Sunday, April 30, 2017

Good Night, I Love You

The day is here. My heart is racing. I feel speechless-I'm in awe as I watch God weave the miraculous tapestry in my life. After many years, countless hours of writing in solitude, and even more tears, the release of my book is announced - September 19, 2017!

Three days after my husband died, a strong fire ignited in my soul to record my journey through what I call the Midnight Hour. The fire burned day and night and was never satisfied until it was finished. Good Night, I Love You was birthed as a result of my willingness to persevere through the fire.
Many told me along the way that they wished I would put my Midnight Hour experience into a book so they could put it in the hands of others. This book is for all. The human experience of grief is universal. Even if you have never lost one close to your heart, you know someone who has. Loss comes in many forms other than just death. It can come in the form of divorce, the death of a season of life, a broken relationship of any kind, and much more. Understanding the world of grief and loss is imperative. It is a part of life. We need to embrace it and learn to show limitless compassion, mercy, love, and patience to those walking through it.

My prayer is that this book will give all of us courage to let grief out of the closet. Let's feel comfortable discussing it with our friends. Let's give one another freedom to experience the depth of its pain without the fear of judgement. Let's extend a hand to the griever and sit with them in their solitude or invite them to come out for awhile. Thank you to those who extended their hand to me, sat with me, and prayed for me and my children.

“Bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance, but the next figure.” C.S. Lewis - A Grief Observed

Pre-orders are now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all major book sellers. It will be available in hardcover and e-book. Book tours and speaking will begin this fall.

A HUGE thank you to Hachette Book Group and FaithWords Publishing!

https://www.amazon.com/Good-Night-Love-You-Awa…/…/1455598445



Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrestling for Deeper Relationship

It’s cold and raining here.

My daughter Mia made me an afternoon coffee.

I sit here in my room listening to the rain while sipping a brevé cappuccino and reviewing my notes from Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis.

I come to a passage that jumped out at me the first time I read it earlier this year.  It’s underlined and has a big star next to it.  I feel it’s just as important the second time.

"The rabbis have a metaphor for this wrestling with the text: The story of Jacob wrestling the angel in Genesis 32.  He struggles, and it is exhausting and tiring, and in the end his hip is injured.  It hurts.  And he walks away limping.

Because when you wrestle with the text, you walk away limping.

And some people have no limp, because they haven't wrestled.  But the ones limping have had an experience with the living God."


I am not satisfied with what I call "doormat faith".  I don’t want to simply lie down and take whatever comes my way.  I question, dig deeper, and wrestle with the scriptures and God for understanding, for enlightenment.  Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who never enters into true, deep, and meaningful discussions with you?  We all long for more.  Like iron sharpening iron.  As Jacob was injured in his wrestling, we may walk away with a limp but stronger, wiser and with a deeper understanding from the wrestling.

Bell also says, “We have to embrace the Bible as the wild, uncensored, passionate account it is of people experiencing the living God.  Doubting the one true God.  Wrestling with, arguing with, getting angry with, reconciling with, loving, worshipping, thanking, following the one who gives us everything.  We cannot tame it.  We cannot tone it down."

The Bible is a living story.  We are in this story.  Our earthly relationships take work just as our relationship with Him does.  It takes all these actions to build and develop a truly deep and meaningful relationship.   Every time I wrestle with the scriptures and wrestle with God, I walk away with not only a limp but also with a better understanding of Him.  I walk away with a knowing that I understand more and am understood.  I walk away knowing I love and am loved by the Father.  I walk away with more courage that could only have come through the wrestling.  The same holds true when I dare to wrestle, go deeply into more intimacy through conversations in my earthly relationships.

It makes me think of Theodore Roosevelt's speech, "The Man in the Arena."

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I would rather be in the arena...”face marred by dust and sweat and blood”.  Striving valiantly, screwing up, learning, making mistakes, but at least I am IN the arena making the effort.  I choose to wrestle.  I would rather risk having a limp than never have stepped foot into the arena. I will boldly take the experience with the living God.  I will dive deeply into more meaningful relationships here on earth.

