On Tuesday October 11, 2011 Leanne (Chin) was diagnosed with breast cancer. This blog will follow her journey. It will share the peaks and valleys along the way. But it will also serve as a way to communicate prayer requests and praises. Join us as we partner with Chin and fight along side her for she "...can do all things through Christ who strengthens her." Phil. 4:13

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The meaning behind Chin ... There is a Chinese restaurant in the Twin Cities named Leann Chin. While Leanne was attending a basketball camp in middle school, a fellow camper had a bag from the restaurant. This camper made the connection between the name of the restaurant and Leanne's name. And the nickname Chin stuck!

Thursday, May 19, 2016


An excerpt from this article titled Why Everything Does Not Happen For A Reason
In this way, I believe in suffering as a sacred space; one where we get to choose.
I can remember all the horrid details, but I'll only list a few here:
  • The exit # I was at when Aimee called to say Leanne was given only days to live ... #89
  • Taking the steering wheel and making Bret go north on 35 when my mom texted "we need everyone here"
  • Literally holding a plastic bag in my hands from Ankeny to Ames because the urge to throw up was so strong
  • Sitting at my best friends house in Ames nursing Claire and sobbing so hard we could not talk
  • Driving in the pounding rain from Albert Lea to Abbott Northwestern hospital begging God for a miracle 
  • Running into the hospital and seeing my dad, one of the strongest men I know looking more defeated and devastated than I have ever seen him before
  • Walking into that ICU room and seeing my sister laying in that bed, her body ravaged from the cancer that was killing her
  • Watching Leo, Mollie, and Crosby happily run the halls of the hospital while trying to process how we would ever tell them that Leanne was dying 
I could focus only on all that. And become bitter. And angry. And resentful. 

I had a choice to make. Because grief is a lifelong process, I will still experience all the anger, bitterness, denial, sadness, and every other emotion that comes along with grief. But I don't have to stay there. 

I was in a bible study this year and we studied the book of Revelation. Throughout this study I saw how God displays great mercy in all He does. During one lesson on suffering, the lecturer made this statement. "Sometimes all God wants us to do is to rejoice in suffering." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

So I made a choice to rejoice in this suffering. I made a list of some of the ways God showed mercy to me during Leanne's death and in the two years since then.

  • God allowing numerous people to come to salvation in Jesus because of her faith filled life and death
  • Bittersweet moments together in the hospital before Leanne died, including sweet goodbyes to each of my girls 
  • Our entire family making it to the hospital in time to see Leanne and say good bye before she was put on meds to ease her pain
  • Sweet family time in the week between Leanne's death and her Celebration of Life service
  • New relationships made with those who have also lost family members
  • Seeing God use my grief to help others navigate their own journey of grief
  • The reminder that nothing we do can trump God's sovereign plan for our lives
  • A perspective of looking at people and circumstances in light of eternity
Do I choose to rejoice all the time? No. But I do have to say that it is getting easier and easier each time I choose joy over anger.

What is God calling you to rejoice in? Even though it may seem like God's mercy isn't there, it is. You just may have to look a little deeper to find it. The choice is worth it.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

One Month to Live

The church that Ryan, Leo, and my parents attend is doing a sermon series about the book One Month to Live. You can check out more info on the book here.

Ryan was contacted by a friend at church to see if he and our family would be interested in sharing about how Leanne's life and death has affected the way we live our lives. Check out the video they showed at church last week!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Update on Deb

Deb had 12 of her 16 chemo treatments and was able to stop early because the treatments were so effective! She met with Dr. Bloom (Oncologist) and Dr. Johnson (Surgeon) and they scheduled surgery. She had her double mastectomy on Wednesday October 7th. Surgery went well and they had to remove very few lymph nodes!! She received the initial pathology report and it showed that her cancer had a "complete pathological response" to the chemo she received!!!! It also showed that there were no cancer cells left and the lymph nodes were also negative for cancer cells. She will hopefully head home on Friday. As of right now, she has a follow up appointment scheduled for next week where she will likely find out if radiation is necessary.

