Well, I didn’t end up sending out Christmas cards this year. A little 30th birthday bash kind of took up a lot of my pre-holiday time. But, I thought I’d wish everyone a very Merry Christmas through the blog.
Thanks to all of you who’ve sent cute cards and fun photos of your kids our way. My you all are good looking.
As I recap the year, I find myself wanting to pinch my arm. It’s been unbelievably awesome in several ways. Here’s a quick snapshot of just a few of the reasons 2013 will forever be a favorite, and what I would have included in an old school Christmas letter.
Let’s start with the obvious – this girl has amazing hair. Her cute little fro has always been just the perfect accessory to her charming personality but this year it’s taken on new heights. Literally. In addition to having some of the cutest locks on the planet, our 3-year-old is full of sass, love and imagination. She can turn anything into a magical kingdom where even something as simple as a spoon and fork at a restaurant become a “mommy” or “daddy” — or sometimes two princesses. She took up dance this year. She became a huge fan of the Muppets (thanks to Daddy). She enjoys playing with horses, going to the zoo and even going to concerts. She can often be found singing… and talking. This gal’s got a song in her heart and loves to engage in constant conversation.
I’ll start with the breaking news – this stud just won his Fantasy Football league. It only follows suit with the kind of year Mike’s had where leading seems to be his thing. He’s the Creative Director at Turn The Page Online Marketing and enjoys his job. (No, he doesn’t miss teaching.) He’s led worship at church throughout much of the year. And, he led our family and two of our close friends to North Carolina in September for one of the most epic road trip vacations ever. Speaking of epic, he started jogging over the summer and found himself running 13.1 miles for fun. There’s not much more to stay except that he’s seriously the best husband and an amazing daddy.
This year was a beginning and an end to several things for me. Obviously, I left my twenties. I also transitioned and made my marketing consulting and blogging business a “side business” as I began working full-time for the nonprofit Fight Colorectal Cancer. I’ve enjoyed getting to travel for work a bit and think I’ve mastered the carry-on luggage system. I ran my first 10K and started working out consistently. I had some blogs published by the Huffington Post. And I made some awesome new friends while at the 2014 Colondar shoot last June. Overall, it’s been a great year.
People told us to expect time to go quickly when we adopted Mae. Now looking back at almost three years, I see why said that. I blinked and suddenly she’s old enough to sleep in my old twin bed and go to the dentist.
I’ve been blessed with another year of health (I will be cancer-free for five years in June; I’ll be a 13-year cancer survivor in January.) God’s provided for our every need. And we’ve got more friends and family who love, support and encourage us than an after-church Chinese buffet.
To all of you out there, we wish you a very happy 2014. Here’s to another year ahead.
– the Burgess family
Tonight we kicked off the first of our family Christmas gatherings. But it was unlike any others we’ll experience this week. A local BBQ restaurant made a great ‘neutral’ meeting place as we traveled across town to get together with people we met a little less than three years ago. A group who we see only a few times each year, yet consider them family. Our birth family.
When we initially began our adoption process we requested a semi-open arrangement. We were cool with exchanging first names and maybe state or city, but we didn’t think we wanted a lot of contact with the birth family. Mae’s adoption came along unexpectedly and detoured our plans. The situation created an open adoption by default. And now looking back over the past three years, I couldn’t be more thankful that our plans and preferences changed.
I don’t talk about our open adoption a lot, nor have I ever specifically blogged about it. But coming off of a night like tonight, I felt I needed to share about how wonderful this arrangement can be, and how fortunate we’ve been to have a birth family enter our lives. Sure, it’s nice to have a direct connection to Mae’s birth mom for reasons most would assume – health history and knowing her story, etc. But more than that, it’s amazing to have a birth mom, birth uncle and cousin and birth grandparents in the picture for indescribable reasons. There’s something about continuing and nurturing the bond of family even if it looks a little different from the ‘norm’ that is powerful. Redemptive. And all around blessed.
We sat and laughed tonight (mostly at my energetic three-year-old.) We told stories and caught up on life. We exchanged Christmas gifts. And more than anything, we all gleamed an unspoken appreciation for one another yet again. It happens every time we get together. And as the years go on and our relationships deepen, I know it will only continue to grow.
I recognize that not everyone in an open adoption has this kind of relationship with their birth family members. There are a lot of other stories out there that aren’t so ideal. We’re lucky to have a birth family that’s kind, considerate and amazing with boundaries. They’ve truly made this an incredible experience.
