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Choosing Joy Amidst Great Loss

Aisha Thomas is choosing joy, just weeks after her husband Brad passed away. How is she doing it?  Here she shares her tips, advice, and daily routines for faith-keeping and faith-building in a time that could feel hopeless.

 

I know God’s love is real because I could not get out of bed on my own.  They don’t tell you this: you wake up and it takes a couple of seconds. You think you are still in your old life.  If it were just Aisha, I would be lying in bed all day, but because of what the love of Jesus gives us, I’m able to turn over the covers.  I also feel him through my kids, my mother, through friends reaching out, and my church. When I put the title of “widow” on, I just want to go to the corner, huddle and say, “this is my life.”  But God stretches me to let them love me and for me to love them back.

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Choosing Joy

Just a few weeks into life without her husband Brad, Aisha Thomas has made one thing clear--she is choosing joy and gratitude.  The two are inextricably linked, and for Aisha, one begets the other. In continuing the family’s practice of gratitude, which the family does indeed practice every day, Aisha acknowledges what she is thankful for, and she acknowledges more than most people.  The mom of three and school principal admits it’s not easy, “I will say, it is the hardest time of joy-choosing. With kids, it is not necessarily hard to find it, but it is hard to choose it.” 

 

The Thomas family--all smiles on their IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ
The Thomas family--all smiles on their IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ
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Tyler Emmerd Speaks up for Inheritance of Hope

Over the summer, fourteen-year-old Tyler Emmerd chose to focus on Inheritance of Hope for a speech that he gave to 30 of his peers (well, if you can call seniors peers to an incoming high school freshman!).   Tyler admits to some serious nerves before taking this required class, but he nailed it! 

 

Tyler and his family attended the Orlando May 2017 Legacy RetreatⓇ, and he counts visiting Sea World among his favorite memories. This animal lover had always wanted to see a sea turtle in person, but spending time with his parents, Melinda and Mike, and siblings Hailey, Ryan, and Cayla was even better, “We loved spending time with each other without the stress of cancer in our lives.  I love looking back on our vacation and remembering how special it was in all of our pictures we have,” he says.  

 

Tyler (second from right) and his family ready to take on Universal Studios
Tyler (second from right) and his family ready to take on Universal Studios
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Inheriting Hope and Leaving a Legacy

Fourteen-year-old Tyler Emmerd chose to focus on Inheritance of Hope for a speech that he gave to 30 of his peers.



Tyler and his family attended the Orlando May 2017 Legacy RetreatⓇ, and he counts visiting Sea World among his favorite memories. This animal lover had always wanted to see a sea turtle in person, but spending time with his parents, Melinda and Mike, and siblings Hailey, Ryan, and Cayla was even better, “We loved spending time with each other without the stress of cancer in our lives.  I love looking back on our vacation and remembering how special it was in all of our pictures we have,” he says.  

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Caitlin Shorey Raises Her Voice for Inheritance of Hope

Only eight years old, Caitlin Shorey has a big voice, and people are listening.  While she often uses it to belt out Broadway show tunes, lately this powerhouse of a third-grader has been speaking up for one of her favorite charities, Inheritance of Hope (IoH).  IoH serves young families facing the loss of a parent due to terminal illness, and Caitlin’s family benefitted from an IoH Orlando Legacy Retreat® in March 2018.  

 

“It was amazing to be able to express my feelings in a way that I didn’t have to hide anything, and I met new friends from all over,” Caitlin enthusiastically explains.  “For example, sometimes I feel scared, sad, or anxious about what might happen to my mom, but everyone in that group understood what I feel. On an IoH retreat, everyone knows because they have all experienced it.” 

 

The Shorey Family on their IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ
The Shorey Family on their IoH Legacy RetreatⓇ

 

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Nine New Volunteers Join The Inheritance of Hope Family

The IoH family welcomed nine new volunteers into our ranks at the first-ever North Carolina Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ:  Beth Batchelder, Suzie Boatright, Hailey Boonstra, Rae McMannis, Fred Morse, Dawn Keel, Marina Randles, Diane Sohl, and Jill Vaughan.

 

New volunteers ready to serve
New volunteers ready to serve

 

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Present TENSE

Isaiah chapter 42, verses 8 through 11:

 

I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
 
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them."
 
Sing to the LORD a new song,
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The Art of Compassion

A few months ago, my husband, Blake, and I were at a friend's house for dinner, and I commented on a few of her original paintings I hadn’t seen before. Our friend is a very talented artist, and she was telling me about a new technique she was experimenting with -- cold wax and oil painting with only scrapers, spatulas, and palette knives; no brushes! I was immediately intrigued and I told her I wanted to give it a try. So, before we left her house that night, we set a date to paint together!

 

I hadn’t painted in almost 25 years. Looking back, I think that’s because I was never really confident enough declare myself a ‘real’ artist; I never felt ‘good enough.’ But, the next weekend, I bravely showed up at my friend’s house with a blank canvas, on an unusually warm January day, and spent the afternoon painting in her driveway. I was afraid to spread any paint on my pretty white canvas, but finally mixed some soft hues of blues and greens and before I knew it, I had spent 2 hours mixing colors, spreading paint and building layers upon layers of color and texture, creating interesting shapes that hinted at a mountain landscape.

 

I was fully immersed in the process and I loved it. Part of what made this experience so freeing for me is that I had no expectations going into it, except to enjoy learning something new and allow myself enough grace to make a mistake or mix the wrong shade of paint. I knew my painting wasn’t going to be perfect, and I was okay with that.

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Family Spotlight: Amanda Coleman on her husband Mike’s Legacy

Of her family’s Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ, Amanda Coleman comments, “It’s pretty amazing what three days came to!” Amanda, her late husband Mike, and their daughter Leah joined IoH in May 2013 for an Orlando Legacy RetreatⓇ, while Mike was battling glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer. 

 

Mike had vacationed at Disney World as a child himself, which Amanda describes as “his favorite place on earth.”  Some of the family’s best memories from their trip were Leah meeting Princess Merida and Mike insisting on carrying his small daughter through the park when she began to tire out.  Amanda remembers, “He said he didn’t know how long he would be able to do that, and he wanted Leah to remember that it was her Daddy who carried her.”

 

Amanda, Leah and Mike on their Legacy RetreatⓇ

 

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Trusting in the Plan

The camp counselor/elementary school teacher in me thought about having everyone do a trust fall as our intro this morning, but then on the off chance that that activity was not successful…  Betsy might not be thrilled if I break our volunteers before Kids' Day Out! So instead I am just going to talk to y’all about trust and open up with a verse from one of my favorite parts of scripture.

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