Wednesday, December 3, 2014


There is this song by the band MercyMe called Greater

This song has been calling to me for a few months now.  I don't know, it's something about these lyrics

Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

I mean, the whole song is really good, at least I think so.  The take away for me, though, is that it is in our thoughts, which lead to what we say, that ultimately lead to our actions that we are seen, truly seen.  I hesitate to use the word "judged" there, but really, one can be.
So, then, wouldn't I want to be greater?  In my thoughts, which lead to what I say and then, ultimately, to my actions.  Wouldn't I?
It is through our selfless actions, the ones we do that no one credits us for, nor do we want or expect credit for them, that this concept of greater resides.  We, all of us, are not meant to walk this life alone.  We are not to be lone ships at sea.  Plus, it's not good for us.  I know it's not good for me at least.

It is in our underlying principles and values, the concepts that we believe are our truths, which guide us, that will push us to that state of greater.  A place where we can run freely absent of condemnation, by ourselves or others.

I feel like I'm running there, now.

This is also coupled with the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I have right now.  Actually, I'm feeling very overwhelmed right now.  There are a lot of feelings, but, gratitude is the one that is at the forefront and leading the charge.

This time of year is always very taxing on me.  It's not bad, I just feel worn.  And, for a good reason, really.
We are going into our 11th year of adopting a family who is being effected by a cancer diagnoses. We have been doing this for the past 11 years in honor of my sister-in-law, Kristin, who passed away of lung cancer at the age of 26 leaving behind her toddler son and husband.  
Kristin was the recipient of such generosity in 2003.  The impact that this outpouring of support cannot be overstated as two weeks prior to Christmas and the day before her last lung cancer treatment, doctors found cancer in her brain.  She had lost hope.
It was due to the efforts of her nurse that Kristin's last Christmas was filled with joy and hope rather than grief and fear.
She planned to pay forward what had been done for her and her family.  We continue to carry this on in her honor.

Her nurse acted greater

And it was because of that one person and what she was able to pull together by sharing Kristin's story with her family and friends that Kristin was inspired to pay it forward, by the well wishes and cards that were sent to her by strangers and by their kindness.  It was through this that hope was regained.

So, we act greater.  We do so because we know what an impact that this can have on a family.  We do this because we can.  

That feeling of worn that I have now, it is because I still cannot get through Kristin's Thank You letter to God without crying.  And I've read it hundreds of times.
That feeling of worn comes because I am putting myself out there in a raw and unguarded way by asking for help.  And that is so uncomfortable.

I had to do that a few weeks back.  I needed help from my extended Scout Family in obtaining some items on this year's family's "Wish List".  I was invited to come out to the monthly Roundtable Meeting to present what information I had and see what kind of help I could get for this family.

I attended that Roundtable Meeting last night.  And, I am still overwhelmed.  

Complete strangers, who don't know me or this family or the child that their selfless generosity will touch gave, and gave greatly.

But, really, we are talking about Scouts.  I like to believe that the core values that families who participate in scouting hold allow them to truly act in that greater realm.  When your slogan is "Do a Good Turn Daily" and Scouts are instructed to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent how can you not grow, how can you not be selfless, how can you not act greater?

At every turn, I am truly in awe at what people will do, how they will act and how they give so freely.  
If you are feeling the desire to help as well, the information about this years family is below.  I know that we likely don't know each other, have probably never met face to face, and all you are going on is whatever feelings you have welling up inside you right now.

I get it.  Really, I do.  

I just want to point out that we are not an official non-profit.  There are many wonderful ones out there.  If you would like to help this family through a non-profit they are requesting donations be made to the Cancer Support Center of Homewood/Mokena, specifically to the Kids Summer Program.  Here is a link to give.

With all of that being said, I like to consider ourselves "Christmas Ninjas".  

*And, just right now, I received an email from a Scout Master who says that it's a privilege to help, and...I'm a crying mess, again.  Because, of that one word - privilege.*

Christmas Ninjas - *whew, deep breaths*, okay - so we operate on a level on anonymity.  We do not take credit for any of this, ever.  We socialite family, friends and co-workers to help.  As the family's privacy is respected and upheld, so is those who contribute.  All Thank You letters will come from us and I post a roundup on my personal Facebook page with photos and totals of everything.  

