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April 6, 1994

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the Rwanda genocide. I am reposting this in honor of my Rwandan brothers and sisters who lost loved ones during this unimaginable massacre. Laura

laura whitfield

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the beginning of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

I wrote about the genocide when I began working as a staff writer for Samaritan’s Purse in October of ’94. I poured over photos. Talked to field personnel. I wrote to make sense of the madness. I wrote so others could make sense of it, too.

Then, last year, I traveled to Rwanda for the first time. There I met Florence. Lambert. Jeanne D’Arc. Odilo. Rose. Jennifer. Bibi. Richard. Andrew. And Sarah.

The first six are survivors. Each of them has a story and each story is heart-wrenching.

Bibi, Richard, Andrew, and Sarah were not yet born or are too young to remember.

And, yet, what they all have in common is hope. And a deep and abiding faith in God.

Rwanda is a beautiful country. Its people are strong and resilient. Despite the obstacles, and there are…

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Living in the Shadow

Tomorrow we remember the day that changed our lives forever. A repost from 9.11.11.

laura whitfield

Now go back to your classroom and act like nothing has happened. 

Those are the words my headmaster spoke to me after telling me that two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers and that no one really knew what was going on.

I remember thinking, I can’t do this. I can’t go back in there and pretend that the world has not changed forever.

I took a deep breath and walked dutifully into my classroom. I looked at my students sitting up front on the circle and lifted a quick prayer.

My own children, thank God, were there with me at school that day and I knew they were in capable hands.

The rest of the morning was a blur. I remember trying to pull up something, anything, on my computer. Finally I saw a photo of smoke billowing from Tower One. The image took my breath away.


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Lovely London


I just arrived in London and look forward to sharing my adventures with you. Stay tuned and cheerio!

The Power of Connecting

To my readers: I recently wrote this guest blog post for Jacqueline Boone at 6 Months to Live Jacqueline is a connector and an adventuress who lives each day defying small! Enjoy. Laura


Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. ~ Brene Brown

A lot has been written about the power of connecting. And if you move in the world of social media, like I do, you begin to believe that connecting means this: more Facebook followers, more blog hits, more retweets.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You see, connecting isn’t just about numbers. It’s about joining with others to accomplish something you’re unable to accomplish alone.

2a3f6f0385a5e16ca220c33ae84d91cbConnecting sharpens us. I’ve been writing professionally for twenty-seven years, but I’ve only been tweeting for three (you can read my life-changing Twitter story here). Over the past few years I’ve learned a lot about blogging. But I still have to seek out marketing experts to help me with SEO, RSS, and HTML. By connecting, I can be even better at what I do best.

Connecting inspires us. What I love most about connecting is seeing other people embrace their gifts and passions and live their biggest lives. When I connect, I not only have allies helping me reach my goals, but I have the joy of helping them, too. People like Jacqueline, alias “Cheerleader of the World,” who is also writing a book this summer. And Torre deRoche and Evan Sanders, who just launched theirs.

The beauty of connecting is that every connection is as unique as the two people themselves. Sometimes connecting is just a brief interlude. At other times it is a life-altering catalyst that sets you on a path of change and growth.

Connecting transforms us. One great example is this blog post. I recently took an online blogging class through Skillshare called “Build Your Blog’s Unique Brand & Audience.” Jacqueline was my teacher.

Not only did I learn how to make my blog more appealing, I also met a kindred spirit and made a new friend.


Carl Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” I’ll never forget something Jacqueline said to me the first time we spoke on the phone. After a few minutes of chatting she laughed and said, “You’re a connector!” I already knew that about myself. But being recognized as a connector? That was life-changing.

It was that connection (and a series of others) that birthed the idea for Defying Small, an online community I founded of visionaries who want to live bigger, more passionate lives.

Connecting requires vulnerability. I love connecting because I am an off-the-charts relational being. I am also an introvert. I need time alone to think, work, and refuel. Connecting requires stepping out of my own world and into another’s. It means self-disclosure and vulnerability (risk). If we’re going to connect with others in a deep and genuine way, we must be vulnerable. And that means being our true, authentic selves.

Daring Great author Brene Brown has researched and written extensively about vulnerability and the profound impact of connection. Here’s a TED Talk she gave on the subject:

“They had connection as a result of authenticity. They were willing to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were.”

How are you connecting with others? How has connecting changed your life? I’d love to hear your stories. Please leave a comment below.

A death-defying dive into life


Photo: Julia Fullerton-Batten

If you ask me, there’s nothing worse than jumping off a high dive. Unless you are pushed. And that’s exactly what cancer is like.

I wasn’t ready to dive into the chilling waters of breast cancer. Swim through weeks of radiation. Or tread through years of meds. I found myself looking out over the deep end of worry and fear, then suddenly, I was plunging in.

