Category: Communications

Remembering My Why in Denver

I tried really hard but between the intriguing conversation with my Ethiopian taxi cab driver and the bumps from Denver’s road construction, I couldn’t seem to snap a great picture of the mountains. Not everyone’s amazing at iPhone photography. Case in point:

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Contrary to what the pictures may seem, the Colorado Rockies were beautiful. I kept staring at the white-topped peaks, curious how exactly “faith as small as a mustard seed” could move them. Realizing it’s a symbol pointing to something greater, I appreciated that I finally understood. It was nice to be in Denver again.

Working in Denver

I work as part of a virtual team at Fight Colorectal Cancer which means most of my co-workers live in cities all over the U.S. Thanks to Google, we work online most of the time. But every few months we travel to meet face-to-face. This isn’t only nice when it comes to meeting fellow survivors, but it’s also great for our team.

There’s certain things that can’t quite translate across the computer screen.

Plus, it’s fun to meet in person. One unique, yet fun, aspect to the team is that we often meet in our homes when we’re on the road. We eat at each other’s kitchen tables, admire our individual decorating styles and use one another’s pottys. Talk about close-knit.

This particular trip to Denver focused on patient education and research. I caught up with the girls leading this area about upcoming plans and what they have in the works. We reviewed focus group feedback and made changes to our publications in light of it. In the midst of heavy discussions, we took a break to discuss our spirit animals.

I’m a llama in case you were wondering.

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Why I Do What I Do

The trip was short but beneficial in many ways.

As I rolled my suitcase through the airport, I initially started thinking about my to-do list. But then I started reflecting on my “why.” It was a question I’ve sought to answer for several months.

When I first accepted my job, it was a no-brainer. A communications job in colorectal cancer for a survivor who studied PR – it couldn’t be a better fit. But unprocessed trauma and triggers that bring it back have a way of rocking the mental boat. Along the way I lost my “why”

Why work in colorectal cancer every day?

Why jump into an environment that reminds me of my personal pain? Why risk relationships if death’s knocking at our doors? Why surround myself with cancer after I’ve survived it myself?

The questions seemed to bring a darkness that hung so low on some days, light could barely shine through. I simply tried to put one foot in front of the other.

Thankfully, those days passed but the experience will stick forever. It’s a side of cancer survivorship I didn’t anticipate, but I am passionate to share.

Many of us who strive to “give back” may face it (regardless of if it becomes a job).

I looked around the airport at others walking by with squeaky suitcases and wondered if they too would be impacted by the disease one day. I checked my notifications on Facebook and saw survivors liking, sharing and commenting on our Facebook posts. I checked my email and read several messages from fellow survivors who wanted a copy of our newly released-magazine. I thought about my family at home waiting for me.

All of these people were my why.

They where why I risked it to work in colorectal cancer each day.

They were why I’d left home for a few days.

They were why I found myself in Denver staring out a taxi cab window taking crappy pictures of the mountains.

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My Biggest Aha! from the Writer’s Conference

Attended a writer’s conference over the weekend.

Writer’s conference selfie. Learning how to tell better stories and offer hope to this broken world.

A photo posted by Danielle Ripley-Burgess (@danielleisb) on

I learned I have maybe 60 seconds to convey my message right now so I’ll make it brief. This was my biggest “aha!” moment:

If you know my story, you know I felt called to international missions as a little kid. Colon cancer at age 17 years old changed my plans. Talk about a total bummer and inconvenience.

For years I’ve wrestled with this aspect of my calling.

God used a blogging class by RJ Thesman to connect the dots and restore my vision for missions.

I can be a missionary – a global one! It doesn’t require travel or health risks. I just need a keyboard, internet access and divinely inspired words. Blogging is missions. (Um, and I happen to LOVE doing that.)

Talk about a game changer for me.

What else did I learn?

If you’re still reading you’re one of the few who stick with a blog post longer than a few seconds. So HIGH FIVE.

Do me a big favor & leave a comment – then you’ll be SUPER AMAZING!

While I still have you, here’s a few other nuggets I’m bringing home after a great weekend.

Follow God’s lead when he says “Go to the writer’s conference.”
All year I felt led to attend this conference. The hubby’s job loss came right before I registered. I debated spending the money, but knew I needed to go. I’m walking out of this conference with new goals and vision. Blog ideas and excitement. Clarity of calling and dreams. Contacts and immediate opportunities to submit articles and devotionals for print. I’m glad I went – it was worth every penny.

The millennial generation needs something new.
A class about the history of Christian publishing showed a breakdown of generational viewpoints on Scripture. The millennials’ views (I’m one of the oldest born in 1983) broke my heart yet inspired me at the same time. Something’s got to change in how we approach millennials about God, faith, the Bible and beliefs. I’m a leader in this generation and I’m leaving the conference encouraged that I can help.

Recognize concrete vs abstract words.
For a few months in college I declared English education as my major. I still get oddly jazzed about a grammar lesson. A class on devotional writing gave me the single-biggest tip that will influence my writing from now until I hit the grave:  abstract vs. concrete writing.

Huh? You say. Here you go:

Abstract: The class inspired me to be a better devotional writer and achieve the big dreams written on my heart.

Concrete: The class was like getting a new eyeglass prescription. I learned that visual examples, not using the word “you,” and removing “churchy” words will help my readers better understand me and clearly understand what to do after reading my devotional.

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Called to write.

Themes follow me around. The women’s retreat at our church a few weeks ago? “Called.”

The writer’s conference theme – “Embrace the Call.”

I get it – I’m called to write. I’m called to a few other things too which I’ll be writing about in the future.

So many readers over the years affirmed my writing gift. If you’re one of them – THANK YOU. You helped me have confidence to attend a writer’s conference and talk to professional editors and agents.  I’m excited for the year ahead.

Big thanks to the Heart of America Christian Writer’s Conference for hosting this yearly event each fall!

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