Escaping the Jungle Heat

Me Ra Koh

In the thick afternoon heat of the jungle,

sometimes the only place to escape is


the ceiling fan, surrounded by open

windows with a blank page and

ready pen.

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Announcing our Running on Empty Winner for Seattle!

It was a very difficult choice, as it always. We ask our panel to not be swayed by the number of nominations for one person, and the numbers were overwhelming! Each one of you so deserving, with touching and heart wrenching stories to tell. I know the road is difficult for many of you, others filled with new possibilities.

As you know Me Ra and Brian try to include one deserving woman–a mom Running on Empty–per workshop. Then a hard working panel of past winners read the nominations and cast votes. It’s an honor, privilege and no cake walk to do. Me Ra and Brian honor each one of you – whether others nominated you or you nominated yourself. We always say this, but it’s so true: Your strength, love and passion are beautiful to witness, especially through times of hardship. Thank you again for sharing your stories and those of loved ones.

Our winner for the Seattle Confidence Workshop is …Andrea! We didn’t ask for full names – but you know who you are! Here is the story of her journey from her nomination:

“There are so many stories of heart-break and trial, suffering and overcoming, need and desperate hope. As I read the nominations of the women who have been nominated, I am struck by the journey and courage of each one. So, I submit myself today in empathy and awe of each woman.

I saw this announcement with just hours to spare and still in the midst of the most difficult season of my life. Honestly, it’s very difficult for me to share, humbling in so many ways. Bringing the truth of my circumstances into the light leaves me feeling VERY vulnerable. Yet, I do this in a step of faith, knowing how Me Rah has inspired me both professionally and personally. Knowing that I had hoped to have this opportunity and suddenly, the opportunity has presented itself.

Almost four years ago, my family moved here from across the country. My husband, 4 year old son and I. We had enjoyed a beautiful summer here the year before and so, when a job opened up, we packed up all we owned, left all we knew and started a new life. It seemed full of possibilities and excitement, but I was soon to enter a season of great loss.

The moment we pulled in our new driveway, my phone rang. My father, whom I adored, who we had just left 2,000 miles away and who had been cleared of his cancer, was calling to say it had returned and the doctor wasn’t hopeful. His precious, last six months, I was too far away to walk with him. Still, we dived into our new life, as he wanted us to, and I spent many, many phone calls cherishing every moment I could with him. I was grateful to spend the last month by his side and blessed to be the last person with him before he died.

Just a few months later, my step-daughter and her two young sons arrived for short visit. Only once in our home, she shared that she had no home to return to. We talked through her options and offered to let her stay with us, hoping to help her get back on her feet and start a new life. It was a hard thing to take on immediately after such a loss, but worthy of the sacrifice, we believed. Her time with us wasn’t always easy. Suddenly, my son had two other little boys sharing their mommy’s attention. Three extra people in the house made for tight quarters. But it gave all of us a great opportunity to learn, from littlest child to oldest adult, about sharing, growing, forgiveness, boundaries. Still, when it was time for them to move into their own home, my step-daughter chose to distance herself and we didn’t hear from her again. Once before we had attempted to help her in a crisis and we were beginning to see a pattern that broke our hearts, both for her, her children and our relationship.

During her last few months with us, my husband received notice that he was being laid off. We had moved here so he could take a position with a large home-builder…just months before the mortgage industry crashed. While he was a rising star in the company, the company sewer pump repair newport news va was suffering more and more. He was able to survive three lay-offs before finally, the company had no choice but to let him go as well.

I don’t know if it was the stress of all that we had experienced, the move, new job and then loss of job, stressess and losses, but just months later, my husband of 20 years left as well. My son, who had always been full of life and joy, was suddenly shattered and sullen and I wasn’t much better myself. Through prayer and friendship, God gave me the strength to overcome each day, to help my son through his grief and make his life as normal as possible.

Over the past 1 1/2, my husband and I have been separated and much of that time seeking counsel to see if the healing could come to restore our family. But then another devastating wave came. The women my husband had a short affair with announced she had had a child and it has proven to be his. It has shaken us to the core, because our son is adopted. We were never able to conceive and doctors told us it would be impossible for my husband to do so. It’s hard to explain the loss and pain I felt at this news. Years of painful infertility, I once thought healed, has been reopened and in a way that feels tragic and brutal. Some days it has been hard to get out of bed. The desire to hide from any more pain has been incredibly real and tempting.