Growing up, I was the kid at Tanglewood Swim Club who would climb to the top of the high dive, walk to the end, and then stand there for what seemed like hours, staring at the water and contemplating my fate. Which, of course, was always death.

If you jump from something this high, I reasoned, you’ll die. It was that simple.


“High Dive” by Norman Rockwell

Day after day I would face My Giant. Today’s the day, I’d tell myself.

But no matter how stalwart my resolve, I always came to the same conclusion. And I’d climb down and make everyone waiting on the ladder behind me, climb down, too.

I knew they resented me, the girl in the pink polka-dot two piece. I was a wimp. A nerd. A scaredy cat. (It did help that my handsome older brother was a lifeguard and surely saved me from some terrible fate.)

But this post is not about cancer or dying. It’s about living. Here’s what I’ve learned.

It was my unexpected dive into cancer that taught me to have faith. To trust. When you’re on your way down, the best place to look is up.


Secondly, it taught me that there really is a fate worse than death. And that is to never really live at all.

So I began living. Wide-eyed-in-your-face-out-loud-living. And that is when some of my great adventures began.

First, there was Paris (my post-radiation trip—thank you, Stephen).


Then Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills.


In a few weeks I’m heading to London for my five-year survivor trip (I fancy being the cheeky blonde, below, second from the right).


But my newest and most fearful adventure is Defying Small, the online community I recently founded for visionaries who are daring to live bigger, more passionate lives. People like Torre DeRoche (you go, girl!) the #fearfuladventurer herself.

This summer I will be writing a book called Defying Small: How Defining Life Moments Can Help You Live A Bigger, More Passionate Life. I’m terrified. I also can’t wait to get out of bed every morning.

I’ve come a long way since those climbs up the ladder of the high dive back in my hometown.

Now, whenever I look over the terrifying precipice of my latest adventure and contemplate my fate, I simply shout “Let’s go, baby!” and dive right in.

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.”

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…

My Top Thirteen for 2013

Mixed media collage "Life" by Rachel Bradley

Mixed media collage “Life” by Rachel Bradley

While some of you have been making your list of Top Ten New Years’ Resolutions, I’ve been pondering My Top Thirteen Moments On Planet Earth (in honor of 2013).

This is surely a work-in-progress, but, for now, here they are:

1) Receiving the gifts of Love and Forgiveness from Above (thank you, Jesus).

2) Mother moments: Finding out I was having twins, and, later, #3. Holding Elizabeth, Hannah and Annie in my arms for the first time. And every moment since May 2, 1989, 9:48 pm.

3) Priceless moments with family and friends. Finding Fiona (my fuzzy girlfriend).

4) My first poem/published article/newspaper column/typewriter/writing desk.

5) Lunch with Ruth Bell Graham at Little Piney Cove. Weekend writing retreat with Madeleine L’Engle.

6) Lunch with handsome boyfriend on the Eiffel Tower.

7) Photo shoot in the Mediterranean with Regent Seven Seas. Standing on the balcony of the Sicilian villa where they filmed “The Godfather II” while someone played “Speak Softly Love” on a piano below.

8) Life-changing travel experiences: Rwanda (2010). Paris (2008). Turkey, Greece, Italy, Sicily, France, Spain (2004, 2006). Dominican Republic (2004). Romania, Belarus (1995). Latvia, Estonia, Russia (1990).

9) Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for the first time in a rented convertible. Yeah, baby.

10) Moments en Francais: Seeing Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Monet’s “Waterlillies.” Minueting in the garden at Versailles.

11) Seeing an angel in Carrboro, NC, while tooling along in my 1968 VW Beetle. True story (I have a witness).

12) Being at the bedside of my parents as they slipped from this world to the next.

13) Finally, all the millions of unspoken, and yet, profound, moments that have shaped who I am today. Grateful for each and every one.

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 50 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The List (top ten destinations)

1.   Great Britain:  London. Cambridge. Oxford. The West Country, Cotswolds, & Lake District. Oh, heck. The whole thing. Edinburgh and Ben Nevis in Scotland.

2.   Spain & Portugal – I was in Barcelona for 24 hrs. I want to see more.

3.   Italy – Tuscan countryside. Sicily. Venice, Florence, and Rome (third time’s the charm)

4.   France – Paris (you knew I’d say that). Giverny. Provence.

5.   Greece – remaining islands

6.   Fiji and Bali

7.   Prince Edward Island – lighthouse tour

8.   The Big Country – Montana and Wyoming

9.   Taos and Sante Fe, New Mexico. Sedona, Arizona

10. The arms of a special someone.

Thinking of you . . .

is like sunset on water.

photo by Annie Watts Photography

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