Open adoption might not be for everyone, but I’m glad that it was the right path for me. Our birth mom is the strongest person I know and she continues to amaze me. Her love for [our] daughter has taught me more about selflessness than anything on this side of heaven ever will. Knowing the family my daughter was born into gives me even more appreciation and understanding of her. That in and of itself is an amazing gift – especially at Christmas.
It hit me early into this year that my 30th would be approaching. A complex bag of emotions soon arrived at my emotional doorway. My birthday is always bittersweet to me – it’s something about surviving and celebrating another year that gets me into this weird state of woeful yet sentimental and thankful. But this year, I was entering a new decade to top things off. A decade that if we were to be honest, many of my family, friends and doctors might have doubted that I see a near 13 years ago. A decade that like it or not (I loved my twenties), I was about to enter.
I thought about planning trips and friends’ gatherings to celebrate the big bash, but nothing seemed to fit. Nothing except the idea of bringing the Crawl The Colon tour to Kansas City felt right. So we got plans rolling. And everything fell into place. I mean everything. Not even a rain/snowstorm the day before stopped us. Or should I say Mark, the most amazing, dedicated driver that left extra early to make sure the colon arrived for my big day. There was something about the way the event went down that I knew it was “meant to be.”
There are so many people to thank for helping make my big b-day event a great success (see a list of a few of them below…). Not only was it a “success” in terms of event planning and fundraising (we raised close to $3,000 and estimate that we had between 200-250 visitors that day); but I cannot say thank you enough to everyone for helping me enter a new era with excitement. Not only did my birthday event make me feel extremely loved, but it allowed me to share my passion for colorectal cancer and my faith with my community.
I could not have asked for a better way to enter this new decade. It’s an unforgettable memory that will forever be a highlight of my life.
Enjoy Some Pics…
THANK YOU to everyone who sponsored, donated, volunteered and promoted!
- The Colon Club
- Fight Colorectal Cancer
- Andrew J. Somora Foundation
- Dan Ripley – State Farm Agent
- University of Kansas Cancer Center
For the silent auction donations…
- Carol St. Clair (my mom) for rounding up many of her friends who made several items auctioned off!
- Terri Williams
- Balance Point Heating & Cooling
- ShilohMae – Custom Sewn Accessories
- Deb Sprague
- Sharion Cranston’s Scentsy
- Brummel Lawn
- Brian Wehner
- Bodies Personal Training
- Dynamic Spine & Joint Center
- V’s Italiano Restaurante
- Fantasma Imagery
- Dr. Taormina at Midwest Gastroenterology
- Benlon family
- Suzie G. for tons of donations through Kris Saim
For coffee and cookies…
- Starbucks Coffee off 39th St. in Independence
- Tasty Arts by Design
- Divine Desserts & Cakes
- Emily Loving
For live music..
- Adam Chiarelli
- Levi Dalton
- Jonathan & Malarie Tucker
- Jeff Class
I always thought I’d have a boy. Rough housing and baseball – I was certain that was what my future entailed. So when we got a call about adopting a little girl, I wasn’t so sure. I’m not really the girly-girl type (outside of my fascination with huge earrings.) I wouldn’t even wear dresses as a child. But as our adoption went through and we’ve spent the last three years raising a little princess, I couldn’t be more thankful The Lord had other plans for me.
The pink and purple palooza has taken some adjusting, but I’ve learned a lot from having a little girl. The Barbies and larger-than-life headbands show me that feeling beautiful is an innate female desire, at least in some way. The careful way she stuffs a fake baby bottle into a cloth doll’s face shows me women are built to nurture. To mother. Her interest in ballet moves and love of a frilly tutu shows me ladies want to offer grace. And the obsession with everything princess reminds me daily that Christian women are truly a royal priesthood and daughters of the King – regardless of if tiaras are “our thing.”
I still don’t consider myself someone who’s super girly. And I do plan to get a ball into her hands at some point. But for now I’ll gladly wear the pink hair or dress up in pearls for my girl. Because she is showing me the purest form of the princesses we were born to be.
A few weeks ago I experienced a defining moment in friendship: my close friend shared with me that I’d hurt her.
Although the situation that led to hurt feelings was unintentional, it happened nonetheless. Feelings of isolation, rejection and bitterness crept inside of her heart. I walked around oblivious.
And would have stayed oblivious had she not broken the ice.
