New Site

I’ve been seeing a bit of traffic on this page lately, and wanted to redirect you to my newer site: www.ericamcneal.com – Please come join us there as we work together to equip families to know how to be a GREAT support group for those who are hurting.

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Launch, Birth and Death Day

5 years ago today, we held our daughter as she died.

She was so tiny, just 15 oz and 11 inches long. Our daughter lived for eighty minutes and taught us that whether someone lives for eighty years or a mere eighty minutes, life is but a breath; a mere vapor!

We named her Kylie Joy – a name we didn’t realize would be so full of meaning – “Beautiful Joy that comes back!”

Our family could think of no better way to honor our daughter, her life, and the beauty she brought into our lives, then to launch this Resource Guide on her Birth and Glory Day! As we launch Good Grief!, we watch as God is taking a very traumatic day for our family and turning this same day into something beautiful! Our desire is to come alongside those who grieve by helping men and women understand they are not alone, while equipping their family and friends to know what to say and how to help!

What is Good Grief! about?

By the time Erica McNeal was thirty-two years old, she was already a three-time cancer survivor, and had experienced the loss of five children. Erica has chosen to say, “Why not me?” and uses her cancer and child-loss to equip men and women to learn how to effectively love people who grieve. Erica combats common empty platitudes and Christian cliche’s, while giving her readers insight as to why certain words, actions, and inactions can be painful for the hurting. But, Erica doesn’t stop there, she also provides tangible solutions of: What not to say, What to say, What to remember, How to help, and How to pray.

Bonuses:

For anyone who chooses to purchase Good Grief! from June 11-15, we are offering the following bonuses as thank you gifts.

Purchase an eBook, soft cover, or hard cover copy of Good Grief! and send your receipt to goodgriefgifts@gmail.com . Each person who sends their receipt will:

Bonus #1: Receive a link to immediately download a pdf version of Good Grief!

Bonus #2: Have up to 5 chances to win one of the following daily thank you gifts, randomly chosen at the end of each day Monday through Friday, and announced the following morning here on my website:

$45 Carrabbas OR $45 Outback Gift Card

$50 Amazon OR $50 Best Buy Gift Card

Signed Hard Cover copy of Good Grief! and Signed copy of The Hour that Matters Most from Les and Leslie Parrott

Bonus #3: Receive a free downloadable podcast of my talk, You Are Not Alone.

Bonus #4:  Receive a free downloadable recording of the Intro of Good Grief!

Bonus #5: For any Organization, Church, Grief Group, or person who purchases 10 or more copies of Good Grief!, you will receive a SIX week Good Grief! Small Group Discussion Guide with a Leaders Guide.

Topics Include:

Week 1 – Consider THIS Pure Joy?

Week 2 – Shattering Hypocrisy

Week 3 – Words: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Week 4 – Unmet Expectations and Grief

Week 5 – How Prayer Is Tangible

Week 6 – Putting it All Together

Devotionals, Application, Discussion Questions, and Weekly Challenges in each of the first 5 Lessons, all correlating with Chapters from Good Grief! As soon as I can verify your receipt, I will send you the pdf.

Why Read Now?

Unmet expectations and conflict arise, when people hurting don’t know what they need, and their loved ones don’t know how to help. Good Grief! helps bridge this gap. When we become better equipped to know what to say and how to tangibly support people who are hurting, we can anticipate needs and help our loved ones move forward from their losses, instead of inhibiting their journey.

Who should read Good Grief!?

While Good Grief! was originally written for those who surround the grieving, the feedback we’ve been receiving from those in the process of grieving has been astounding. One woman admitted, “For the first time in 22 years, I feel permission to grieve the loss of my children via miscarriage.” One man shared that reading Good Grief! helped him realize his emotions with his illness were normal, while also learning what to expect as his treatments progressed. And, multiple people have shared they wished Good Grief! had been available when they were processing their grief, so they could have given the book to their family and friends to provide support when they didn’t know what to ask for.

