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Inviting Hope into the Pain

We don’t always experience life the way we think we should, or the way we expect it should be. Each of us at one time may have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Many of the families we are serving have that on their minds on a daily basis. It can be overwhelming. All of us are in different places in our lives and different seasons, and if you are currently in a season of pain, this may be hard to understand or even see right now, but God has shown me that there can be joy and even purpose in our pain.

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Good Shepherds

John 10:10-15 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

My aunt Kristen was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on her 30th birthday.  She and her husband, Deric, had 3 kids, who at the time were 4 years old, 2 years old, and less than a year old.  Their life, their whole world, suddenly was turned upside down.  You could say that a thief had come to steal, kill, and destroy.

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Erica Chase-Salerno on the impact of her family’s Kendra Scott-sponsored Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ

Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.

And go on an IoH retreat. Or help another family go.

Because this is an organization that walks the talk, excels at creating legacy experiences, and “gets it” about cancer challenges for families.

 

Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ presented by Kendra Scott
Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ presented by Kendra Scott
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The Faces of Holley Day: Lisa Lyon describes the importance of her family’s Kendra Scott-sponsored Inheritance of Hope Legacy RetreatⓇ

When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at 28 years old with three very young children, the only thing I ever thought about or wanted was to make meaningful and fun memories with my children and husband that were full of joy. During my year of very hard cancer treatment, I would sit in the infusion chair and think “all I want to do is be with my kids.” It felt impossible to ever think I would be able to go to Orlando with my family. The Legacy RetreatⓇ was a dream come true for me, my husband, and our three kids. We spent that time focused on each other…not scary cancer, not worrying about money or all the other hard things cancer brings on for a young metastatic breast cancer patient. We had the most wonderful and magical time. When I think about our retreat, those who served us, and everyone that made it possible for our family to be there, it makes me cry and feel so much gratitude for angels on earth.

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Funeral Reunion

In May 2017, when we had a big Legacy Retreat in Orlando, I got to know one of the families, the House family, pretty closely.  We had four days with the House family, and they flew by like they always do.  We do these retreats trusting that the impact is not only for four days but goes far beyond that, and with this family, I got to see that lasting impact in a powerful way.  Matt House died less than two months after the Legacy Retreat, and there were memorial services in Texas where he lived and Minnesota where he grew up, and I was able to go to the Minnesota one.  And what a funeral experience it was!

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Love Always, Serve First, Listen Well

As a new or experienced volunteer, the days leading up to a Legacy Retreat can be quite nerve-wracking. There is a lot of information to read through prior to the retreat and then abundantly more poured at you during the volunteer meeting (the night before families arrive). Beyond all that information, I knew this devotion would also be good to deliver.

 

I was inspired to do this devotion from a sermon my pastor, Brandon Bruce (Church Experience), gave back in February of this year. I actually wrote “IoH Devotion” on my sermon notes and held on to these, you know, in case I ever actually got the courage to give a devotion. I kept it all this time waiting for the right time to share, and God made it abundantly clear to me that now is the time.

 

On my sermon notes, I wrote several things, but there are three I want to share with you. If you remember nothing else from this devotion, please remember this:

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How Great Thou Art

A year ago today, in some muggy Tennessee heat, our family was gathering in Knoxville to get ready for the wedding of my brother and his lovely bride.  This was a very celebratory time, both for the occasion and for the chance to see so many friends and family.  It was the day before the rehearsal, and we heard that Ryan Hurst Carter, a good friend of our family, was in a car accident… and died.  Boom.  Just like that.  He was a 27-year-old bundle of energy who never met a stranger because he was so convinced that God loves all those strangers.

 

Of course at the wedding we celebrated and had a great time, but it was a stinging reminder that death is always lurking, that in this life even the high moments of new beginnings full of hopes for a bright future cannot be separated from realities that crush hopes.

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Volunteering to Let Our Hearts Break

I want to applaud our volunteers and staff for doing so many things well. One of the hardest things to do is to create a place for grief to be shared without needing to "fix" it. I've seen it happening throughout Legacy Retreats. Here is our challenge in the words of Glennon Doyle Melton (Love Warrior - 2016, Part III, Chapter 12):

 

"We think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often—because we all have the wrong job description for love... People who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.... (I'm committed to being) that kind of friend. I’ll show up and stand humble in the face of another person’s pain.

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How I Dealt With Death at a Young Age

There’s something about childhood that, even in old age, people find reassuring. The nostalgia and sweet memories of looking back at a simpler time in your life are priceless, and remain treasures for a lifetime. So, often times, when people imagine a 12-year-old spending her entire young life watching her Mom battle cancer, the first thought is one of sadness and sympathy. I admit, such a reaction likely would have been my initial one as well, except that when I reflect on my childhood, doom and gloom weren’t major characters, despite my Mom’s liver cancer. Although there were certainly sad times, they were fewer than many seem to think. Perhaps I am too far removed from my own life’s experience (my Mom died a little over five years ago), but as I reminisce now it seems to me that there was far more joy in my childhood than even I might have expected.

 

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Following God

When God dwelled over the tabernacle in Numbers 9:15-23, the Israelites “obeyed the Lord’s order.” When the cloud lifted, they broke camp and set out. When the cloud remained, they stayed put and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud remained over the tabernacle for a long time, and the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. “Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle for just a few days, and at the Lord’s command they would encamp and then at his command they would set out.” (v. 20)

 

I can’t help but imagine the logistics of this flexibility on the part of the Israelites. As a mom with 4 children, I think about all that goes into packing for a trip. Each member of my family has items they need: clothes, shoes, food, blankets, etc. It is stressful packing and managing the items needed for a family going on a trip, so I can’t even begin to imagine when the packing and planning involved everything families own, including livestock and food preparation material and seed and grain. If I knew the date and time that this move was going to take place it would be hard enough, but to set up camp, my home, without any clue how long we would be staying would be so difficult.

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