Wrestling makes me vulnerable, but I would rather dare greatly in my vulnerability than never dare at all.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Silver Linings


I'm on a personal writing retreat at the moment in an old fashioned little beach town somewhere off the southern coast of the United States. I typically watch movies or exercise when I need to completely disengage from my work. I try to choose movies that cause me to think or those that are known for fabulous dialogue.
Last night I watched Silver Linings Playbook for the first time. Impressive acting... every single role. But of course, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawerence's performances stand above the rest.
In every movie I choose, there is typically a quote by one of the characters that becomes a tasty morsel to my thoughts. I latch onto it and begin to process it into my own life. As soon as the line is spoken, I know its the reason I needed to watch it.
Silver Linings Playbook was no exception.
Not too far into the movie, the bottom line of the movie comes out in something Bradley Cooper says to his parents after coming home from an 8 month stay in a mental hospital. He is determined to set a new direction for his life. With passion and fortitude, he responds to his parents' concerns with this statement, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to take all this negativity and use it as fuel and I'm going to find the silver lining...that's what I'm going to do! And that's no bullshit! Now that takes work... and thats the truth!"
The silver lining I have looked for since my husband died has been purpose. How will I take the negativity from the great loss and use it as fuel for my life to go higher? How will this help my purpose? How will this life experience propel me even stronger into the direction God has planned for me? How will it secure my purpose even more? How can this negativity in my life be used as fuel to help others who have had similar negativity come at them.
This kind of thinking helps me look to the future instead of continually looking back at the painful circumstances. I challenge myself every time I think, "Now, what am I going to do with this? How do I see God using this for good?"
In addition to purpose, the other silver lining is that it has caused me to live my life with even more boldness...because, as we know, life is short. Be real. Be honest. Be compassionate. Show mercy. Forgive. Love deeply. Don't hold back love. Break down walls. Enjoy others.
Follow God in spite of the negativity, toward the silver linings that are there, if I only look for them... like a well crafted, thought provoking quote buried in the dialogue of a movie.  And if I look hard enough for the silver linings, they come to me.
Keep your eyes straight ahead. Because the silver linings are ahead of you, not behind you.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Resurrect the Dance

 Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
Bob Dylan “Mr. Tambourine Man




Dancing in total abandonment… One hand waving free. How long it has been since I danced like that!  I have done it before, more times than I can count. Most every day of my life.  If there was a song, there was a dance. From a hobby to a 20 year profession.

But I buried my dance long ago. My dancing to music and my dancing with life.  I buried it even before Michael died.  It sunk deeper into the grave beside him after his death.  How can I ever dance again?

It’s time.  Time to stir up the dancer - and the dance - in me.

I find irony in Ecclesiastes 3.  It leaves me a bit mystified.  Here is the famous listing of “a time for everything”…. a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance

Wait…What?  Dancing follows mourning?  These two are a pair? Really? Hard to swallow that one – but it must be so, just as the others hold true. As naturally as dying eventually follows birth, and building naturally follows tearing down, dancing should naturally follow on the tails of mourning.  Joyful abandonment.  Freedom to enjoy life again.  The weight of grief lifted. Moving creatively and gracefully through life.  Expressions of thankfulness for life itself.

It’s time to resurrect the dance.

For two years now, the resurrection power of Christ has been on my heart.  While tucked away in the countryside of New York, the prayer for resurrection power opened up on me. It felt like the sun opening up on an overcast afternoon with its warmth enveloping every inch of my body. In the solitude of my writing room, I came to God one day with a blank slate.  I asked Him to write my prayers.  Our needs were so great for continued healing and restored life that I did not even know how to pray.  So I asked God for His prayers for me.  His answer – pray the resurrection power of Christ over your household.

THAT’S IT!

Why hadn’t I thought of that?

It reminded me of how Charlie Brown felt in Charlie Brown’s Christmas while receiving counsel from Lucy.  As she sits behind her makeshift desk, she lists several phobias that may be his problem…

Lucy: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?

Charlie Brown: What's pantophobia?

Lucy: The fear of everything.

Charlie Brown: THAT'S IT!

Of course I should pray the resurrection power over the kids and me!  It covers everything!  My prayers began to pour out of my heart as if a floodgate had lifted.  Our needs for life were great and had built up - but it was time to release the dam.  The resurrection power lifted the gate just as it rolled away the stone from the tomb for Jesus.

Lord, I pray the resurrection power of Christ over me.  Resurrect my heart from the dead.  Resurrect my hope for the future. Resurrect my joy, my boldness. Resurrect my dreams.  Resurrect my life from the ashes. Resurrect my creativity and my gifts that I have lost the desire to use.  Resurrect my desires, my purpose. Resurrect my dance.   Restore me; restore my family, with the same power that restored Christ after his death on the cross.

I personalized this prayer for each one of my children.  It became my daily prayer as I cried out to God to lift our lives, completely and wholly, from the ashes that remained from my husband’s death.  We needed a complete, glorified resurrection, just as Jesus did.

I have watched the resurrection slowly take place in each of us, in small steps and in different areas.  In my life, the resurrection of hope and desire led to a natural resurrection in other areas.  Because desire was alive again, I chose to reach down to Dance and pull her out of the ashes… “Let’s dance again.” I whispered to her.

