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clarity from chaos.

Remember those posters that looked like a fuzzy TV screen, but if you stood back a few feet and relaxed your eyes in a certain way, a crystal-clear 3-D image would emerge from the colorful chaos? That experience is a good analogy for the last few months of my life. Chaos turning into clarity in the most surprising way.

Earlier this fall, my role as the Director of a local outreach program serving families who have a seriously ill child came to an unexpected end. Needless to say, this added a lot of stress and grief to an already-difficult time of life. Slogging through the darkness of this painful transition, Barbara Brown Taylor's words have been deeply resonant:

“New life starts in the dark.

Whether it is a seed in the ground,

a baby in the womb,

or Jesus in the tomb,

it starts in the dark”

In the chaotic swirl of grief and fear and sadness, I found myself encircled by the generous support and encouraging words of my community…lights sparkling in the darkness, illuminating the deepest truths. And sure enough, new life has been emerging.

I have never been a person with a super-clear idea of what I should do with what Mary Oliver would call my “one wild and precious life…” Every step along my “career path” has felt more like an accidental stumble…and while I have always enjoyed my various jobs, none of them have been the result of a master plan I’d worked out years before. But this fall, given an open road before me, and a lot of targeted words of affirmation from loved ones, I felt a sense of clarity and purpose I have never experienced so strongly: I knew I was meant to continue doing this work, serving families who have a seriously ill child.

Meanwhile, a second “ah-ha” was unfolding in my brain. I’ve always been aware of the ways childhood illness creates isolation for families...but as COVID persisted, this already-terrible experience of isolation seemed to multiply to an unimaginable extent. So many services for families were constrained or cancelled. Visitors at the hospital were restricted to one family member. Support networks dissolved. This heartbreaking reality set my brain spinning as I imagined interesting new ways to help these families feel seen and loved and accompanied on their journey.

Frederik Buechner tell us, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That incredible intersection is where I found new life: painfully aware of a new and unfolding need, with a brain full of exciting ideas and a fire in my belly to keep going. Here’s the best part: I wasn’t alone! Through hours and hours of conversation with so many deeply trusted and over-the-top talented friends, a common vision began to emerge, and a collective began to form. A Board of Directors was assembled…a generous and talented lawyer offered her support with the process…enthusiastic volunteers rallied to help in one thousand ways…and before we knew it, we had built a new nonprofit organization!

The Light Collective was established to create a community where families who have a child with cancer can build resilience and share delight. Our first phase of programming is a monthly “Matchbox” family fun day, where families from across the state receive a box filled with thematic games, crafts, and activities, a meal delivered to their house, a few rounds of silly games on Zoom, and a virtual parent and caregiver support conversation later in the evening. We just hosted our second Matchbox event last weekend—a tropical theme, complete with plastic coconut cup relays, inflatable flamingo ring toss games, limbo, leis, and all kinds of other treats. For months, we've imagined how we might draw families from isolation into community--it's been an overwhelming delight to see those dreams come to life!

We're cooking up all kinds of ideas about how this vision could expand and develop, cultivating meaningful connection and deep joy for families in crisis. I would love to keep you in the loop, and welcome you to get involved if this kind of work inspires you! Check out and click “Join us” if you want to know more.

In varying degrees, we are all living through stories of darkness right now…and many of those stories are nowhere near resolution. Like the story of The Light Collective, my own story is still unfolding. Light continues to find me, bringing hope for today, and a measure of healing. I hope the same kind of light is finding you, too.

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Feb 02, 2021

WONDERFUL! I want to help...maybe from a chair! J.J., I am thrilled with you bringing hope and laughter to so many people. God bless you and everyone following always made me feel special! Outside of slicing strawberries and pouring water, I am a genius with making scissors buzz on any project! ❤🙏🤗


Feb 02, 2021

So grateful for light in dark places! Onward, JJ!

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