The fire of the trials has brought all of the impurities to the surface in my heart and in our relationship. It is a disarming and humbling experience. I once had what felt like a normal, healthy, loving family and adventurous life. Things seemed predictable and it was a way of life I thought I could count on. Now, everything I have known has changed. I have moved away from everyone I love and who loves me, but have found friends here just for this season and my God who is with me wherever I go. My family isn’t looking like I had dreamed it would, but with everything in me, I know good is coming from this. I don’t see it fully yet, I don’t know what the future holds, but I have grown so much. I have the love of a beautiful son. I moment by moment choose to lay back and rest in the arms of the only One who can save me and moment by moment, day by day, I find victory, help, new strength and life, chosing to be forgive and live from as healthy a place as possible.

It isn’t easy though. Even financially, I make it one day at a time. My attempt to find work that fits my life right now has been a dead-end. But despite that, I took my tax return and took a HUGE leap of faith and bought a new camera. Years ago I had a wonderful film camera. My son’s first year home I KNOW I took more than 3,000 pictures just of him…and that was film! But with the cost being more than I could do, I settled for a little point and shoot that had me completely uninspired. I purchased my DSLR and the next day got on a plane to shoot my nephews graduation from Basic Training. I had said that I would never shoot weddings…but in May, my first real photo shoot is…you guessed it, a wedding! Having this outlet once again has been a breathe of life in a weary soul. I LOVE to capture life with my camera. I believe this is a new door for me, a place to inspire me and bless others and hopefully a way to provide a little extra income for my son and I.

Confidence. It’s a word that has taken on great meaning to me in this season. I realize now how little I used to have of it and how what I did have was shattered because of the loss and hurt. But, it’s also been a challenge and a promise to me. Rise up! Don’t be afraid! Take courage! You will walk in confidence! Believe it!

I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know this, I walk towards joy, life and confidence.

Thank you for considering me and all the worthy nominees!”

Andrea, one of our judges said, “She has endured such a long season of pain, that she truly deserves to be inspired and treasured for a weekend!!” I know we all completely agree. Email me at and let me know if you can make it happen!

Please help us congratulate Andrea!


  1. Shelly P. says:

    Congratulations Andrea! Seattle is going to be amazing…can’t wait to meet such strong & inspiring ladies 🙂

  2. jeramy says:

    huge congratulations Andrea! get ready for your life to be forever changed! enjoy.

  3. I love that photo MeRa! Living vicariously through you 😉
    And Congratulations to the beautiful Andrea!!! Our biggest fears and challenges can turn into the greatest gifts.

  4. BreAnna says:

    Andrea, you definitely deserve this girl!! Congrats! You are a strong and courageous woman. It’s my hope that this Confidence Workshop will only be the beginning of great things happening to you!

  5. That’s a great shot! Love the light and colors! Nice job

  6. Sara says:

    Congratulations, Andrea!

  7. Linda Keeney says:

    love this post. Congratulations Andrea!

  8. Julie Watts says:

    Oh Andrea! Wow. The grace in which you’ve described being a woman in the eye of so many storms and weathering them with all your might is heartwrenching, inspiring. You are so about to be so filled up…the wisdom you’ve gained from enduring the past few years will be a foundation that holds you up from these same hurts….hugs and congratulations!

  9. Amy Peterson says:

    CONGRATS! Andrea, I think you deserve this more than anyone! You may not have suffered something devastating like the loss of a child, but you have endured a succession of hardships that seem, i’m sure, never-ending. I hope that you find peace and hope for yourself and your son in the time you spend in Seattle. I’ll be praying for you and yours. -Amy

  10. Charisse says:

    Congratulations Andrea! This is just the beginning of new doors that are opening up for you!

  11. Carmalee says:

    Congratulations Andrea
    You have shown such confidence in life – I’m sure that a weekend with Me Ra will do the same for your passion. I can’t wait to meet you in Seattle!

  12. Phillipa says:

    You deserve this Andrea. Congratulations!

  13. Andrea says:

    I am absolutely stunned…and so humbled to receive such a gracious gift. This and the beautiful words spoken to me, I am letting just wash over me this morning like a refreshing spring in the middle of a dry and weary land. As I lay in bed last night, I felt like Cinderella…about to go to the ball and be treated like a princess. I can scarcely take it in. Please know how thankful I am!

  14. Andrea, congratulations!! I can speak from my own experience that it will truly be so wonderful to be on the receiving end of amazing support and inspiration at the workshop!!! And you deserve it! Just enjoy it and soak it all in!!! This will change everything and a bright new season for you starts now!!! Yay!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  15. Laura Hanis says:

    Congratulations, Andrea. Enjoy every moment of this wonderful workshop with Me Ra, Brian and all the other ladies!

  16. Carrie says:

    Congratulations Andrea! What a wonderful gift, hope it takes you to wonderful places you never even dreamed of! Enjoy every minute of it, you so deserve this time of discovery for YOU!