I know Deb is incredibly thankful for your prayers. Please keep praying for:

  • A quick recovery from surgery
  • Low pain levels for Deb 
  • Good sleep 
  • Patience for Deb as she takes the time to recover
  • Wisdom as she tries to figure out what she can and cannot do in her recovery
If you are interested in bring Deb and Don a meal or to help out in another way, please contact rclemenson@gmail.com 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stories: Family Edition vol. 7

I thought it would be good to give you all a chance to get to know my family a little better through having them share the past year in their own words. Grieving the loss of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend looks different. Through each story, our goal is to give you a picture of how this year has transformed us. May you be encouraged by their humility and transparency as they share the pain of death, the hope Jesus offers, and everything else in between.

Here is Ryan's story:

God’s Plan

     As we neared the end of our senior year in college and were starting to look for “real” jobs, Leanne would always say that God has a plan for our lives and we just need to trust him.  From then on, every time something didn’t go according to our plans for our lives, she would keep reminding me that God has a plan that is bigger and better than anything we could plan for ourselves.  It’s easy to say that when you don’t get the job you wanted and you are in a long distance relationship, but at least you get to see each other every weekend.  Or when you do get married, but each have to drive an hour to get to work each day in opposite directions.  But when you hear the words “This is cancer” when you are so excited to be starting a family and all that goes along with that, saying and believing that God has a bigger and better plan for our lives is much, much, much harder to do. 

      It is easy to look back and see all of the ways that God was working in our lives and our relationship from the very beginning.  From coordinating busy schedules in college, to a two year long distance relationship, to getting married but each having long commutes, to bringing us to Life Church in Fergus where the people there took us in like family when we didn’t know anyone, to taking Financial Peace University classes to set us up to be debt free even though Leanne had cancer, to placing people in our lives that would and will support us no matter what, to moving to the Twin Cities for better medical care, to keeping Leo safe and healthy even though he came into this world much differently than we had planned, to placing me in my current job that is awesome and that has allowed me to go to appointments with Leanne and do whatever I needed to do to take care of her.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

     Through all of that, Leanne still never wavered in her faith or in reminding me that God has a plan.  Now, as we go on with our lives on earth without her physically here with us, I am continually reminded that God does have a plan.  Even though it looks nothing like what I had planned for our lives about 4 years ago.  The last year has gone by so fast and to be honest, the first few months are a blur.  Many of you have shared stories about how Leanne impacted your lives in one way or another.  Leanne was never shy about talking about God or telling people what he had done in her life.  She was an inspiration to many, including myself, and I believe that God placed her in all of our lives to teach us what it means to be a faithful, trusting, loving, and caring person.

     I’ve had several people ask me if I’m angry or mad at God for taking Leanne from me at such a young age.  I haven’t really been sure how to answer that question and honestly I still don’t know how to answer it but I will give it a shot.  I can’t be mad that the cyst she found was originally diagnosed as a cyst and nothing to be worried about, because if it was diagnosed as cancer at that time we wouldn’t have Leo.  I can’t be mad that she got cancer, because it not only brought her an I closer together, it brought our families much closer together.  I can’t be angry that she died because I know that she had Jesus in her heart and that she is in Heaven.  I can’t be angry that she is no longer in pain and no longer suffering here on Earth.  I can’t be mad about the friendships and support that we have gained over the last 3 ½ years.  And I definitely cannot be mad about the way Leanne taught me to trust in God above all else and to know that he does have a plan that is bigger and better than anything we can plan for ourselves.

     I’m not saying that every day is a great day or even that any day is a great day by any means.  What I know is that we have God on our side, he will lead us through anything that he has planned for us and he will continue to provide for us in ways that I cannot explain.  I also know that God has given me the responsibility to raise Leo without Leanne here and he will continue to put people in place to help me raise him up to know God. 

     Fran shared a blog with me recently that does a great job of summing up how I feel about the “firsts” without Leanne.  This man lost his wife just a few weeks ago to cancer.  I’m not going to go into great detail and pretend that I came up with this on my own, so you can check out the post at http://www.mundanefaithfulness.com/home/2015/5/6/firsts .  My favorite part of it is when he says, “I needed to know that I could fumble through this, that I would do okay. That I could process through decisions without her input. I needed to know that whatever we as a family decided to do was okay.”  For as much as Leanne didn’t like to make decisions about certain things for our family and would tell me that she trusted my decision, it was still easier making that decision with her input and opinion.  After reading this blog post, I realized that whatever decision we make is ok. 