What Others Are Saying:

“The truth of God that has been experienced in the life of another is a foolproof guide. Erica McNeal has just this expertise from a life of perseverance in areas that may comfort us all.” Tommy Nelson

“All of us will eventually have to walk through the valley either personally or with someone we love. This book will prepare you for that journey.” Ken Davis

“If you are going through suffering, have gone through suffering, or know someone who is, then this book will be a tremendous guide and comfort for you.” Sean McDowell

Good Grief! should be required reading for every pastor who wants to truly minister to the people of their church!” Kevin Baker

“This book was so practical, and enlarged my heart for the hurting and grieving. Everyone needs to read it, whether they are in a state of loss or ministering to someone who is. In the end, my heart was so encouraged and refreshed, even through the story of tragedy.” Gina Parris

“What I had assumed was a “chick book” is in fact a book that opened my eyes to how those well intended condolences can leave a grieving person hurting more, or certainly not comforted! I literally could not put the book down!” Charlie Hill

Where to Buy:

Good Grief! is available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hard Cover formats!

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

LifeWay

WestBow Press

I would love your help sharing Good Grief!, please use the social media buttons below to spread the word! Or, to continue following our journey and the giveaways this week, please go to my new domain: www.ericamcneal.com
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Launching Good Grief! Tomorrow!

Good Grief! is a book that must be read!” Pastor Doug Munton

What is Good Grief! about?

By the time Erica McNeal was thirty-two years old, she was already a three-time cancer survivor, and had experienced the loss of five children. Erica has chosen to say, “Why not me?” and uses her cancer and child-loss to equip men and women to learn how to effectively love people who grieve. Erica believes that God can use even our most painful experiences to build rapport and relationships with others in order to share His incredible love. Good Grief! is a Resource Guide filled with tangible solutions of how to love people well through difficult times!

Learn: What not to say, What to say, What to remember, How to help, and How to pray

Why Read Now?

The perception that Christians are hypocrites is a leading excuse of why people choose not to attend church. While we are all sinners saved by grace, and therefore hypocritical in various ways, we can help combat this excuse by learning how to love other people effectively. We need to be careful about the words we use and how we act on our faith in God, so that our responses in times of tragedy and life changes are different than those of non-believers. Christians need to become better equipped to know what to say and how to help people who are hurting, so that we can help our loved ones move forward from their losses, instead of inhibiting their journey.

What Others Are Saying:

“The truth of God that has been experienced in the life of another is a foolproof guide. Erica McNeal has just this expertise from a life of perseverance in areas that may comfort us all.” Tommy Nelson

“All of us will eventually have to walk through the valley either personally or with someone we love. This book will prepare you for that journey.” Ken Davis

“If you are going through suffering, have gone through suffering, or know someone who is, then this book will be a tremendous guide and comfort for you.” Sean McDowell

Good Grief! should be required reading for every pastor who wants to truly minister to the people of their church!” Kevin Baker

From the Pages of the Book:

“We didn’t know what we needed and our loved ones didn’t know how to help. There was a disparity between the two which created conflict and unmet expectations, on both sides. None of us knew what we were hoping for from the other person until our unknown expectations were unmet.”

Want to read a Sample Chapter?

Click HERE!

Details About Good Grief!

Information:

WestBow Press

ISBN: 978-1449734237

February 2012

Retail: $13.95

Where to Buy:

Amazon – To help me with my pre-launch book ranking, purchase Good Grief! here on Amazon today!

*If you have been following our story here, please consider following my new website: www.ericamcneal.com. This new site will be the official site for my ministry, book, blog, and speaking engagements. Thanks so much for all of the support and love through this journey!!

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Because I Love Photo Contests

Join the LAUNCH of my book Good Grief! by entering this Photo Contest.

CONTEST RULES:

1. Be Creative and Have Fun.

2. Simply use the words “Good Grief!” somewhere in your picture. Whether you already have the book, or not… use your photo as a way to interpret what the words “Good Grief!” mean to you.

3. “Like” my FB Good Grief! page!

4. Post your picture to the Facebook Good Grief! contest page.

5. Share your photo with your friends and ask them to vote for your picture. The top 5 most voted pictures will automatically receive a prize and will be entered into the finalist round. In the finalist round, 1 photo will be chosen for the Grand Prize at Todd and Erica McNeal’s sole discretion based on originality and creativity. If any of the top 5 photos are family members, we will be enlisting outside, non-biased help to make the final call!