We are simply a family who saw firsthand what something like this can do, and we want to pay that forward. 

We can all do greater

We can restore hope 

(To follow is our official 2014 letter.  I've omitted our mailing address, but left our PayPal account information.  If you are interested in sending a tangible item, please contact me directly by commenting on this post.)

Dear Friends and Family,

                First, I hope this letter finds everybody well and enjoying the holidays.  As I do each year, I am writing to you about a family in need and struggling with a cancer diagnosis (and all it entails).  Thank you for your support over the last 11 years! 

Jeni (45) is a wife and mother of 3.  In addition to her work as a recreational therapist for people with special needs, she’s also heavily involved in her children’s activities and church.   After seeing a doctor about what was expected to be a routine rash, she was diagnosed with Paget’s Disease, a rare, very aggressive form of breast cancer.  Further testing revealed 2 more masses, and the combination of issues required Jeni to have a double mastectomy and surgical removal of 29 lymph nodes. Within a month she went from healthy to Stage 3 cancer and major surgery.  In the time since, intense chemotherapy has left her unable to work, drive, and even walk at times in addition to the usual side effects of constant illness and hair loss.  She is currently working with doctors to prepare a radiation treatment plan.

As always, there is a financial impact, and (as always) other things unrelated to cancer that make an already bad situation worse.  Jeni’s husband, Steve, is out of work and doing handyman type work as well as winterizing boats and RVs to make ends meet.   They are on Medicaid.  Obviously, watching their mother’s health deteriorate rapidly from the treatment has been traumatic for the kids.

                What can be done?  Although there are problems here that we can’t solve, we can have a big impact in a really positive way.  Here’s how this works: the next page contains wish-lists we’ve collected from the family. (For those curious: parents give us lists for the kids, and then we probe to get ideas for them/family—they never want to list anything for themselves.)  If you are willing and able to help, you can send a donation of any sort, and we’ll deliver them just before Christmas.  The purpose is two-fold.  We can provide the tangible items and support that is needed.  But this is really not about the stuff.  Rather, it’s about helping them have a “normal” Christmas—one where the focus isn’t on loss.  It’s about the true meaning of the holiday, what we are given through Christmas, which is hope and knowing that we have not been forgotten or cast off.

                As most of you know, this tradition began for our family in 2003 when my sister, Kristin, and her family were the beneficiaries of such generosity.  I can't overstate the impact it had on her.  Two weeks prior to Christmas, and the day before her last lung cancer treatment; doctors found cancer in her brain.  It was absolutely devastating for her, as she'd remained hopeful and thought her ordeal was almost over.  In the following days, nothing anybody said or did helped.  She lost hope. 

                The nurses at Christ Hospital, adopted Kristin and her family that year.  A couple came on the 23rd with gifts…a lot…like they pretty much packed the living room wall to wall.  I remember the look on her face—shock mostly, but also inspired.

                The outpouring of generosity and support completely re-energized Kristin.  It made her last Christmas filled with joy and hope rather than the grief and fear.  She was inspired not only by the donations, but by the kindness of complete strangers. She was most moved by the cards and well wishes that were sent.  I could forever write on for pages trying to describe the hope and faith this brought her, but it's best put in her own words/prayer that evening, which I have enclosed. 

                While Kristin did not have another Christmas, she planned to pay forward what had been done for her family.  Our family carries this in her honor.   Whether you knew her or have another connection to situations like this, anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated. 

                Included is the information we’ve gotten about what the kids like, where the family shops, etc.  As always, we accept tangible items, wrapped gifts, gift cards, cash/checks.  If you choose to donate via cash or check, feel free to specify what you'd like it to go toward, and we'll do the shopping for you.  We can also take donations via PayPal at  

                Thank you for reading this and in advance of your generosity.  It's our sincere hope that we can help spread hope and faith to this family, which needs a positive, uplifting experience.   We would like to deliver donations on 12/23, so please try to have them to us by the 12/22/14.  You can mail them, drop them off, or we will gladly pick them up.  Please call ***-***-**** to set up a time, otherwise mail to:

Thank you again and Merry Christmas!