     I am so thankful that God placed Leanne in my life and how he has pieced everything together since.  I know I wouldn’t be where I am in my faith or in parenting today without her influence.  I am also very thankful for the White family and for all that they do to help out with Leo and to take care of us.  I am thankful for my family and for all the help and support they have provided us as well.  Finally, I am thankful for all of the conversations, messages, emails, texts, phone calls, and cards that we have received over the last year from all of Team Chin.  Knowing that Leanne had an impact for God on so many people has made this a little bit easier.

I am also very thankful for all of your prayers.  I do have a few prayer requests to share.
  • Pray that Leo would understand what happened and for the right words to explain it to him
  • Pray for continued peace for our families
  • Pray for my mom as she has begun her own battle and treatments against breast cancer 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Stories: Family Edition vol. 6

I thought it would be good to give you all a chance to get to know my family a little better through having them share the past year in their own words. Grieving the loss of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend looks different. Through each story, our goal is to give you a picture of how this year has transformed us. May you be encouraged by their humility and transparency as they share the pain of death, the hope Jesus offers, and everything else in between.

Here is Chris' story:

So where do I start? Do I start with "God's got this"? Do I start with how I feel? Do I start with what I've learned? Do I start with where I go from here? Where do I start?

            As I write this, it's been almost a year since Leanne went to heaven. On one level, it seems like that was yesterday and on another it seems like the longest year of my life. I can remember that day and the emotions as if it were yesterday and at the same time I cannot imagine that I have gone a year without seeing her or hearing her voice.

            The past twelve months have been a season of "Firsts". First birthday, first Christmas, first anniversary, Leo’s first birthday without mommy, you get the picture. Each one has been a difficult reminder that Leanne is not here to share them. This is the last first. So what now?

            On that day, May 20th at 4:45pm, our world turned completely upside down. We were facing changes in our lives we never expected or wanted. What would happen to our family? What would happen to Ryan and Leo? What do we do? Who we talk to about this?

            Here's what I know:

*   We miss Leanne like crazy.
*   We know she is no longer in pain or hurting.
*   We hurt for Ryan and Leo.
*   Our lives will never be the same.
*   We have to move forward.

            Here's what I also know:

*   God is in control.
*   He never left my side.
*   His plan is perfect.
*   He knows and cares how I feel.
*   I will see Leanne again.

            A good friend of mine asked me the other day if God gives us glimpses of Leanne. I quickly answered yes. We have had messages of love and care throughout the year that have assured us we (and Leanne) are not forgotten. We have been contacted by complete strangers who have been touched my Leanne's story. And most importantly, we see daily reminders of Leanne in Leo. From his "Spicy" personality, to his infectious sense of humor, we see so much of her (and Ryan) in him.

            We put on our "Game faces" each day and go out to our work, meetings, activities, etc. We tell people we are doing "Okay" because that's people need to hear. To be honest, we are not doing okay. We are getting through. We are hurting and missing Leanne. As a dear friend told me "You cannot go back, you cannot stay where you are, you can only move forward". And so we do. It is not easy and we are not alone.

            Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians holds language of special comfort for me; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed".

            God has been with us every step of the way. We have been aware of his presence through his Holy Spirit and his word. We have felt "God hugs" that reassure us we are not in this by ourselves. It is such a blessing to have a family that are believers and are of one mind. We are able to cling to God and each other to get through the days, weeks and months. There have been so many of you who have cared for us, prayed for us, been servants to us, we cannot say thank-you enough.

            And where do we go from here? We long for heaven to come to earth so our family can be complete again. We have families whose lives must go on. We have Leo to build a memory of mommy with. Where do we go? What do we do?

            What we do is we trust in God and His perfect plan. He knew what was going to happen all along. And He knows what's going to happen in the future. We need to rest in the assurance of his love and provision. As Leanne said "God's got this".

            I'm reminded of Paul's letter to the Romans chapter 8:37-39; "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord".

            We are not the same people we were a year ago. In some ways we are better and in some we are worse. We miss Leanne and we miss the way our family used to be. But we hold dear to the promise that we will be a complete family for eternity. In that we find hope. We have seen the incredible impact Leanne's story has had on literally thousands of people.