* Due to the Easy Promos App rules, you may only enter one photo. Erica also reserves the right to remove any photo that is offensive, at her discretion.

GRAND PRIZE:

$100 Amazon Gift Card
1 Autographed Hardback copy of Good Grief! from Erica McNeal
2 Autographed Books from Best-Selling Authors Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott (Love Talk and either L.O.V.E. or Relationships)
1 Autographed Book and Signed DVD by Best-Selling Author and Comedian Ken Davis
2 Autographed Books from Best-Selling Author Tommy Nelson (A Life Well Lived and The Story of God)
1 Book with a note from Jodie Guerrero (Inspiring Stories of Hope)
2 Autographed Books from Doug Munton (Seven Steps to Becoming a Healthy Christian Leader and Warriors in Hiding)
Disney Letter Photography - up to 10 individual 4×6 photos

PRIZES FOR OTHER 4 FINALISTS:

1 Autographed Soft Cover copy of Good Grief! from Erica McNeal
Disney Letter Photography – up to 10 individual 4×6 photos

Good Grief! is currently available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, LifeWay, and WestBow Press. Official LAUNCH will be June 11th, 2012.

CONTEST IS NOW OPEN UNTIL JUNE 10th AT 11:45PM EST! Click here to enter or vote for your favorites!

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The Un-Happy Mother’s Day

This coming Sunday, churches will be filled with sweet mementos of motherhood. Pastors will call upon women to stand, to receive a flower, a gift, or a picture drawn from their children. Many churches will also hold baby dedications; and people will ooh and awe over all the flowers, decor, mementos, and the pictures of sweet, chubby-cheeked babies emblazoned on the screens.

But, on this same day, we often fail to recognize moms whose children are no longer living, or no longer in their care. Women all over this country will suffer this Sunday, often times in silence, through forced smiles, while holding back tears. Women who want so desperately to stand or be honored in this beautiful celebration of moms. Other women who would give anything to have a child to dedicate on this morning. Still others have living children, yet are in the throws of grieving the death of another child. Instead of celebrating, many of these women are currently in the difficult stages of grief where they are continuously struggling with the balance of living between life and death.

These are women who:

Miscarried.

Chose an abortion.

Chose an adoption plan.

Are in the process of adopting.

Experienced a failed adoption.

Lost her son or daughter in combat.

Woke up one morning to find her child lifeless in his or her bed.

Has experienced the pre-term delivery of her child that lead to infant death.

Received the tragic news that her child died in a car accident.

Is unable to spend the day with her children due to divorce or custody battles.

Received a phone call to let her family know of her child’s death via suicide or drug overdose.

As Mother’s Day approached in 2008, our family was coming up on the one year anniversary of our daughter Kylie’s birth and death day. And my emotions were all over the place. Even though I still had a living child, my heart ached for our Kylie Joy, because my grieving process was still very real and highly unpredictable. Before church my husband reminded me of the annual Baby Dedication at our church that morning, and as instant nausea set in, I froze.

“I’m not ready God!”

I remember very little of the service, except that I was filled with the uneasy anticipation of what I may or may not feel. And when the baby dedication began, I did everything I could to occupy my mind and stay seated, with the tears streaming down my face, gripping my husband’s hand. While I was genuinely happy for the families on stage, my friends who were celebrating their children, my heart was still very raw and very broken. I was a Mother living two extremes. Celebrating one child on Earth, while grieving one child in Heaven. Did that make me ungrateful for what I still had? No, it was part of my process to move forward from my grief, to find healing.

So, do we stop celebrating mothers on Mother’s Day in order to curb the pain of other women? No! Four years later, we have experienced the loss of three other children through miscarriage, and one child through a failed adoption. And, while Mother’s Day will be a bitter-sweet reminder of what we have lost, my grieving process has allowed me to see more sweet, than bitter. But, I wasn’t always in this place, and there will be many women at churches across our nation on Sunday that won’t be in this place either!

If we want to love these grieving women effectively, we must reach a compromise, and show these women that their pain does not go unnoticed.

