moments that take our breath away

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"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, 
but by the moments that take our breath away." ― Maya Angelou 

today has been an instance where my breath has been stolen from my lungs, my heart found pumping to a heavier rhythm on this day, than it was just yesterday.

early this morning maya angelou, poet, civil rights activist, feminist, among other things, passed away from this earth, and entered into the next life. i don't even know how to hold this moment, as her words changed so many lives for the better; her light has now gone onward to light another sphere, another place. i shake my head in disbelief, and thank the lord she lived a full, long, well loved and well lived life. she was such an awe-inspiring, beautiful, warrior-poet of a woman. the world needs more women and men like her, as she was utterly fluent in the language of love and the human soul, as we should all hope to be. i know that as a writer myself i hope to someday reflect maya in some small way.

i am reeling, wandering and wondering, as i entertain every thought of beginnings and endings and the what-after-thats. and i am strangely light of heart, and yet still feeling like there is a lesser beating, a collapse of heart in my chest. i can see both sides of this circle of life, like i always do. i see light and dark and old and new. i see a purpose beyond my comprehension or human reckoning, and oddly i do not love or hate this feeling. it's just sort of there, and i'm just sort of here today. and i'm doing what i feel like i can do. i can write, and reel, and heal, and speak words of comforting love to myself and you and whoever else is reading this and is struggling with an unknowing heart.

this is for you. this is for me. in a way, this is for maya angelou, and it's for a few other beloved ones, too.

mary and snuggles
it's also about those that have been loved a short time and lost, like my sister's beautiful grey fuzzy bunny named snuggles, who also passed this morning, after having lived the best week of her life. that bunny was loved dearly by my sweet, brave, caring baby sister. mary, it will be okay, even if its not okay, okay?

it's a day that has me reflecting upon my eighty-four year old grandfather, the man who after just having had two mini strokes and having had to have been hospitalized a few weeks ago right before my twenty-fifth birthday, has started smoking his cancer sticks again, even though he'd said to me and my husband "it scared the hell out of me!" nothing can keep my grandfather down, but he is smoking again, working out in the yard doing what he loves, which is gardening and mowing and watering the lawn religiously, despite the doctors and my grandmothers orders to live his remaining days in a more sedentary way, in his recliner. he is currently writing out his last wills and testaments, for my grandma to sign as witness. and this shatters me with disbelief, that someday, perhaps soon, he won't be here anymore to tell us about gardening, farming life during the Great Depression, or about the wars in Vietnam and Korea.

and then i think about my husbands grandmother. she is becoming encased in her own body, by a disease that sounds like some cruel man's name (Lou Gehrig's disease) and it is no joke. and it's unsettling to see her this way, tubes and machines and a wheelchair . . . her playing word charades with us, to her discomfort between breaths, gasping to speak. i grasp my husbands hands tightly these days, and reassure him that he'll make it through, but it's still not fair for her or for him. and my husband's father goes to see his mother as often as he can . . . five hours up the road to the mountains, in between all of his many responsibilities as a pastoring shepherd over his own flock. we don't know how much more time we have with mammaw. months, days, hours? so we cherish every moment we have with her, and pray her though her pain. that is all we can do, but somehow i feel as if its not enough.

it's not really fair that we lose those that inspire, those who breath life into our lungs, those who, had they not been born, neither would we have been, and yes, it's not even fair when we lose the precious animal lives we love. yet somehow death is supposed to be fair, but try telling that to the person who is thick in the reckoning and grief of it all, to the person who sees death coming for the person they love and has to declare it purposeful, God's will, beyond our understanding. it is not easy saying goodbye, even when you know another hello is in your distant or maybe, possibly, unknown near future.

death is just another mystery we cannot yet comprehend. so today i sit here, just me and my jesus, struggling to breathe in the mystery and unknowingness of it all. and i look for another grand moment to take my breath away. in the end this circle of life and death, beginning and ending, well, it's really sort of a tragically beautiful creature in its own way.

for those we lose in death are the ones who teach us how to live. 

God's Will: Cover Reveal + Book Announcement

Hello all! My dear yankee sister-friend Meghan M. Gorecki is finally letting me unzip my busting-at-the-seams lips to tell you that she will become a published author, with her first historical fiction novel God's Will, set to be released and make it's debut on May 19th (Lord willing!) Be sure to mark her book as Want to Read on Goodreads, and get ready to order your paperback copy (or kindle edition ebook) on Amazon shortly!

