The breath and belly of it all….


Winter rolls into Spring and my heart rides the growing waves
that lift and toss and throw me sometimes further out
as I begin to set my hope on a door that slowly opens,
then closes sudden and an undertow sweeps me into a tailspin
and I’m struggling breathless and unable to work my wings
and here is where I learn at last to fly,
because it’s sometimes into the jaws of a strong wind
that we get our bearings because we’re ready to dig in
and maybe this is the gift in going down and out

I do the work with a gifted grief counselor – she’s a bird on a breeze
with a gentle way and healing words that call to me through the dark
and she sings a song of paradox and the eyes of my heart soften into the  hope
that doesn’t disappoint and it’s a strong tow out of fearful waters.
Because when life hurts it isn’t black or white – there’s and and both to all deep pain.
The sad and scared and mad of grief are real and but that’s only one side
and if we try to survive with just that one wing flapping helpless
we tank,  unsteady,  and helter-skelter from the sky where we were born to soar
because we need both wings set to be fully alive.

As I become less dropsy at holding paradox,
keeping journal where I puddle my hurt onto the left page and record beauty and thanks
on the right – side by side together like a perfect pair of wings,
I begin to toddle this grief out,  a fledgling,
learning to hold the full of my pain and the joy,
my love and the disappointment,  the comfort and the hurt
because there’s medicine in embracing the breath and belly of it all.

And,  yes,  showing up can expose a heart for the breaking
but I want a love that doesn’t shy or go false,
to feel it when the Comforter whispers let me hold your hand
and not draw back or slap it away
but take deep drinks of compassion offered and continue to stand,
loved and wanted by a mystery so beautiful and grand
that I lean wholehearted into the turns,  more curious than perplexed or in dread.

Because life is happening bodacious and I don’t want to miss it or be passed by
because I’m holding on tight to one version of happy
when there are a million shades
and seeing narrow makes a chest fold over bitter on itself
while healing breezes kiss a heart stretched wide.

And it helps to have a caring hand to help untie the knots
of what’s true and what’s not.


~ The humiliation? – no.
Dig deep and don’t personalize this.

~ The shame? – hell no.  The brazen way it twists and mimics
and tries to impersonate the voice of God,
lying boldfaced that this generous goodness is harsh – Defy it.

~ the Heartbreak?  Yes. Be unapologetic about it.
The hurt is real.  Cry it out with someone safe.

~ The other painful parts of grief like anger and anxiety and sadness and loss?
Yes. Acknowledge. Feel it all.
Go there with all the help that you need.  But don’t live there.
With this wing alone,  we stay cut off from the sky.

Stretch wide the other wing as well.
There are gifts in grief,  and as I begin to unwrap them,
I see windows where before I saw only walls.

Some of the sweetest gifts,  for me,  have been learning to show up and do my best
but not more than my best,  because that’s stepping into someone else’s space.
That hardening the heart does not stop the hurt.
That a soft heart heals faster.
To not waste the pain,  because pain itself is gift.
It means you care deeply about something,  and if you’re willing to go along for the ride,
it can lead you to discover your deepest desires.

Holding paradox is sanity,
and humility
and flight.

I was going to end by telling you that I haven’t heard again from my baby girl grown
and that this road I’ve traveled to learn to hold the pain and disappointment,
alongside the joy and love and peace of letting go,
is one that I’m learning to cherish and carry
with a strong and honest hope
– it’s the story that I’ve been living.

But I get to write a different ending this week.

Because I did hear back.
Just days ago.
So beautiful and true and I will hold her trust with the tenderest care.
It’s pure gift,  sweet and sacred and unspeakably dear
but there’s nothing in me that feels any longer desperate,
like this is needed for repair
and so I can celebrate the timing of it all
because this is maybe gift-wrapped,  too:)

eye of the tiger
Your words have been balm and bread and broad strokes of grace,
finding me where my eyes were squeezed shut
to what a face may silently say,
speaking life and friendship and a healing song
that the girl of me needed to hear.
I hope we’ve been good for each other that way.
Thank you.  With love.  From the whole of my heart.

“Limitless, undying love which shines around me like a million suns
it calls me on and on across the universe.
– John Lennon

If you’re interested in some of the tools I’ve been using
in your own journey,

to help grieve it out and get stretched wide your wings,
i so recommend this DVD series by Mandy Bird and her collaborator,  Chris Saade.
A tall glass of comfort and hope,  this.