Here are two tangible ways we can love women grieving child-loss on Mother’s Day:

1) Pastors: As you lead you services this Sunday, PLEASE be mindful of the women who are hurting over the loss of her child. If you recognize moms on Mother’s Day, please consider recognizing the other women in your church who are grieving child-loss. Perhaps you could say: “On this Mother’s Day, there are women here who are suffering in silence. Some of you have babies or children in Heaven. Some of you are struggling with infertility. Some of you have chosen an adoption plan for your child, are in the process of adopting, or have experienced a failed adoption. You are not forgotten today and we want to recognize you as well!”

2) Family and Friends: As you celebrate Mother’s Day, please reach out to your loved ones who are hurting. Let her know you love her, you are thinking about her, and you are praying for her. Acknowledge her pain, even if it is uncomfortable for you. Allow her to talk about her thoughts and feelings if she wants to. You may be one of few, or perhaps the only person who reaches out to her today.

Q. Are you grieving child-loss? If so, what can someone do this Mother’s Day to make YOU feel special?

This post was cross-posted from my new website in an effort to reach more people before Mother’s Day. Finding God’s Fingerprints will likely cease soon. If you would like to join us on our journey of equipping people to love others well through tragedy, please check out www.ericamcneal.com.

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Question and Answer Series

I have started a new Question and Answer series this week on my new website. If you have any questions about grief, child-loss, cancer, or how to help someone through a difficult time, please leave a comment here, or email me at erica.mcneal@hotmail.com.

People who are grieving are often told to “get over it”. What is the timeline for grief? Check out the first question, right here: Am I Grieving Too Long?

If you have not yet downloaded your FREEBIE from my new site, please check it out here!

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New Website Launch and a Freebie!

Today, I am launching my brand new website:

http://www.ericamcneal.com/

This site will be geared towards providing resources and information for men and women who are hurting, as well as family and friends who are loving the hurting! My desire is for anyone who is struck with grief, in the process of an illness, hurting over the loss of a child, or grieving the numerous losses we endure in life, to know that they are not alone!

Yesterday, I sat in church debating whether or not to go to our church food-stocking event. All I could think about was what a hot mess my son was going to be when he would not get a nap. And then, excuse after excuse began to build. What about lunch? I was up so late last night, I need to rest. What will I do with the kids? They probably won’t be able to help! It is getting hot out. Excuse. Excuse. Excuse! When I had just about made up my mind that I would give a friend money to purchase groceries on our behalf, the thought crossed my mind very quietly, yet firmly, “You need to go!”

Okay!

Towards the end of the event, I saw a woman that I had been wanting to talk to for awhile. She goes to our church, and we’ve run into each other a couple of times, but had never had the chance to talk. However, I knew of her story and that she was in the process of being tested for cancer. So, I approached her and we began to talk. I shared my story, and how much we really had in common. This led to an incredible conversation.

She admitted that not only has she felt so overwhelmed with all of the new information she is receiving with an unclear diagnosis, but that she has also felt very alone. While she has an incredible support system around her, nobody else she knows has had cancer, so they cannot really understand what she is going through. We continued to chat for awhile and she was so excited to meet someone else who could relate! There is no doubt in my mind that this event was exactly where I should have been.

This is the perfect illustration of what I hope this new site will be. A place where people can come together, share their stories, receive information and resources, and find hope that not only can they move forward from their losses, but that they are not alone.

We need each other. We need people to be vulnerable. We need people to choose to be open about their circumstances so that we can help our family and friends move forward from their pain. We all know people who are hurting and we can all learn from the experiences of others.

For a limited time, I will be offering a FREE Intro and Chapter of my newly released book, Good Grief! on my new site. I would love for you to check out this link for details and share with your friends!

I will maintain this blog here, but the direction will be changing a little bit. Thank you so much for joining me in this journey. I hope you will continue to follow our story, continue to invest through your comments on my posts, and continue to see what God is doing in and through our lives here!

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If Love is Colorblind… Is it Really Love?

We’ve all heard someone say it, or perhaps, we’ve said it ourselves: “Love is colorblind.” Or, “We should live in a world where we don’t see color.” And, well, I don’t agree!

