I wasn't sure if it should start with the hot wet clouds that formed in my eyes as I chopped the potatoes that quickly turned into tears rolling down my cheeks. Or with the “oh yep, that’s it” moments of clarity I experienced over the past couple of months. Both opened my eyes and cleared my vision of the future of By Your Side and brought me to where we are today. I will start with the tears...
You know those kind of tears that just pop out of your eyes?? The kind that you hoped weren’t coming out, but then they did and they wouldn’t stop?
I put the knife down on the cutting board and slid down the side of the cabinets and sat on the floor, criss-cross apple-sauce style, with tears that just kept coming. Let’s just say, when my kids walked in from outside and looked at me, I closely resembled a KISS band mate. A look that can only be recreated with lots of mascara and tears. I knew then that I was at a point of complete surrender. My business, my marriage, my kids, my everything needed to be released. I could no longer hold on tightly. I had to open my hands up and say “Ok. Here’s it all. What do I do??!!”
The tears began their formation a year ago somewhere in the deep part of my heart. A random rainy day in May spent with a writing coach. Ally helped chart my ideas and thoughts of “my story”. We planned out, in chapter form, “my story” aka “I survived breast cancer and what a journey that was” with the hopeful intention of it some day being written into a book.
What I realized that day sitting at my dining room table covered in sharpies, sticky notes, laptops, and coffee, and what recently came clearly into focus …
My story and my life did not stop with surviving breast cancer.
“Ummm Jen, that’s a strange thing to finally realize.” I know... hear me out.
Chapter twelve, the last chapter of that of book of a unique cancer story, ended with me looking toward the future. A future (I hoped) that would never be as “big bang” dramatic or impactful as cancer.
So in my pea brained head, nothing of my non-cancer life was as important or worthy of being told. Whenever people hear of my story, it causes them to stop. “Wow. What a story. You were so young!! Look at you now. ” No one ever said “Wow. You’re a mom, teacher, wife. Tell us ALL about those things.” Therefore, I guess I figured that all of the rest of me paled in comparison to my one “big thing.” My abilities, my gifts, my kids, my marriage, my friendships, By Your Side, the different roles I have and hats I wear as an adult, none of these were as "special" as being a “young breast cancer survivor.”
In actuality, what was chapter twelve, is really the very beginning of many worthy and important pieces that are being used to impact lives around me. So much of my life has happened and added to my story - all of which I am still living and breathing. Chapters are being written with each passing day.
All of those parts of my life that my pea-headed brain put in the “un-usable/not important to the world” category, I recently discovered are actually worthy enough to be shared and used to connect with others. They all deserve big bold chapter titles in my story.
Y’all may be thinking something like “how did you not know this… what did you think was happening.. Why in the world did you think this?!?!”
I don’t know.
I guess I needed a good chunk of forced silence in my life to clearly see what was there all along.
When we quiet our mind and our surroundings, we truly are given an opportunity to explore and dive deep into our soul and our thoughts. As a mom of three with a small business and a husband, and you know, life, silence is a coveted time for me. Silence of the early morning hours when it’s just me and my thoughts and my bullet-proof coffee. Silence in the shower, and sometimes, I even find silence in my car. However, my coveted silent time has recently been replaced with forced silence.
Have you ever had this happen? When you are expectant of God to show up in certain ways, and then he doesn’t? Or the ways and plans you had ALL figured out, were stopped dead in their tracks? Frankly, forced silence is not my favorite. At all. Because when certain areas of your life get quiet, you are forced to think. To evaluate, discuss, reevaluate, think, and discuss some more.
Which is just so tiring, when all you want to do is hit the play and FFWD buttons to get to your end goal. But by completely stopping forward movement and forcing stillness, you get the opportunity to gain quite a bit of clarity and insight into who you are, what you doing, and where you are going.
Through those potato- chopping, blackest-black mascara-colored tears, everything came into focus. I clearly saw who I am, who my family is, and who and what is By Your Side.
With By Your Side, I have the unique perspective of getting little glimpses into the windows of the hearts and minds of women supporting their friends in need of hope. With each handwritten note that is mailed out, and with countless hours of conversations, I can tell you there’s not one stage of life or a life situation that does not benefit from support and encouragement. Yall, those times when you do let someone have a peek into your good/ bad/ hurt/pride/ love/fears/ hopes/dreams, you are giving your people the chance to come alongside you!
Listening to, and reading YOUR stories of:
surviving your own personal life tragedy
celebrating kids going off to college
caring for your parents
big family moves
births of babies
the tragedies of losing babies
the space you find yourself in the “in-between” of weird places and stages of life.
brides and their fabulous bridesmaids …
…. all of our stories, on some level, are inter-twined. Women standing together, becoming stronger than when we are alone. Living life together and truly seeing each other in every stage or role in which we find ourselves.
Every single conversation and note leaves me marked with the stories of support, hope, encouragement, and my personal favorite, “me too.” Every women at one moment (or a thousand) in their lives feels unseen, lonely, sad, isolated. They feel like absolutely no one else gets it.
When we don’t know what to do or say because we haven’t experienced that “me too” situation,we also feel lost. But you CAN relate. Just knowing that support through the hard and good times is exactly what’s needed.
In my months of forced silence, I read about ⅔ of Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere -- (anyone else have a stack full of almost finished books!??!) . As I read this paragraph, the vision for By Your Side became crystal clear. crystal.
“Often, it is enough to know that others have crossed the bridge before us and found their way safely to the other side. Sometimes those who falter, simply need a glance back from a sister who’s already safely there. The look back is enough to communicate, ‘Hey sister- I am out here and not only is it all clear, it’s all good!!”
This is By Your Side.
Supporting each other. With a glance, a hand hold, words of encouragement, or a piece of BYS jewelry that ties it all together. We could ALL use a hand reaching out to us that says….
“I am here. I have travelled this path and I am on the other side.”
“I don’t know what you are going through.... But I do know that I love you and I am here for you. ”
“Grab a hold tight and I will never leave you.”
“I see you. I know you are in need of encouragement.”
By Your Side started from my inspiration at my mom’s first chemo.
The inspiration being this:
I see you young woman all alone. I hope that you wear this necklace to encourage you to keep going and keep stepping, through the hard times and the good times ahead. You needed someone who came out of the fiery hell and was stronger for it. A beacon of hope. A tiny glimpse that it will truly be ok on the other side.
That kind of hope and encouragement is not only tied to cancer. It’s tied to life.
It’s Chapters 2-Chapter 978 in all of our books.
Inspired by a hand stretched out to another women in need of hope and encouragement….