  1. Elephant's Child on August 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Oh. Oh. Oh.
    I was reading through leaky eyes, admiring your wisdom, your grace and so thankful that you learnt to soar (not fly but soar). And then I got to the last words.
    I am so happy that the leakiness runs down my face as I type. So happy for you, and so happy that someone else, someone precious, gets to share the muchness that you are. And bask in its love and beauty.
    And, as a self-indulgent PS, if you visit go the post before today. I suspect you will recognise some of it.
    Heartfelt hugs and oceans of caring to you.

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Big heartfelt hugs back, Sue – I grin whenever I see your name pop up because
      I so value your words. Just so much:) Thanks for sharing your gentle way:)
      And your kites in the wind made my heart soar! Such a beautiful picture:)
      THANK you:)

  2. Julia on August 20, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Oh Jennifer, I’m so glad that you heard from Amanda just days ago. The joy is written all over your face. Your journey has been full of pain but full of grace at the same time. Your story is like a large tapestry that has taken a long time to finish but you kept at it until finally you can show us the work that has gone into it.
    Hugs, Julia

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      I love how you listen and see with the heart of a master seamstress, Julia.
      You so understand process:) I could feel that and thank you for your company:)
      Big hugs back,

  3. Kathy on August 21, 2016 at 7:46 am

    I am changed by this. I love the two wings, two pages, left and right…I love how you grieved and found healing. And then…Amanda. Oh Jennifer, …I’m speechless. Blessings, k

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Thanks for your kind, calming presence, Kathy.
      I appreciate your encouragement more than words can say.
      I really love your way:)

  4. Susan Troccolo on August 21, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    When the page scrolled down enough to see your photo…I got the biggest smile on my face…because of YOUR HAPPINESS.Wonderful! I have been very moved by your story in so many ways. The grace and poetry of your words is stunning. Thank you also for the contact information for Heart Centered Grief. I’ll be listening today. I do need it. Thank you from all that is me to all that is you. Susie

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Thanks for sharing my joy, Susan:) So much:)
      Holding you close to heart as you journey along in your own story.
      And so much thanks for your kind, encouraging words.
      I really hold you dear:)

  5. Lynn Wilkinson on August 21, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Thrilled and breathless for you… Your story has been an honor to witness. The good with the heart wrenching unknowingness, has taught me that hope is truly eternal and gracious, That Gods loving intervention is His time and His alone. I love how you pulled your story all together over months of sharing and just as the ending would be unfolded … God worked it differently. That way your heart could hold the great magnitude of Hos gifts to you.

    I love the left and the right side of a journal …
    And the way you weave together the good blessings with those things that can pull is down so easily. Yep, two wings…a balanced life that allows soaring to be so much easier.

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:15 pm

      Your company has been a joy and such a comfort, words can’t tell.
      Thanks so much for your kindness and friendship, Lynn:)
      Big soaring ahead for us both:)

  6. ladyfi on August 21, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    What deepfelt joy to know you have heard back. I hope you both can find some kind of path to the future together…

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      I love those words – some kind of path to the future together.
      I really do:) In time and space and generous grace, I believe we will:)
      Thanks so much for your kind listen, Fi.
      I treasure your mother-heart,

  7. gotham girl on August 22, 2016 at 5:59 am

    I always take in the images before I read your words…and when I thought nothing could be more beautiful than that first one…well your smile just said it all. My heart was really pumping on this one…so so happy for you!!!! Can’t wait to hear more! Big Big HUGS!

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      Thanks for seeing so powerfully with your heart, Robin:)
      I really appreciate your company and care
      along the way. More than I can say.

  8. judy Hartman on August 22, 2016 at 11:05 am

    I am overwhelmed with happiness for you, Jennifer!!
    I feel so privileged to have witnessed your journey (which will continue, I’m sure). I have learned a great deal about grief, abiding hope and the power of love. Your beautiful radiant face at the end says it all. And I, too, just love the concept of your “butterfly wings” journal and the words “a soft heart heals faster”…
    My heart is full of joy for you! Sending you an enormous hug!!

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks so much, Judy:)
      Feeling that hug and sending an enormous one right back
      with big gratitude for your generous listen
      and kindness:)

  9. LISA MORELAND on August 22, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Forehead-to-the-floor, prayerful gratitude for your unexpected gift, a response, a tentative gesture rich with the subtleties of “You have been heard.” Even this, just this, is balm for the heart. Grace pours.