God made us all unique… whether our skin is white, cream, peach, tan, brown, dark brown, or black. We also have pink, freckled, olive, yellow, orange, bronze, brown, or black skin tones. And then on top of that, He gave us blue, green, hazel, brown, black, and somewhere-in-between-these-colors eyes. Our bones are off-white. Our veins are blue. Our blood is red.

We are all the very color, in fact, multiple colors, that God made us to be.

So, to say that we should be colorblind, or that we shouldn’t see color, really means that we are choosing not to see the very person that God created someone to be; choosing not to even see ourselves. In essence, we tell someone that we are only going to see a part of them, and not the whole. And, in doing this, we discount so many things.

We discount origins. We discount life experiences. We discount heritage. We discount culture. And, we discount people.

We all have an ethnic background. We all have a country of origin. We all have generations of stories that have brought us to where we are today.

We are all different. And, that doesn’t make us weird or wrong, it makes us different.

Uniquely.

Beautifully.

Wonderfully Different.

And, I think it is time for us to start re-considering that love should be colorblind, because in reality, love is COLORFUL, very colorful!

If we really want to see people through the eyes of God, we must recognize that our Creator made all of the colors we see.

And it is good.

And it is beautiful.

God is not colorblind, and God is love! He chooses to see the whole, not the part of everything He has made.

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What Lie Are You Believing?

We all do it at one time or another. Believe in a lie.

I’m not good enough.

I’ll never be able to…

This is just how God made me and I can’t change.

Last week, I received quite a few emails from men and women who had read my article on Relevant’s website, The Good in Grief. Most of these emails had a common theme; an admission of a belief in some type of lie from Satan.

God is a cosmic-killjoy, waiting to pull the rug out from under us.

God is a stern judge, waiting to punish us for our sin.

God does not desire to have a personal relationship with us.

God is not loving.

Based on personal experiences, how someone was raised, influences from others, and tragic circumstance, there are numerous ways people choose to negatively view God.

The greatest way for any relationship to be damaged unfairly is to:

  • Believe a false-hood
  • To trust in a rumor
  • To refuse to learn both sides of the story
  • To have an inaccurate perception of who someone is

Not only does this drive a wedge in relationships, but we build our ideas of who someone is or isn’t based upon false information. These kinds of lies can destroy even the closest of relationships.

And yet, how often do we choose to believe what others say about God, instead of what God says about Himself? Even as I peruse what my friends in social media have to say about God, I often see the following:

God is going to smite me for…

God is going to hate me because…

God will never forgive me for…

If I stepped into a church building, it would be struck by lightening.

Photo: Courtesy of Ian Boggs

These are all lies that we have grown accustomed to believe in. And, once we have believed in them, we then build our ideas of who God is (or isn’t) around these lies. Therefore, any bad circumstance that happens in our lives could be perceived as a punishment, or a lack of love from God, a discipline, or God bestowing His wrath and judgement on us.

What a great way for Satan to hinder our relationship with God – to make us  believe that God is something He’s not.

So my challenge to you this week is three-fold:

  1. Think through your own concept of who God is.
  2. Find a Bible verse (or verses) that refute any negative characteristics that you have attributed to God. Find out what God has to say about Himself.
  3. Ask God to give you a biblical reality to refute your negative concept of who God is.

For instance:

  1. God is a stern judge, waiting to punish us for our sin.
  2. “God is a righteous judge…” Psalm 7:11
  3. We do not deserve Heaven. And, if God gave us what we really deserved, we would all be separated from God for eternity.

Or…

  1. God does not desire to have a personal relationship with us.
  2. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
  3. The death of Jesus enables us to have a personal relationship with God. If God did not want a personal relationship with us, we would still live under the Old Testament law and Christ never would have died for our sins. If God did not want a personal relationship with us, He would not have sent His Holy Spirit to live within us.

It is only when we ground ourselves biblically in a true understanding of who God is, that we can refute these lies from Satan. So, my question to you, is, what lie are you believing?

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The Good in Grief

Currently in the top 10 most read articles, is my blog post, “The Good in Grief” posted at Relevant Magazine.

If you or someone you know has dealt with suffering and struggles to understand the ‘why’ behind their pain, please read this article and/or share with others!

“It is our understanding of who God is that either hinders or enables us to continue to trust Him when bad things happen in our lives.”

What is your view of God? Here’s mine!

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