A time to mourn and a time to dance.

In 2 Samuel 6:14, scantily clad King David danced before the Lord with all of his might.

In reference to this scripture, Joshua Dubois writes in his book, The President’s Devotional, “He danced because the Lord had been good.  He danced because despite unspeakable trials, he was still alive. He danced because it gave glory and honor to the God who had formed him in his mother’s womb.  He danced because the weight of sin had been lifted off of him.  He danced, and danced, and then danced some more, with all that he had.”

Its time for me to dance.

Dancing in total abandonment is not only limited to physical dancing, as we know it.  The way we live our lives, face it, approach it, experience it, can also be a dance of abandonment…with one hand waving free.  Living free, without a care of what others may think.  Living life from the heart. Moving seamlessly in step with our dreams, our purpose.  Exuberant living.  As a body moves to the rhythm of the music bringing a song to life, so our lives can move and glide along with life itself, its rhythm, its pulse, while bringing subtle inspiration to those watching the dance. Yes, dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waiving free.


Resurrect your dance.


A glimpse of my days as a professional choreographer and performer.  A pre-game performance for a NFL game.  A group I directed for this special event.  If you haven't figured it out...I'm the one in the middle!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Michael Barranco Endowed Memorial Fellowship


Dear Friends,

The family of Michael Barranco,Sr. - along with friends, business colleagues, and organizations around the state of Mississippi - has established an endowed fellowship within the Mississippi State University Foundation in Michael's honor. This endowed fellowship will reside within the Mississippi State University School of Architecture and will annually support an outstanding undergraduate Architecture student with demonstrated financial need.

A 1985 graduate of the MSU School of Architecture, Michael was a devoted promoter of the profession of architecture as a benefactor of communities and people. Michael had a passion for the importance of travel that opened the architectural world to students and prospective students of architecture. Michael was convinced that the opportunity to see, sketch, and experience important works of architecture is critical for the development of a student's architectural education, the continuation of their passion for the art, and a holistic understanding of the place architecture holds in cultures and societies through the span of time.

The spirit and purpose of the Michael Barranco Endowed Memorial Fellowship is to provide funds for students in the School of Architecture to have this experience through travel. The fellowship is open to Mississippi State University Architecture students that are participating in travel programs sponsored by the School that focus
 on experiencing significant works of architecture. These programs include the design studio field trips, domestic or international travel, and study abroad programs offered by the School of Architecture.

We invite you to consider making a gift this holiday to this fund.  It requires a minimum of $25,000 to establish an endowment in Michael's honor. We are over half way there!  Contributions made by check should be made out to the Michael Barranco Endowed Memorial Fellowship and mailed to the MSU Foundation, P.O. Box 6149, Mississippi State, MS, 39762. Electronic contributions can be made at www.msufoundation.com. Should you have any questions or wish to contribute by phone, please call Lynn Shurden Durr at the MSU Foundation at 662.325.8918. 

We thank you in advance for your generosity in Michael's honor and the difference it will make in the lives of architecture students for years to come.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jene', Mia, Julia, and Michael Anthony Barranco

Michael Barranco sketching and watercoloring in Cefalu, Sicily on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Monday, November 2, 2015

An Opener of Doors

I discovered a card one day in my nightstand over a year ago.  A card I had not read, (or possibly had never read), or seen in years.  It felt as if it had been dropped down from heaven.  An invisible nudge curiously prompted me that day to pull open the drawer and dig through its belongings.

September 5, 2007.  My 20th wedding anniversary.  It was a note from my husband Michael.  Because I had no remembrance of it and it was sealed as if it had never been opened, I felt that I was receiving encouragement from heavenly places.  As I read the card I heard him.  I felt him. “You can do this Babe!

The words on this card were exactly what I needed to hear at that moment – and they continue to be.  I needed to hear encouragement from someone who knew exactly where my heart was tender during this point in my journey through the Midnight Hour.  Someone who recognized my hesitation.  Someone who saw that I was beginning to question myself.  Someone who had been my personal cheering section for more than half of my life.

We had always been two who created our own path together. We opened doors – but courage rises when surrounded by a loving travel companion.  A journey of solitude requires courage from unknown depths.  I was on a solitary journey.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path & leave a trail. Always do what you are afraid to do.  Be an opener of doors.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Michael’s words to me, “How amazing it is to look back and see the incredible trails that our journey has created as Christ leads us.  As I do look back, I realize also that I could not have, nor would have ventured out without your encouragement and quiet prompting.  For this I am thankful.”  Now it was my turn to receive that encouragement and quiet prompting. “My prayer is that these trails will become roads for our children as they grow.  That as they travel them, they too (as God directs) will venture off creating roads of their own. Thank you for helping remove the fear of the unknown.  Thank you for opening the door of my heart!