Wish List

Girl age 8
Size large/xlarge shirts
Size 12 pants
Likes: Pokemon cards, posters, stuffed animals-anything Pokemon
Bright colors, girly hair clips/headbands (has long hair)
Would like gift card to American Girl store-she has never been before/is getting a gently used doll
Small water frog in desktop mini tank

Boy age 10
Youth large/ xlarge (14) workout pants (fleece/cotton)
Xlarge shirt (long sleve polos)
Likes Halo, Call of Duty, Mindcraft (posters, megablocks/lego building kits)
Soundtrack to Halo (Music DVD)
Boy Scout  uniform shirt (tan) and sash
Small water frog in desktop mini tank
Battlestation Pacific video game for xbox 360 (used is ok)

Boy age 12
Youth xlarge (16) workout pants (fleece/cotton)
Xlarge shirt (long sleve polos)
Likes Halo, Call of Duty, Mindcraft (posters, megablocks/lego building kits)
Small water frog in desktop mini tank
Civilization Revolution video game for xbox 360 (used is ok)

Speedway gift card
Cost cutters/ Great Clips gift card
Passes to any local attractions

Petsmart gift card
YMCA gift card
Passes to any local attractions
“Also any donations in support of our journey to the Cancer Support Center in Homewood/Mokena instead of a gift to me would also be greatly appreciated, specifically to the Kids Summer Camp Program.  All 3 of our children attended this summer.  It is an amazing program.”

Local attractions (Medieval Time, Sports, etc.)

11:30 p.m.
Dear God,
                It is the day before Christmas Eve, and as I have told You before many times this week, I have been feeling pretty low.  But I know that sometimes You have to take a step back and let me try to do things on my own.  Although it felt like it would never come, patiently I waited for that feeling of security.  That “knowing” that You were taking care of me and even though I hurt, You would not let anything hurt me.  I keep reassuring myself that people can, and do beat cancer, so why not me?  I am a young, strong, mother, and You, Yourself, know what parenthood can do to a person’s strength and determination!
                I come to you with my usual “thank you’s” and prayers, but also with a few extras tonight, too.  I am very blessed with many wonderful family and friends.  I have a beautiful son, a wonderful husband, and many more friends than I knew of.  Tonight, the night before Christmas Eve, Santa came.  Can you believe it? I am 25 years old and Santa Claus came to my house.  On Christmas Day, Joe and I will watch Joey open gifts that WE didn’t even know he was getting!  We will watch him with as much wonder and awe as he will have for the magic of that moment! Can You believe how lucky we truly are?  Can You imagine years from now, when we sit down to watch the video of Joey’s first Christmas, how amazing it will be to be able to tell him this story?
                I am convinced that there are some people who aren’t just people, they are angels.  A couple weeks ago, Suresh from 7 East at Christ Hospital called me and told me that they had chosen our family as this year’s “Adopt-a-Family.”  We were beyond touched by their offer and their gifts over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I am disappointed in myself that I got wrapped up in all the chaos with our “news” of the lesion that I didn’t even send them a thank you card or make the cookies I was going to bake.
                I talked to Gerri from 7 East and she mentioned that she would be bringing over not only gifts from the hospital, but also gifts that her family and friends wanted to give as well.  We had NO idea the magnitude of this gift.  She brought her neighbor and her son Marty to help carry things in, and Joe and my brother Dave still had to make a couple trips as well.  In minutes, our dining room and living room were full.  There is more food than we can find place for.  Baby food, juice, diapers, toys, clothes, wipes, the list keeps going.  We’re still not cleaned up!  As if that wasn’t enough, there is an unbelievable amount of gift certificates to Jewel.  Gerri got me a pedicure.  I can’t wait!  (Maybe I’ll have them do my toes while their drilling those holes in my head, at least I know the polish won’t smudgeJ)  Joe is so excited to go to Wal-Mart and go shopping for some clothes.  He lost 45 pounds in four months and is very proud of his accomplishment, but now his clothes hang off of him!  Also, since he uses his own version of the Atkins diet and is a big meat eater, he is really excited to take the George Foreman Grill to work and grill some fresh brats or burgers.  He’ll be a hero!  It has been so long since we have had time to just rent a movie and relax.  It seemed like we were just starting to get back into the good old “normal” feeling again and now things are all crazy again.  Maybe we just need a good funny movie and to snuggle up after Joey goes to bed to help us remember how strong this is going to make us.  Joe will probably fall asleep half way through, but then again, I guess that would be what makes it feel so normal, You know?  Now, here is something so interesting.  I have never been to the Hancock Observatory, and I used to be a downtown connoisseur.  This, of course, means that Joey has never been there, and I am so excited to be able to plan another first for him.  Michael’s Craft sore is having a huge sale after Christmas and I have been longing to get back to my crafts that I love so much.  Originally, I thought this may slow me down, but now, that 70% off scrapbook aisle is calling my name.  K-mart, Kohl’s, Marshall’s, and Babies R Us…  You know what they say; the best kind of therapy is retail therapy!  And I believe it!  Then there are some personal gifts.  The Joyce family sent me a Christmas pin and earrings, and some lotions.  I’ve said it before...when you have no hair, the only thing you can do to feel like a girl is smell good!  (And get a pedicure.)  Michele and Erin sent a snowman ornament.  We already hung it on the tree.  There are piles of clothes for Joey.  Soft fleece, sports stuff, car stuff (which his daddy loves) and Elmo!  His favorite!  There is even a Noah’s Ark play-set in the toy box.  I’m excited, because we’ve been trying to read his children’s Bible and now he can learn about it even more.  The dog had a treat and a raw hide bone and the cat is purring louder than I’ve ever heard him, because he had some tuna cat food tonight, which he’s never experienced before.  I can’t even name everything, there is so much stuff.  For a long time, we just sat and starred at is all, in awe.  I can’t believe there are people that are like this, this giving and caring, that they would do so much for a family that most of them haven’t even met, and didn’t think twice about it.  And at this time of year! When money is tight and times are tough, when there’s so much to buy that you sometimes forget to be thankful for what you have, people are thinking about me.  My son.  My husband.  My family, my life, my holiday.  As we sat around and starred at the wonderful clutter, my brother said “This is the kind of power you have behind you right now.”

