’t need to do that for us–we can do it.”

After taking a deep breath and shaking her head that I might possibly really not understand, Sensi took another deep breath and a lengthy pause to find just the right words.  She’s a wordsmith herself, so I knew that when her eyes filled with tears, she’d found what she wanted to say.  She said, “I want to give to you because I get so much from your grief–daily, moment-to-moment, I think of you– and I feel a weight that I want to give back to you what I have taken.”

Oh.  ::Cue the lighbulb.::

I feel a bit squirmy because I don’t want anyone to have a sense of obligation.  And I work really hard at not being grief-stricken.  However, this choice of words reminded me that my situation, my diagnosis, is devastating and weighty.  And if I can shoulder my devastation and my weight, in part by writing about it here, then you can do it too–in your own way.

And then we are an army who will not be ruled by our grief.

And together, we march and pray, pray and march.

And mutually, we want to pay it forward.  And that, my friends, is one of the very best compliments I’ve ever received.  If my vulnerability here allows for you to me More Kind and More Generous and More Brave despite your own devastation and weight, then I’ve Done Today Well.  I am, and you are, and He is victorious.

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  –1 Samuel 17:45



  1. I don’t think of you as grieving. I don’t think that you even have time for that! You are so busy being a good mom, wife, cancer survivor, and most of all a disciple of Christ. What I take away from reading your blog is strength to deal with adversities in my own life and a desire to be a better disciple myself. Of course there is empathy for what you are going through. So much concern for you. So many prayers for you. But not grief. Not the way I look at it. You continue to celebrate life , as you should. Your strength through your challenges has made a countless number of us stronger as well. You will probably never know the extent of the effect that you have had on so many people. Thank you for you. Keep up the good fight. We’re fighting with you and praying for you.

  2. oh Jen……I am one of many stranger FRIENDS here with you. I know exactly what your friend friend is talking about. I understand completely being on this side of things and going through this journey with you. I have felt all the ups, and all the not so ups. DEEPLY. Partly because you are such an amazing writer, partly because you are about my age and have two little girls just like I do. You, your life are very relatable to me. If I were closer and could bring your sweet family dinner, I would do it in a heart beat because we are both moms, and you are a wonderful person and it would just be the right thing to do. No brainer. But here is what sets this situation apart from that. Your blog, your writing, your story has been a gift to me and I’m sure many others. I will never (and I don’t take that word lightly) parent the same way again. I read the 3rd bedtime story and the 4th bedtime story…..I push my 5 year old on the swing when she asks even though we all know she is fully capable. I count to ten, sometimes 20 when I am frustrated over the second glass of spilled milk in the same night….I am a better mom because of you. My girls are getting a better life experience because of you. That is a gift you want to send a thank you for, you want to do big things for. In fact, there is no better gift than what you have given me. Perhaps if you put it that way it might make more sense to you. You have given us all a lot Jen, its time to let us thank you!!!! XOXO Your stranger friend Kelly

    • Kelly nailed it…I am not a wordsmith, but I would just say “ditto” to her reply. Your gift to your readers is amazing. I thank you, my husband thanks you…my children thank you.

      • Becky Palmieri /

        Jen, you make me strive to be a better mom – to breathe in the memories as they are created – to pay attention to those details in the midst of life happening – to Do Today Well. I don’t know how well I am actually faring, but you inspire me Jen and your perspective brings “Real heart” compared to anything else I could possibly be reading on the internet. Thank you for writing, and for sharing your journey with so many others.

  3. ^^^^
    My thoughts & feelings EXACTLY, Kelly. I’m breathing in my 2 little girls, praying for that extra bit of patience, and saying “yes” to a game of 4 square – outside in 39 degree weather as I strive to Do Today Well. Continued prayers from Seattle from another grateful Stranger Friend.

    • eeek Im from Seattle……live in Vancouver WA now, but grew up in the Puget Sound…..small small world!

  4. Jen I think we all can relate and care about someone who makes us do our today well. You are a brilliant writer and you are just so real. Not grief stricken, but the opposite. You make me want to live my life the very best way I can, the same way you do. Your words are real, and while there are some sad and heavy things happening, mostly I think of you as a mama in a rough patch, and care. I’m thankful for you for a lot of reasons. You’ve given us all a good look at what it means to give thanks in ALL seasons and how HE will work it together for GOOD! Big hugs stranger friend! Praying for you and your army!

  5. Another reader from Washington State (grew up in the greater Seattle area, but live on the dry–and tonight, very cold!–side now)

    See, Jen, you have inspired people halfway across the country! Sending love and prayers ♥

  6. Chrissie /

    Your musings speak truth about motherhood and causes us (me) to be grateful for the smallest of things in my kiddies. Thank you for that! And you’re touching our lives in the UK :-))

  7. Jen, I love reading your blog! It challenges me to view things differently and to cherish day to day things I have going on around me.