I have kept this card near my chair where I write and read my Bible, or sometimes on top of my night stand, so that I can pick it up any time I need these words to whisper to me…”Go…Don’t be afraid…blaze a trail…do it for our children…be an example to them of courage. Be an opener of doors.


Open doors where no one has gone before. Walk through them...with eyes straight ahead.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Courage - fear that has said its prayers

In The Fellowship of the Ring, one of my late husband’s and my favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien writes, “not all who wander are lost.”  Even though I felt lost when Michael died, my time alone with God made me realize I was not lost but was on a solitary mission to rediscover life, regain strength, and clarify my purpose.  I found myself on a dark and winding course but I knew my purpose could only come from being near to God by following close behind him, and so I wandered with intention.

Courage – fear that has said its prayers.

After much soul searching and prayer I decided to move to New York State—from the Deep South of Jackson, Mississippi to the heart of the northeast in the Hudson River Valley.  From southern accents, family, neighbors, lifetime friends, sweet tea and grits, and a familiar culture to rural countryside, no connections, no family, no friends, and no sweet tea in restaurants. I could not even find black-eyed peas or grits in the grocery store at first. The change was difficult but necessary.

Courage – fear that has said its prayers.

My actions may have looked aimless, but I knew I was wandering with God and with intention. When people asked Why move? Why New York? I was not able to give a firm answer. Most of the time I simply said, “I don’t know yet but I know I am going to find out.” And every day I learned a little more about why God had took us there. Every time I looked out the floor to ceiling windows, I felt the weight of grief lift a little bit more as I breathed in nothing but nature—the trees, the mountains, the sunrises, the sunsets, the wild turkey, the deer, the change of seasons in the woods, the hush after a heavy snow. Each time I took in the beauty, I felt as if God was saying, “This is why I brought you here.” It reminded me of Rivendell in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a beautiful, protected, hidden refuge in the misty mountains where Frodo Baggins and his band of companions pull away to rest, gain counsel, build strength, courage, and plan for the future.  The beauty of God’s creation and the peaceful calm that surrounded us while hidden in the countryside of the Hudson Valley was a healing balm to every ounce of my being and a constant reminder that He was with us. We had room for new emotions to emerge, we could recognize and deal with our pains head on, and His voice was easier to discern – all because He had pulled us back and placed us somewhere that forced the children and me to lean completely on Him and one another, without the distractions that came from all the familiar things back in Mississippi.

It was a refreshing change.  Refreshing to have a clean start, to be in an entirely new and different place and not have dark clouds hanging over us everywhere we went.  Refreshing that absolutely no one knew our story.  It was the bravest thing I had ever done and the hardest thing for others to understand.

My wandering served a purpose.  It helped me find a way to move forward without feeling guilty; guilty because as I moved on I was also leaving my grief behind.  I had to give myself permission to wander with God as my lead.  I trusted God to lead me through the wilderness and toward the plans He had for my life that lay ahead of me.

Courage – fear that has said its prayers.

Jesus wandered in the desert before launching ahead into his life’s purpose but his wandering was far from aimless. As the Holy Spirit led him, I hoped He could also lead me during my time of wandering.   It was through the wandering that I found my truest path and became wiser, I hope, for the wandering.  My wandering became a time of intense guidance from God.  It drew me even closer to Him and gave me strength, confidence, and a renewed purpose. It gave me courage.  At times this strength felt supernatural. It was as if God had placed blinders on me to help me plow straight ahead without slowing down to look to my side or to turn back.
.
This time of wandering added a new dimension to the grief process.  I was still experiencing the waves of grief that often swept over me, I was still walking through the darkness of what I refer to as the Midnight Hour, I was still making sense of my life as a single parent and discovering who Jene’ Barranco was without Michael Barranco. But now, I was also intimately in touch with God. I followed Him as closely as possible. The closer I walked to Him, the greater the courage. I had the strength to wander with Him towards our future and our complete healing, wherever it took us.  I chose to pull away from the noise and go against the mainstream to wander with God on this road to heal our wounded hearts and restore of our lives. We had to wander alone for a season, away from the familiar, in order to gain deep, pure strength. I trusted God that he would hold my hand—the hands of my children—and reveal to us the next phase and purpose for our lives.

God took the fear of the unknown during our wandering and molded it into the courage we needed to propel forward into the darkness, towards His plans for us - that lay on the other side of the darkness.

Eyes Straight Ahead….