After we both recognized our weaknesses in the situation and talked it out, we were fine. Actually, our friendship grew closer.
And the wedge that had grown, unbeknownst to me, was removed.
But it didn’t end there.
As I reflected on the experience, I realized there was another relationship in my life where wedges had formed.
Except this time, I was the hurt friend.
And the person who’d hurt me was God.
And while I knew I needed to do what my friend had just done with me, I delayed the experience. What place did I have to tell a perfect God that I felt hurt by Him?
None, or so I felt.
After realizing that this next step was inevitable, I finally caved. I shared with God feelings I’d suppressed and hidden. Feelings that brought me shame, but needed to be spoken nonetheless.
I shared with Him that I felt He caused my cancer. That I felt hurt from Him allowing it to happen. That I don’t know why I get to live and others die. I told him I struggle with knowing He is good. I told Him that sometimes the physical pain, embarrassing moments and situations that leave my heart broken because of cancer are tough. Really tough. And that as a big God who controls everything, I didn’t understand how His plans are labeled as “good.”
I felt silly saying some of it. I knew a lot of it wasn’t true. But as I shared my heart and admitted how I felt, I immediately noticed a change.
He wasn’t mad at me. Lightening didn’t strike. Ironically, I felt closer to Him.
And ultimately, I felt like I could believe Him again.
The walls came down once I addressed my feelings and the lies I’d believed. I recognized that I’d been trying to not make waves or ruffle any feathers. Even God’s feathers.
While openness was tough in the moment, I learned it’s what intimacy requires. If I want solid relationships, I’ve got to draw close and be willing to do the hard things.
I’ve got to remove the wedges.
I met with my mentor a few days ago. I always walk away from the coffee shop where I meet her much more caffeinated. And, full of great perspective. She’s a wise lady.
She asked a common question, “How’s life?” and it wasn’t until that moment had I slowed down to really think about it. Life’s been really, really busy. And I’ve been going from one thing to the next for about two months now. But, in the midst of it, life’s been really, really good. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes:
We took off the first of September with two of our great friends and had an all-out 10-day road trip. We ventured to Wilmington, North Carolina by way of Knoxville, Tennessee and had stops in Nashville, Asheville and Evansville along the way. Ten days in a van with a 3-year-old and great friends was splendid. Honestly. We saw the beach. The mountains. A huge Superman statue. And a big house (Biltmore.) It totally rocked.
I ran a 10K
It goes to show that I’ve been a tad bit busy since I never actually blogged to say that I DID IT! I ran the Plaza 10K in the middle of September and met my goal: I survived. I had a great time. Got an awesome medal. And most importantly, conquered a fear that I’d never be able to run that far. What a journey God took me on through training and amazing people he used to get me to the finish line.
My baby turned three
Welp, it’s official. There’s no baby around here anymore. My little lady turned three. We had a small backyard princess party to celebrate complete with an actual LIVE princess showing up as we chomped on cupcakes and cookies. And while the age of three brings about sass and attitude, I actually love it. I’m forming a relationship with my girl. It’s awesome.
Aunt B’s got a new nephew
My brother and sister-in-law welcomed by little nephew into the world a week or so ago. And what a trooper he’s been – came a few weeks early, has had to hang in the hospital since he had a complication with his lung and is still learning to keep food down. But – he’s cute as a button and I can’t wait to snuggle him soon.
National website launch
I started my new job with Fight Colorectal Cancer in June and was tasked with overseeing our website redesign. Up to this point, my small business had helped with web launches over and over, but the size and scale of building a new national site with about double the content was new to me. But, I had an amazing team and by golly, we did it. And, I’m really happy with how it turned out. Take a peek: FightColorectalCancer.org
Carried me Through
God is carrying me.
Sure, life’s been busy – some would say too busy. Being on the go can be hard. And in the past, with this hectic of a schedule, I’d be so stressed right now. I’d be unable to appreciate the great moments because of the lack of time to stop and process. I’d be sick. And maybe a tad grumpy.
But, that’s not the case. In the midst of the craziness, God’s shown me at every turn, nearly every day, what He’s up to and how He’s orchestrating things. I see Him in opportunities, challenges, relationships – He’s all over. And while that’s nothing new, what is new is that I recognize it.
The last time I felt like He’d picked me up and carried me through a season, I was receiving treatment. Or headed to surgery.
But in this latest season, He’s not carrying me through trial. He’s with me through triumph. I see his blessings all around.
And I’ve gotta say, I could really get used to this.