            We pray that Leanne's message of faith and hope in God will continue to impact lives. We are committed to sharing her story as often as we can in the hope that lives will change and God will be glorified.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Stories: Family Edition vol. 5

I thought it would be good to give you all a chance to get to know my family a little better through having them share the past year in their own words. Grieving the loss of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend looks different. Through each story, our goal is to give you a picture of how this year has transformed us. May you be encouraged by their humility and transparency as they share the pain of death, the hope Jesus offers, and everything else in between.

Here is Bret's story:

Leanne’s loyalty and commitment to Christ has been shared on this blog numerous times the past three years.  The verse memorization, music, thoughts, devotions, prayers, readings, etc. were such a testament to me and many others.  Watching Leanne lean on Christ more and more has encouraged so many, including myself, to do the same.  God has truly blessed all of us who were able to see this through Leanne.  My prayer now is that God would give us the same loyalty and commitment for His purposes that he gave Leanne.

God has taught us all quite a few things this past year.  Specifically for me, I feel like we have learned and are continuing to learn the following:
  1. God’s plan is better than mine and many blessings come our way in God’s plan.  Even when it is scary and doesn’t make sense to me at the time, like moving to Minnesota. 
  2. Family is a sweet gift from God and it is a blessing to have nearby.  This is why he created family and why he wants us to continue to work and encourage each other in these relationships.
  3. God wants all of my life not just part of it.  God wants me to depend on him for the diaper changes, meetings, tough conversations, disciplinary times, dance parties, good conversations, and commutes.  Proverbs 16:3
  4. Don’t worry, God’s got this!  Well said, Leanne!

Going through trials like this past year are not fun and I wouldn’t wish these on anyone.  However, I think trials have a way of teaching me more than the good times in life and allowing me to see my need for Christ even more in my life. 

I pray that you may all be able to not worry and allow God to get it!


Stories: Family Edition vol. 4

I thought it would be good to give you all a chance to get to know my family a little better through having them share the past year in their own words. Grieving the loss of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend looks different. Through each story, our goal is to give you a picture of how this year has transformed us. May you be encouraged by their humility and transparency as they share the pain of death, the hope Jesus offers, and everything else in between.

Here is Danielle's story:

“Mommy, could I send a picture to Auntie Lanny?”
“Umm…well…I’m sorry Crosby, we can’t.” (holding back tears)
“Why not?”
“Crosby, the mail doesn’t get delivered in heaven, but I just know Auntie Lanny would love it.”

Conversations with our two girls have been the most difficult over the past year.  I have struggled with what to say, how to say it and whether or not I should say anything at all. Children are so innocent and curious.  As a mom, this is has been one of the hardest things I’ve wrestled with.  My heart hurts for all of our littles who’ve spent limited time with their Auntie Lanny/mommy.  Our girls, our nieces, our nephew, the littles. 

Our memories of Leanne, have now become our girls memories of her.  Stories of a week spent at a cabin in Wisconsin, Thanksgiving in Iowa, holiday and summer time fun, sweet hand crafted gifts, kitty shirts, dress ups, and family photos are just some of the memories we share.  We look through scrapbooks and photo albums, talking about amazing time spent with Leanne.  Auntie Lanny comes up daily.

As a parent, we want to protect our children from the sadness in this world.  This has been nearly impossible over this past year.  I have looked to my heavenly father over and over asking him for help.  Help in knowing how to share my memories of Leanne.  Help in knowing the right things to say during those difficult conversations with Crosby.  Help in processing this overwhelmingly sad loss.  Help in keeping it together as a mommy and a wife.

One of the very last things Leanne spoke to us is that, “God’s got this!”  God, our heavenly father, has everything under control.  Time and time again I have found comfort in that He is in control. God’s faithfulness throughout this year has been amazing.  He seems to know just when we need glimpse of Leanne.  One day it’s finding an old handwritten note from her.  The next, it’s watching our girls imaginations run wild with their dress ups from Auntie Lanny.  God’s got this!

There are days that are really difficult.  God never promised us things would be easy.  What makes it easier is to talk about Leanne.  I love sharing her with our girls.  And I am looking forward to telling our unborn daughter all about her Auntie Lanny. 

We are so appreciative of all of your prayers as you’ve followed this difficult journey with us.  Your notes and text of encouragements came at just the right time.  Your acts of kindness are appreciated more than you know.  We are blessed to be surrounded by such amazing friends and family.