"And someday you will find that the Golden Thread was weaved in all along, lining your path with the pulse of His promises."
Artwork and quote by Jessy Paulson, Certified Painted Prayers Instructor
If you have been around here for more than a minute, you have heard us talk about God Things. You know ---- the people, places and events put directly on your path, pointing you towards God when you least expect it.
These God Things have been around forever, but our family had never given them a name until mom coined “God Things” during my sister, Angie’s fight with cancer. Every time Angie or our family needed something, God provided – but the provision didn’t look the way we expected. The fear and pain and heartbreak weren’t swept away like we hoped. Instead, He gave us the people to lean on and the nudges of reminders that he was there holding us tight -- everything from the songs on the radio, to the people we ran into at the store, to the Coke imprinted with Angie’s name from the vending machine.
This weekend we had the incredible, rare opportunity for a girls trip to a place we had never been before – Nevada. It was a total God Thing. You see, just over two years ago, we were planning our last family vacation with Angie. We had considered a variety of places and one that Ang threw out was Lake Tahoe. She had always wanted to visit, but as the cancer progressed, there were just too many variables to go that far away. She decided we would go elsewhere, but Tahoe has been in the back of our mind ever since.
This weekend we made it there. We got the amazing opportunity to visit a cousin that lives nearby --- the same cousin that works her tail off to create the amazing Faith Over Fear jewelry we carry at the store. The entire weekend was weaved with the golden thread throughout. We shared amazing dreamer’s sessions, brainstorming ways to spread the Faith Over Fear message, and we found inspiration in the most unlikely places. We cleared our heads while our feet splashed in the crystal-clear water of the lake. We met new people and were once again reminded just how small this great big world is. Every time we turned around there was another God Thing, a reminder that His provision is still leading us one step at a time.
Sometimes it looks like a coincidence. Some people call it fate or chance. But for us, we choose to call it a God Thing. You never know when God has placed you in a moment as provision for you, or for the person in front of you. Maybe He is working through you in ways you did not ever consider.
When my son was 4, he accidently kicked his leg through a pane of glass on a French door in our living room. Deep lacerations resulted in 14 stitches on his little preschooler leg. It has since healed well, but two strong scars remain.
Occasionally, he will comment on the scars being itchy or sensitive. He will ponder about what his leg looked like before or tell me the scars remind him to be more careful. His little boy mind does not even realize that he is stating the most perfect analogy of the scar of loss I have on my own heart.
Initially, when there is a loss, just like an injury, it jars us so completely that we do not feel the pain right away – we just feel shock. Our body and mind are just trying to grasp what occurred. Adrenaline kicks in. We are working to absorb what happened, while supporting those around us. We check off the items on the list to make arrangements and just generally are doing whatever it takes to get through the moment.
Once the shock and adrenaline subside, the searing pain swoops in. The extent of our injury, or loss, is realized and we feel pain, not just in the area hurt, but throughout the entire body. We do not understand how to put everything back together again. We do not foresee anything being normal ever again. The pain is fierce and overpowering.
Slowly the wound begins to heal. A scab starts to form over the injury, bruising occurs. From the outside, it appears it is getting worse instead of better, turning horrid colors of purples, greens and yellows, a constant ugly reminder of what occurred. For a long time, it seems that progress is slow and maybe even non-existent, for we do not realize the rebuilding and healing work that is being done on the inside. We are easily reinjured by unintentional bumps or secondary infections. It seems as though we will never regain our life and we will be stuck in this ugly pain forever.
Eventually, the bruises lighten and then fade away. The scabs crust over and we are left with a scar. We are slowly able to start doing the things we used to do. It appears we are healed. From the outside, it looks like all the work has been done. But while we are functioning once again, there is still this scar, a constant reminder of what we went through.
There are times we wear our scars proudly, proof of our strength and a reminder of what used to be.
There are times where the scar is too much to bear and we cover it; hoping if it is out of sight, it will be out of mind – at least for a moment.
There are times where we are embarrassed by our scars, expecting they should have faded away faster or that they should not be able to be reinjured.
There are times when we are annoyed by our scars as they get irritated and itchy. Something rubs it the wrong way and the pain and discomfort arise all over again.
There are times when our scars need extra protection, so they are not reinjured. We guard our scars to save ourselves from going through the pain all over again.
Over time, the scar of loss may lighten up and fade, but if you look closely, it is still present. The scar forever remains a part of us, a reminder of what was and how far we have come.
Your not alone.
Some days it feels impossible.
You think you have a hold on the grief. You refocus your thoughts. You have stocked responses for every situation. You push the feelings down to keep on with your day, to keep it together.
And then you are knocked off your feet by a smell....
a fleeting thought...
And in an instant it feels just as hard as the day they died. It all just feels impossible again.
You are not alone.
You will have days and moments like this for the rest of your life and that is ok. The grief is a part of you now, but it is not all of you.