  8. Bonnie J /

    Jen, simply said, I think the reason that your words resonate so deeply with everyone out there and in your own backyard… is that they are infused with the Lord’s Spirit. When The Lord gives us the words to share and when He’s in charge they bring Life, Grace, Encouragement

  9. Bonnie J /

    Oops 🙂 in this season of life; in this season of Your Life we are being encouraged, receiving Grace and our perspectives are gaining a more eternal and intentional perspective. Happy Thanksgiving my dear !!!

  10. Peggy I /

    Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us who are linking arms with you in prayer and marching with you in this battle. You so graciously share to keep us “with” you as you embrace and relish every day of life; giving us strength to continue on our own journiey too.
    Truly, thanks for that gift of yourself!
    Love, hugs and prayers… Peg

  11. Janey McKinney /

    I also love reading your day to day…..minute to minute “life” story! Your sharing of the joys and pain you are experiencing JOLT me back in to reality! Your words…….heck your life situation causes me to stop and rejoice thanking God for giving you such Strength, Hope & Faith, its taught me and countless others through your trials and victories to be THANKFUL…….ALWAYS. Thank you and God Bless you

  12. newbie friend's daughter in cinci /

    Your vulnerability has given me so much strength and I am so thankful. Thank you for stepping up to the plate and leading an army of people who are becoming Brave. I have struggled with fear and depression over my mom’s diagnosis and the potential that her cancer could return. You help me everyday to be Brave and know that she could do it. I could do it. Not just “do it” the way the world does, but “do it” with God’s grace and power in a way that gives him glory and advances His Kingdom. And that’s all I ultimately want. And if your friends arrange something Big for you, I will be part of it!

  13. Julie Hughes /

    I agree with Kelly. If I could bring you a meal, I would love to. However, I think bringing a meal from Alabama is a stretch. What I can do is pray for you and your precious family, be a better wife and mother and maybe help in some other way. I know that is not the reason you share your story- for others to help you- but I feel like there are many other stranger FRIENDS, like me, who want to help. 🙂 I remember once that you mentioned bringing small ($5-10) gift cards to the nurses/techs who provide treatment to you. Heck, I can send you a few Starbucks gift cards for you to give out. And, I would LOVE to do that! What are some other ways we could help?
    Continuing to pray as you begin your next step in this journey!

  14. Your inspire me to live better through your daily strength and grace under one if life’s most challenging situations. Your honest voice striving to mark faith and joy regardless of the situation is the greatest perspective on how to Do Today Well – thank you for including us on this journey. Love always.

  15. Mary Ann /

    Jen – We are not strangers, but not well-known friends. I love reading your blog because I don’t have to ask you all the questions at church, because you are real, because you are impacting the lives of many. Because of your choice to share in the way that you share, we stop to think about our own blessings, children and lives from a different perspective. You create waves. . . the good kind that ripple throughout people lives and then into someone’s life and someone else’s and. . . . on and on. Praying for you and your family.

  16. Sweet friend, I havent commented in a while but I pray often. We totally should be friends!! I totally understand! When I was sick and flat on my couch for months on end, I began blogging so I could make sense of it all. I mean, to my myself and to God. For me, it was too much to keep inside And by writing, by sharing honestly and vulnerably, I was able to tell others how good God is. And as I always said, reminding YOU how good God is helped remind ME how good God is. And I needed that. For years I lived my life from my couch, inable to sit upright – watching other precious people do my life, raise my kids. And the enemy tried to convince me that the world was spinning around just fine without me. The fact that others- total strangers, nonetheless, were impacted by my writing, floored me. But that, beloved, is just God. He is just that good. May YOU continue to be blessed by how He is using you, because I am constantly blessed by how He is using you. You might as well join in… 🙂 Love, love.

  17. Jenn Wilkey /

    Hey Jen, This is Jenn Wilkey here. I haven’t talked to you in AGES. I am married to Justin and we were a part of one of your outer circles of friends about 10+ years ago, GULP. Anyway, i just wanted to come out of the woodwork and say HEY, and that we are reading your blog and praying for you. Amy, my sis and your wedding invite designer, also sends her love. HUGS.

  18. I, too, have only been reading your blog since The Letter. I read it daily, pray for you, and have told everyone I can to read it so they too can pray for you. God appreciates persistence. 😉
    I struggle with whether or not to comment because I have nothing I know to say. Interpretive dance, I can do. Lol. But seriously, I don’t want to take up time you could spend with the girls with reading another “hey I’m here, and reading and praying,” I just am. So know that, even though we’ve never met and I’m not a regular poster, I am a Stranger Friend and we would definitely be Actual Friends if I lived anywhere near you. You are constantly in my heart and I thank you for sharing your words, and more important, wisdom everyday.

  19. Isn’t that what life is all about, be kind, generous and brave! Jen, your words inspire me to live as such. Anyone reading comments my sissy in law is having her mastectomy tomorrow for breat cancer, please pray for, as we say one and done, with her lymph nodes biopsy and that all else goes smoothly! Her name is Jamie… THANK-YOU!