I posted a vlog on my Instagram recently trying to capture everything that I have been feeling lately. I can't remember the last time I felt led to write or post anything on my blog, but I feel inspired. I want to continue to spread Brittany's message.
I recently lost a friend. I feel fortunate enough to have been able to call Brittany Crosby my friend, even though we only knew each other from Instagram. I came across her account in early 2017, and it took just a few seconds of being on her Instagram to see that she was an inspiration. Brittany had been in the early stages of fighting of Stage 3c ovarian cancer. Since I had just lost my dad to cancer, I was looking for all that Brittany had to offer: inspiration and hope. To my surprise, she started following me back. We connected due to our shared love of faith, fitness and dogs. Brittany was honestly a rock-star and bad-ass. Even while fighting cancer, she rarely missed a workout. Always took every opportunity to travel and climb mountains, all while running a successful Beach Body business. No matter how hard things got, she always gave God the glory and pushed her followers to live out of their comfort zone not just by saying but DOING. I was hearing and reading her messages daily for years. They seemed to almost be daily devotionals in and of themselves.
This last season of life for me has been hard. Fortunately, not due to any trauma, but a lot of small to medium (and maybe some large) sized things that have kept adding...one thing on top of the other on top of the other. It almost felt like life was burying me deeper and deeper into a hole, and I honestly started to struggle to see the light through all the dirt. I kept waiting and hoping and praying for some sort of breakthrough in my circumstances to happen to help me change my mindset about all that I was trying to deal with and process. If x, y or z happen, then I will be able to feel some relief.
Well, a breakthrough happened. But it was not at all the one I had been envisioning and praying for.
The crazy thing? NOTHING about the circumstances that had been weighing me down changed. What did change then? My mindset. But it wasn't by choice.
It was Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. I had just gotten home from an overwhelming doctors appointment. One that triggered my anxiety and left me driving home with a racing heart. Nothing bad or scary...just a lot of information to process.
I got home, told my husband I needed a beer and made lunch. So we sat at our kitchen island together, drank a beer, talked about my appointment...and ate our lunches.
Jared went outside later that afternoon to rake leaves, and I stayed in to finish cleaning up the house from the large Thanksgiving gathering we had just hosted for both of our families.
I got on Instagram like I do so many times throughout the day without really thinking about it. As I scrolled through my news-feed, I came across a photo of Brittany hiking in the snowy mountains smiling at the camera. My first thought was, "that's a really nice photo of her." And then as I read further, I read the words that she had passed away that very morning. I had to read it again...and again...and again. I didn't believe it. It couldn't be true. She was just in Breckenridge, Colorado that week zip-lining and crossing items off her bucket-list. How could this be? Brittany was larger than life and a beautiful soul that God never ceased to use to bring people closer to Him. I thought for sure she had many many years left ahead of her no matter how much the cancer spread. Surely they would keep finding more treatments. Surely one would work.
I felt sick to my stomach, and then I just sobbed. I sobbed on and off the entire weekend following Thanksgiving. I felt lost. How could Brittany be gone from this world?
Then, Sunday night, all these thoughts began to flood my mind of all the earthly things that I have been clinging to, hoping and trying desperately to control. I had been focusing so much energy on carrying with me all these things that discouraged me and left me feeling defeated, daily. But instead of releasing these things, I kept letting this pile get heavier and heavier and heavier. Until I broke. Brittany's passing literally broke me. God used it to break the dam and there I was, on my knees in my bedroom sobbing and praying and asking God to come into my heart again. I cried harder than I had in so long. I kept apologizing for being so self-focused and not trusting God with my heart. With my life...with my circumstances. It felt so good to cry.
I was so hopeful that this would be a turning point for me.
Then the next day, I felt defeated all over again. My anxiety got the best of me. I continued on with the week, doing my best to actually start practicing more self-care...and surprisingly, things actually started to feel better. Things felt better at work all of a sudden. It was also encouraging getting a positive call from my doctor to tell me about the results of a test I just had done. I was like...ok...I think maybe I got this after all.
That Friday, one week after Brittany left this world, was the day of her celebration of life ceremony in Texas. I was at a holiday work party that evening. Luckily they had a live feed on Facebook, so I was able to catch the very end of it on my drive home. Just in time to hear Brittany's amazingly strong husband speak, who did all he could to help her live a full life, on purpose, and check things of their bucket list together one by one. I didn't start crying until I heard them play a Lauren Daigle song to a slideshow of photos of Brittany's amazing and awe inspiring life.
When I got home, I started listening to a Lauren Daigle album and read my daily advent reading and just sobbed. The song "Everything" came on, and I fell to my knees, again. It was like God had taken the wind out of me, and I was just in awe at how my heart was transforming. For the first time in a long time I felt genuine JOY. I was no longer sitting in my frustration and pain. I was no longer letting my circumstances define me. I thanked God for helping me to feel Him and experience his Grace again; I felt like He was revealing within me this deep desire to live out Brittany's message of hope. She never let cancer steal her joy.
Our circumstances may not change. A breakthrough may not come. But we can still find joy in the journey. We can still show up. Now let's all live life on purpose.