Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Joy Revival

This blog of mine has sat abandoned for over a year now. Husband, two children, work, selling and building a house, and two moves later...here I am. Honestly, I don't really have any intention of blogging again any time soon, but I recently planned an event and thought this was the best place to share more about it.  I had been vaguely sharing on Instagram (@amandabricknell) and on Facebook, and wanted to give an update, but this felt like a better place to share in more detail than IG or FB. Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned, but there were so many wonderful people who rallied with me, I really wanted to give them credit for their talent and generosity, despite the outcome.

If you're new to my life, let me start by giving some backstory:

I lost my mother, a non-smoker, to lung cancer just over two years ago on September 19, 2014, just nine months after her diagnosis. I had a 2-year-old and was seven months pregnant at the time. As Mother's Day 2015 quickly approached, I was feeling sad of course, but also nervous and anxious about how I would feel and if I would be able to enjoy the day with my own children and the blessings they are to me. That first Mother's Day without my mother was not something I was looking forward to.

Then, I received a message from a photographer friend of mine, Jessica Raney of Raney Day Photography, recognizing how many friends she had who had lost their mothers too soon and how difficult this day must be. She had decided last minute that she would like to host an event for women who have lost their moms, and asked if I would like to be a part of it. There were five of us that year, and Jessica arranged hair and makeup, a photo shoot at Edmonds Beach and we were treated to dinner. King 5 News featured a story, I was interviewed by Rachel Belle on 97.3 KIRO radio, and the story and photos were published on the wedding website Lover.ly. Jessica wanted to bless us, but she also desired for her idea to catch and spread. She wanted others to host similar events so more people could be blessed.
Raney Day Photography
Raney Day Photography
To say that was a blessing to me would be an understatement! I was able to grieve with four other women I met just that day, and connect with them just the way I needed to. I left feeling loved and celebrated and was able to get the grieving "out of the way" before Mother's Day, so I could spend the day with my family the way my mom would have wanted me to; happy and with a full heart! That first year was extremely helpful in my grieving process, last year was fun, but this year felt different. 

I decided to pay it forward to other women who may be grieving this Mother's Day and I decided to call it "The Joy Revival". I wanted a name that embodied the meaning of an event centered around grief. Grief is different for everyone, but for me it never goes away but changes over the years. It can be very difficult to find joy in the early stages of grief, but it is there, and it gets easier for joy to take the driver's seat over the years. However, on a day like Mother's Day, it can be easy for grief to creep back into the spotlight, for someone who has lost a mother or a child. A day that becomes front and center for at least a month, on t.v., the radio, in all stores, in magazines, on social media...we are bombarded with how special and joyful this day should be and how we are "supposed" to celebrate. But it's not that joyful for everyone. I wanted to create an event that brought grieving women together to be pampered, to dine together, to share their grief and not suppress it, to help joy take the spotlight again, even if for just an afternoon.  To bless others just as Jessica blessed me two years ago.

The Joy Revival began as a way for me to bless women who had lost a mom, something I understand deeply. However as women were sent my way to be invited, it turned into an event for women who had lost a child, a pain my heart can't begin to comprehend. Organically, The Joy Revival became a way for me to bless women dealing with a pain I pray to never experience.

As I reached out to local vendors, I was blown away with their generosity and eagerness to help. This was not "my event", this was an event that never would have come together if it were not for others rallying with me and beside me. I will list them all below, but first I want to explain why the event never actually took place. 

I had four women confirmed, and everything lined up to perfectly come together on May 21st, and we were even blessed with perfect weather, a nice surprise for a May in the Pacific Northwest! The morning of the event, I received a message from one of the ladies saying she woke up sick and wouldn't be coming. Then I received another message from a guest saying she had a migraine, still wanted to come, and was hoping she could ride with another guest. As I was opening up my email to coordinated a ride, I saw an email had just come in from one of the women attending with a friend. Her dad passed away that morning and she was going to be with her and (understandably) neither of them would be coming. Both of these ladies have recently lost children to cancer.

I was shocked. My first thoughts were for this gal who woke up excited to attend an event with other women who understand her pain of losing a child, to discovering her dad had passed. I was messaging with her that morning and we were looking forward to meeting each other. My heart was hurting for her so deeply, but I quickly remembered I had volunteers who would begin arriving shortly and I had to call everything off. The phone calls began and, of course, everyone understood.
There have been a lot of emotions floating around me. As I try my best to do, and with everything in life, there is a lesson to be learned. This event coming together so beautifully reminded me that there are so many amazing people all around us, wanting an opportunity to do great things for others. Every act of kindness, big or "small", is a GREAT thing! 
All the planning in the world can't prepare us for life's obstacles. Life happens and unfortunately it's not always happy and pretty. This was a huge learning opportunity for me, and something I am continuously working on. We don't always have a say in the things that happen in our life, as much as we like to think we're in control. Although I might not always understand God's purpose in certain situations, I do understand his purpose for my life: to love Him, love others, to trust He knows more than I ever will, and only He can see the ending. 
So we gave away the flowers to the assisted living home down the road, gave away half of the food and dessert to the owner of Simple Goodness Farm (who was hosting dinner after a memorial service that night), and I will be sending the donated gifts to the guests.
My sister Natalie leaving the flowers and a note at The Heritage House.
Here are the people that made The Joy Revival possible. I know they didn't agree to be a part of this for the purpose of recognition, but I would love to give them credit for their huge hearts, their amazing talents, and for taking their time to bless others:
Venue: Venise with Simple Goodness Farm
Food: Michelle and Eric with EJ's Custom Catering
Drinks: Belinda with Happy Camper Cocktail Co.
Gin for the cocktails: Heritage Distilling Co. (I love their reply to me, "here at HDC, we have a saying, 'every spirit has a story', and we'd love to be a part of yours". They are also a sponsor of the Mariners and are the top-rated distillery in North America!)
Decor: Marion with Sweet Style Merchant
Flowers: Danielle with Dandy Flower Co.
Hair: Staci Knight of Azarra Salon
Makeup: Aja Erickson and Taylor Cura
Photography: Kris Josue
Chalkboard signs: Julianne with Something to Chalk About
Aromatherapy: Lauren with Harper Apothecary
Noonday Collection bracelets: Me :)
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! 

And for those of you reading this, I ask that you consider supporting them. They all offer a great service, and I believe they are deserving of your business. So if you have an upcoming event or need to buy some gifts, will you start your search here?
As I've had time to reflect since May 21st, I've realized The Joy Revival ended up paralleling life. It ended too soon, just like the lives of the ones we love and miss. We can look back and be grateful, see the beauty in every step along the way, and be thankful for the lives it connected and blessed along the way.  The signs from Something to Chalk About are a perfect reminder that life is hard, but "Still, I Rise", and I hope that can bring encouragement to you as well.
Photo by Simple Goodness Farm

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