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      So much balm. Grace pours – yes:)
      Standing beneath a waterfall of it:)
      Thanks for your generous listen this Summer; you’ve made
      such a sweet difference in my life:)

  10. Barbara on August 22, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    I am so happy and relieved for you, Jennifer! Maybe you just had to go through this process, who knows. But I’m just happy you were able to end it another way. I love the idea of writing grief on the left and happy on the right. There are times you have to acknowledge and speak the grief to let it go and let it heal. But this is my fvorite part… “Because life is happening bodacious and I don’t want to miss it or be passed by
    because I’m holding on tight to one version of happy
    when there are a million shades
    and seeing narrow makes a chest fold over bitter on itself
    while healing breezes kiss a heart stretched wide.” Much love to you!

    • jennifer on August 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      I so appreciate your listening heart as I wrestled through the share
      this Summer – such a healing journey it’s been for me. I’m grateful
      for your kindness and care. Thanks for taking the time, friend:)

  11. leslie on August 23, 2016 at 7:40 am

    Thank you for sharing your true and lovely words and heart – sharing your joy in the unexpected grace – wishing you an abundance of both, always.

    • jennifer on August 27, 2016 at 9:02 am

      Thanks so much for your gentle way, Leslie:) I really love the way your words and art
      grace the universe:) Much love:)

  12. Cathy on August 23, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Jenny, You are the beautiful person you are today because of the journey you had to take. I am sorry it took such a long time to hear any word from Amanda. She probably has been on a journey too and didn’t quit know how to deal with it either. Since the mother that raised her is gone maybe this was the time for her to reach out too.
    Love and ((((((( BIG HUGS
    to you))))))) my sweet cousin!!!!!

    • jennifer on August 27, 2016 at 9:02 am

      So much journey – yes, she has her own beautiful story and a powerful voice to tell it.
      I love the way all of our paths weave in and out and around each other’s. It’s pure art
      with a little bit of magic:) Thanks for your kindness and generosity of spirit, Cathy:)
      I love you forever:)

  13. jeanie on August 23, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Dearest Jennifer, I have re-read all of your posts since I got back online this week and there are tears in my eyes as I read your last bits. Although so very many of us haven’t had this experience directly, I know that I have felt so deeply, so powerfully, a multitude of emotions as you have let us walk this journey with you. However you and Amanda are able to carve out a relationship in the future, you will know that you have connected, that you have found the unspeakable joy and somehow managed to convey that in a way more powerful than anyone could imagine. I, too, am overjoyed that you have connected. As you may know, my “motto” in life is to “Fully expect the universe to cooperate.” Sometimes it seems as though it is doing anything but and we walk through mud and fire and ice just to get through the day. But in the end, we have to hope, we have to expect that somehow, some way, it will all make sense. And when something like this happens, oh, how that faith is revived. Big hugs of joy to you. (Check your email box!)

    • jennifer on August 27, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Thanks thanks thanks:) So much:) I appreciate your kind generosity-just the muchness of your big, beautiful heart:)
      It’s joy and gift to be your friend, Jeanie:) Much love:)

  14. ELK on August 23, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    your wings catch the breeze of love …such a wonder filled story of a very special journey through so many feelings along the way !! It has been an honor to be with you this summer!! blessings ELK

    • jennifer on August 27, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Thanks so much for your kindness and companionship, Elaine:)
      I appreciate you and your beautiful heart more than I can say.
      Big hugs,

  15. Susan on August 23, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I love you so, I love your girl, I love this story that goes on and I will never forget your words and how brave you are.

    • jennifer on August 27, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Soooo much love back to you, Susan; i treasure your friendship.
      Thanks for being such a shiny brilliance in my life:)

  16. Pad on August 24, 2016 at 1:42 am

    You are a gift my friend. In sharing your pain, hopefully you will bless others who are suffering. I pray that they too will heed your words of self care and seek the help that they need to heel their own hurts and bring light to their dark places. I pray for continued blessings for you and Amanda. 💗

    • jennifer on August 27, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Thanks, dear old friend:) I love you much, you know:)
      Big love and light and lift to you in your own adoption story;
      know you’re cherished twice:)

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