Let it out. Be as mad or sad as you need to be. Yell at God if that is what you need to do. He can take it.
Find a safe way to release all the hurt out so it quits following you around every moment. Ask God the big questions. Talk to others who have walked down this path. Journal for yourself. Listen to music. Refocus your thoughts on gratitude. Pray for grace and understanding. FIGHT for your peace.
Despite all that has happened, God is still showing you the way. He has not abandoned you. Talk to Him. Look for the God Things He is placing in your life. God granted his ultimate promise of Heaven to your loved ones and ours. Don’t let the devil steal your peace.
Live in spite of the grief. Live your life with Faith Over Fear.
This Faith Over Fear design was created by Angie about a month or so before she passed away.
During a conversation with our mom one day she took out a pink post it and scratched out this design intending to get it as a tattoo.
When she asked her oncologist, he agreed she could get the tattoo as soon as her numbers improved after chemo that month. He encouraged her to do whatever she wanted to do, to go out and live life.
Unfortunately Ang never got the chance to get the tattoo she wanted. A few weeks later she entered hospice care for her final days.
Within the first couple days after her death, close to a dozen family and friends got this design or a variation of it tattooed in her honor. We knew that in order to keep moving without her, we too needed to hold onto the message of Faith Over Fear she clung to.
As we wrote and published our book, Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home we realized that this design, scratched out on a post it was so much more. It was a visual reminder of Angie’s message to the world. It was in Angie’s own handwriting reminding us to choose Faith Over Fear.
Today you see this design on everything from necklaces, to apparel, to vehicle decals and signs. It is a reminder to you to be bold in your faith, to deliberately choose joy, and to fight for your peace. Our Faith Over Fear Gear is another way to share Angie’s story with the world.
Welcome to our first blog post at The Norway Center Store!
Whether you have heard our story from the beginning or are just joining us, you will quickly see that Faith Over Fear is the mantra poured throughout our store, and our lives.
You see in March of 2017, my little sister, Angie Hazel, was abruptly diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer of Unknown Primary at the age of 25. As she fought through the weight of that diagnosis, Angie quickly clung to the phrase, Faith Over Fear. During her battle against cancer, she showed us exactly what that mantra meant to her and lived the remainder of her days choosing Faith Over Fear.
Faith Over Fear is not just a cute, catchy little phrase about God. Truly choosing a life of Faith Over Fear means you are handing over your worries and fears. It means you are deciding to focus on the positive. It is placing your trust into God even when it seems impossible. It is making a conscious decision each and every day to fight for your peace and believe that the best is yet to come.
For my little sister, she showed this action through her kindness to everyone even through her final days. She showed this through her focus on Jesus through the pain and unanswered questions. She lived her days choosing happiness, to make the most of the time she had, despite the fears of the unknown.
After she passed, our family tried to absorb what happened. We tried to grasp the why and the how and figure out what to do after such a tremendous heartbreak. And as we reflected, we saw the way God held us up through the battle. We saw how He placed people and events in our path as God Things lighting our way through the impossible. And through that reflection and the stories that came out about her life after she was gone, we saw how Angie was a light to so many others, a God Thing herself.
As we worked through the grief that first year, we started writing down our thoughts and feelings. What developed was our book, “Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home,” a book that brings the reader through Angie’s battle with her own words from her CaringBridge journal and our perspectives as her sisters, mother and fiancé, watching her fight. Our initial hope for the book was to share Angie’s message of Faith Over Fear and to help others know they are not alone in their grief.
Since the release of the book, we have been overwhelmed with the response. So many people are hearing our message and are opening up about their own story of grief and heartbreak. We pray the healing that has been sparked by this story will continue to spread like wildfire.
We are continuing Angie’s legacy by consciously choosing Faith Over Fear in our own lives. For my sister, Cassy and I, that included jumping into our own dreams. We always hoped to one day open a store where we could sell our handmade and repurposed creations and that of other small makers. After Angie passed, we were slapped with the reality that life is short and decided to end the excuses. With the support of our mom, Anita, we opened this little store, The Norway Center Store in August of 2018. Taking that big leap to put ourselves and our creations out into the world was Faith Over Fear in action.
Likewise, for the vendors that have joined us. Each month, we are blessed to feature the handmade creations of several talented makers. Some are retired or working moms, doing this as a side-gig, others have taken the plunge to do this work full-time, each has a hope and a dream and has chosen to be brave and put themselves out there. They have chosen Faith Over Fear and are working to bring their dreams to life.
As we grow The Norway Center Store we intend to keep Angie’s message of Faith Over Fear as the forefront of our business and our lives. This message is not just for the toughest moment in our lives, it is for every moment.
Hi! I'm Jessy, one of the co-owners of The Norway Center Store and co-authors of the book Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home. My husband Kyle and I live in an old general store, converted to residence, with our three kids, Ally, Charley and Rad and our German Shephard dog. You will usually find me with paint on my clothes creating my next repurposed piece.