(I know, so many exclamation points. I just simple cannot contain myself, as I love Miss Gorecki dearly!)

Here is a little more information on Meghan's debut novel God's Will,  and the gorgeous northern-belle authoress herself . . .

God's Will - Back Cover Blurb

Kathy Andrews is good at goodbyes. Her mother is sent to a sanatorium, her sister, left behind in Chicago, and her father, forced to roam looking for work. So she holds close to the only one she has left, her brother Danny. When the two go to live with the Marshalls in the sleepy town of Brighton, she doesn't let anyone past hello.

Elliott Russell frowns at his aunt and uncle's generosity--even though he and his sister are on the receiving end. He frowns, too, at the uppity city girl with a chip on her shoulder whom he can't get out of his head. When a tragedy rips apart what tenuous existence they manage to forge, will they find the sweetest place to be is in God's will--or will they turn their backs on faith that fails to protect against pain?

About The Author

Meghan M. Gorecki is a twenty-something living a hundred or so miles from Gettysburg and a hundred or so years from the history that beckons her. So she goes there (and elsewhere) in heart and on pages. Meghan works as a medical receptionist by day and types away on her novels and blogs at night. She's a redhead thanks to a box, but a daughter of God thanks to the Cross.

You Can Find Meghan M. Gorecki On . . .

Facebook  //  Twitter //  Blog //  Every Good Word  //  Goodreads

Girl At The End of The World by Elizabeth Esther

Genre: Religion Memoir
Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Number of Pages: 224
Publisher: Convergent an imprint of The Crown Publishing Group

// Summary (from Amazon) //  

I was raised in a homegrown, fundamentalist Christian group—which is just a shorthand way of saying I’m classically trained in apocalyptic stockpiling, street preaching, and the King James Version of the Bible. I know hundreds of obscure nineteenth-century hymns by heart and have such razor sharp “modesty vision” that I can spot a miniskirt a mile away.

Verily, verily I say unto thee, none of these highly specialized skills ever got me a job, but at least I’m all set for the end of the world. Selah.

A story of mind control, the Apocalypse, and modest attire.

Elizabeth Esther grew up in love with Jesus but in fear of daily spankings (to “break her will”). Trained in her family-run church to confess sins real and imagined, she knew her parents loved her and God probably hated her. Not until she was grown and married did she find the courage to attempt the unthinkable. To leave.
In her memoir, readers will recognize questions every believer faces: When is spiritual zeal a gift, and when is it a trap? What happens when a pastor holds unchecked sway over his followers? And how can we leave behind the harm inflicted in the name of God without losing God in the process?
By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Girl at the End of the World is a story of the lingering effects of spiritual abuse and the growing hope that God can still be good when His people fail.

// My thoughts on Girl At The End of The World //

Oh, this story. I could not put this memoir down. My heart ached all the more with every single turn of the page. I will never be the same, now that I have had a glimpse into the reality of what cult-life and religiosity and 
harm inflicted in the name of God looks like. 

I can honestly say that I would not have been able to contain my weeping had I not (thankfully) known that EE had already been totally removed from her previously cult-saturated home life. That said, this painfully eye-opening memoir still had me fighting back the tears, and furiously flipping through the pages to get to the end - or wouldn't it be the beginning? - of EE's story. 

Elizabeth Esther's life story is downright cringe-worthy and heart-rending, and she is completely brave for having told her tale of fleeing The Assembly. The world needs to listen to - not just hear - this story. And then we should all promptly seek to share it around our tables, because this story is a needed one. I believe EE's story has the power to free, to redeem, and ultimately to point towards a way of finding healing, for those of us who have escaped, or still need to escape, cycles of physical and religious abuse. 

EE you are one beautiful, brave woman. Thank you for telling us your life story. You inspire us all to be brave, and to push past the boundaries of fear.

* trigger warnings: some profanity, talk of abuse, cult-atmosphere, depression, and brainwashing *

// About The Author //

Elizabeth Esther is the author of 'Girl at The End of the World: my escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future.' She is a popular, award-winning blogger and advocate for children's rights. 

She appeared on Anderson Cooper LIVE to confront the abusive child spanking practices of Mike & Debi Pearl. Her writing has appeared in Mothering Magazine, OC Family and The Orange County Register. She is a contributing writer for Deeper Story. Elizabeth is a mother of five and lives with her husband and family in Tustin, California.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.