Discovering new purpose in loss

Cancer Adventures has expanded beyond cancer—new name: Renew | Repurpose—with a mission of helping people discover fresh purpose in seasons of loss.

The concept of repurposing catches my imagination. It’s the idea of adapting something for a purpose other than its original intent — a purpose that can be just as valuable, and effective, and gorgeous.

Like this barn. Once a habitat for animals and hay, and maybe even varmints. And now a beautiful house.


Not my house


My dream home would be a salvaged, renovated barn transformed into beautiful living spaces.


Also not my house


If you’re thinking, Why not just build a house to look like a barn?, you’ve missed the point. Smile. I don’t want a house that looks like a barn; I want a barn transformed into a warm, welcoming, open-beamed home because of the powerful word picture that paints.

And I’d like to invite people into my home who have suffered loss — for the visual reminder that God delights in taking the shatters of our dreams and re-designing them into a new and gorgeous purpose.


Not my loft bedroom

Not my grandkids’ quarters … but you get the idea


I’d like to host day-long retreats for the bereaved, and maybe even cancer caregivers, with emphasis on these aims:

Eat better. A nutritionist could speak to good nutrition and lead a cooking demo, especially since most of us empty-nest widows quit cooking after our husbands are gone.

Get moving. I’d love to lead a gentle hike to encourage my guests toward increased physical activity. Because just think of all those endorphins being produced.

Practice self-care. This wasn’t high on my list of priorities during my cancer caregiving years. But it should have been. Because if we’re taking care of ourselves physically, mentally/ emotionally, and spiritually, then we are better able to care for our loved ones.

Get creative. What would it look like to offer an art session — perhaps a mosaic-making class that illustrates the picking up of shattered pieces and creating something new and beautifully useful?

Incorporate gratitude. I’d love to provide journals for each guest, accompany them out into nature, and encourage them to take note of all there is to be grateful for: family and friends who think the world of them; lungs that work, this breath in, this breath out; sound of creek burbling over large rocks; taste of cinnamon tea. And what if I encouraged them to eventually fill their journals with one thousand things they’re grateful for?

Consider giving back. What if I asked each guest these questions: What is it you’ve always wanted to do that would bring more hope and purpose into your life? Listen to second graders read? Rock newborn babies in the hospital? Teach water color classes? Learn to speak Italian? Help dig wells in Africa? Design a better mousetrap? Host an international exchange student? Rescue an orphan, a foster child, a pet? What are the first steps to get you there? Write them down. Dream on paper.

* * *

When my husband, Gary, died of cancer, I pared down to fit almost everything I own into my friends’ 10-ft cargo trailer. I sold or gave away most of the furniture, but kept the few repurposed pieces: a tall bookshelf Gary and I built from an old glass-fronted door still sporting its doorknob; a wooden trunk fashioned out of carved head- and footboards from my childhood bed; a hall mirror created from an old window, turned on its side with hooks added for scarves and hats.

Invaluable, whimsical pieces.

Because Hubby made them.

And because they were salvaged items put back to work. A different use, yes, than their original function, but still with gorgeous, creative purpose.

With the change to Renew | Repurpose, I’ll also be offering personal coaching: Coming alongside as a point of accountability, encouraging clients to take the action steps they’ve always wanted to take for living forward after loss.

What I’m not: A counselor.

What I am: A coach; a coach who has walked through loss heaped upon sorrow; a coach with tips to share that have renewed my joy, and set me in a re-purposeful direction.

What if we could find new meaning after unspeakable loss or unwelcome change? As in, loss of health, divorce, loss of a job or a way of life, or death of a most precious, irreplaceable person?

We can.

Just as outdated, run-down, drafty, dysfunctional, rusted, leaky things can be renovated into new and creative uses, we can re-shape our dreams and goals, and our lives can brim with fresh courage and hope and meaning.

P.S. If you’d like more information about coaching, please don’t hesitate to contact me:, with “coaching” in the subject line.

And if you know of someone who has experienced loss and needs a nudge toward finding new purpose, please share, tweet or pin this post!


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  1. Allison Mccormick

    I am so proud of you! I will be praying for God’s direction and wisdom as you move forward. Our God is an awesome amazing God capable of using our humanness to fulfill his plans. What a wonderful dream he has placed in your heart. Keep focused, resist discouragement and know he is in control.

    • Thank you for believing in my dreams/vision/goals … and for these words, Allison: “Keep focused, resist discouragement and know [God] is in control.”

  2. Sandy

    This is beautiful, Marlys! You are an inspiration.

  3. Marshall Matthews

    Wonderful information Marlys! Thank you and blessings for what you so courageously!

  4. kitty bennett

    You are an amazing woman! I love how God is using you! Keep writing…keep sharing your heart and what God is showing you! I believe I am not alone in being blessed with your honesty, openness and willingness to express your heart!

  5. Marcia Musial

    Thanks for this Marlys. We have several reclaimed wood pieces, made by the Amish and I adore them. When I look at that wood, I’m a child again, going to Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA. These items would be nothing special to anyone else and one is even kind of drab, but it’s the memories that they evoke!

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