I feel recharged.  I feel hopeful.  I feel strong.  I am in awe of Your works.  I am humbled.

I know the next few months will not be easy.  The last ten haven’t been a piece of cake themselves.  But I can and I will beat this.  I am going to be the biggest, best survival story you have.  Just watch.
Before I go to bed, I just really wanted to say thank you for all of the wonderful doctors and nurses that I have. Last week, when I was in the hospital, I heard Gerri come onto her shift and as for me to be her patient.  It felt so good to have that comfort at a time when I was really scared.  You know, it has been really difficult to go through all of this since I lost my mom, a year and a half ago.  She was a nurse and excited to be about to be a grandma when she passed, and it has been hard to not call my mom for questions, advice, or help.  Gerri reminds me a lot of my mom.  I think we have that same sarcastic sense of humor, which is really great because there are only a few of us like that.  But she has been so supportive and insistent that I can beat this, and that I am as comfortable as I can possibly be while doing it.  And You know what?  I believe her.  Oddly, no one really told me what was going on with this new lesion.  (Maybe they did, I wasn’t really too with it last week or this week.) But, after I talked to Gerri, I felt like she had cleared some things up for me and I just felt better.  Modern medicine is amazing because it can help so much and take away so much pain, but the feelings I experienced tonight because of these amazing people just changed me.  I know that this tradition will definitely be one that continues in our family for years to come.  Next year, we will adopt a family, and we will spread Your grace the way that they have.  And the year after that and the year after that…
I know we usually keep our conversations pretty private, but I hope you don’t mind if I pass this letter along.  I really want them to know how their actions have changed who we are.  In one night, I have a whole new take on things.  Am I lucky or what?

Kristin Schubbe
(Joe and Joey, too) 



  1. I'm so glad to have met you. I do plan to help out in some way next week. This week has been bad Financially :(. Scouting is so awesome. I love being involved with Cub Scouts!

  2. I am so glad that I have finally been able to meet you as well, Paula. However you can help will be greatly appropriate.
    Never underestimate the power that our words can have, a simple letter or card letting this family know that they are in your thoughts and prayers can have a powerful impact as well.


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