A Blog That’s Not About Life Insurance

I’ve written about some awkward things. I’ve intentionally made the decision at different points to share with the general public things that most people keep under wraps. I’ve done this because I think it is valuable, because I think there’s a lack of important information out there that could free many people if only they had access to it. So because of this you’re familiar with how I catheterize, I’ve shared about sex, about the deterioration of my body, about the effects of steroids, and even some strangely not often shared info about MRI scans.

Well today I’d love to share some stuff with you that makes me feel even more awkward than any of those topics ever did. I want to share some private stuff with you about life insurance. The reason it makes me feel awkward is because I don’t want it to come off as me patting Jess and I on the back, because the reality is that we were just blessed to be given good advice at a young age and we were just foolish enough to take it. My hope is that I can share a bit of this part of our story and it will invite you into, what I believe, is a really exciting way to live (and die).

Let me also say quickly that I’m not a money guy. I couldn’t tell you much about interest rates, investment opportunities, or anything like that. It’s not my world and I won’t even attempt to fake it. If you want to message me about better life insurance options or something of that nature…please don’t. What I can say is that at a very early age (I think I was 22 and Jess was 21) when we found out we were having a child we chose to get term life insurance for both of us. Because we were young and both very healthy it was an incredibly cheap route to get half a million bucks for each of us if we died. The amazing thing is not that we got life insurance at a young age, but that we kept it all these years. To be completely upfront, we’ve always been poor. We’ve grown very comfortable not having much money and it’s turned into a way of life that we are ok with. It has allowed us to engage in the work that we want to do (church planting) because we’ve been able to work for virtually nothing (or at times, literally nothing). It’s freed our imaginations to create what has now developed into Grassroots Conspiracy because money was not much of a factor/inhibitor in its creation. So the amazing thing isn’t that we got it but that we continued to pay it all these years! (thank God that we did right?!)

Some credit needs to be shared with Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University class. If you’re not familiar yet with Dave and what they’re all about…get familiar. FPU was huge in challenging us to live in a way that allowed this reality to exist, it gave us the tools to live off little, it provided the inspiration to buckle down, and…well…it’s just good stuff!

But this blog IS NOT about you getting insurance (though if you don’t have it, you need to…especially if you have kids. It’s too cheap not to). What I really want to share with you is to ask what you’re going to do with your life insurance money. I never really though I’d have to answer that question, but in reality we all will at some point. Most people view that money as their own, they view it as their way to care for their own. And it is. And it should be. But if you buy into the idea that money, stuff, and all that jazz are temporary. If you buy into that crazy idea that stuff (even the good stuff) will eventually rot, that you can’t take any of it with you, and that stuff is here to serve you and not the other way around–then I’d suggest you really question how your life insurance is not only practically used but realistically viewed.

View it as a gift. View it as an opportunity. View it as a chance to make a difference, to leave a legacy, and to partner with those you love in seeing the world be transformed into its original purpose and intended beauty. Money is not evil (as some people mistakenly believe), money is an opportunity–one that shouldn’t be missed out on! One of the ancient practices of the Christian faith that I love is one of generosity. Jesus invites his followers to give up everything, but as a framework, as something to hold onto Christians use the term “tithe”. Tithing is a concept continued from Judaism (of which Christianity is a part) and it essentially means that you give away ten percent of what comes in to God. What would happen if people started giving away ten percent of their life insurance monies to just causes, to care for orphans and widows, to build wells, or to support non-profits among other things? Yes that money is intended to care for your loved ones when you’re gone, but there’s more than just financial support that needs to be thought about! When you invite your children to prioritize giving away a piece of what you have to care for others you are teaching them something that cannot be caught from you in any other way. Outside of practicing it they will never learn generosity from you unless you are generous! It just doesn’t work any other way. In inviting your family to be a part of tithing off your life insurance you are inviting them to a holistic worldview that is larger than themselves and will shape them in incredible ways (not to mention shaping yourself). Talk about caring for your family right?

For a poor kid* it makes me giddy to think about being able to intentionally give away $50,000. I mean, seriously, what poor kid gets to do that? What a gift!? What an experience?! How much fun would it be for you and your spouse or you and your whole family to sit down and dream about how, who, and where you could give money like that? What services are you passionate about? What families do you know that could be blessed by that? What causes need championing? You’ve now got resources to dream with? Your imagination can run wild all because you ponied up $25 a month for life insurance!

So this post isn’t really about life insurance as much as it is about learning to give, to leave a legacy, and seeing beauty emerge in our world in more and more ways. It’s an opportunity that I hope none of us miss out on!


* OK, poverty is so incredibly relative. Geez, I use the term very loosely here and am mostly using it for affect than anything else. I do not feel poor and have never really embraced that term because relative to the rest of the world I’m in the top couple percent I believe.

Take ’em a Meal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the most difficult things in this whole cancer journey has been learning to be a recipient of people’s generosity. It’s just hard to feel like a sucker–like someone who is just sucking the life of those around you. It’s hard to be humble enough to willingly receive a gift with a simple “thank you”. Very very difficult.

And yet it’s a beautiful journey to be invited into. It’s a journey that I think all of us need to be invited into from different avenues. What I mean is that some of us do not find the challenge in being a grateful recipient because we’ve been in that role for most of our lives and therefore play it well. Some of us need to learn a posture of thankfulness ’cause we’ve gotten used to the receiving. Others need to learn the posture of thankfully receiving because we’ve taken a posture of authority our whole lives. We’ve often even mistakenly placed ourselves as the rider on the white horse who comes to rescue those three feet below us. Some of us are just prideful. Some of us are just lazy. Some of us are both. And I’m sure there’s one or two of you who are neither.

This week, as we’ve been movin’ rooms around, we had many people offer to help. It was wonderfully overwhelming. In the end it was easier to have just one or two people come to do the work, but it was yet another example of our greater community stepping up in a time of need. Thank you.

The tension that it creates, however, is that there is a line. There is a very blurry and often wandering line that Jess and I are always trying to be aware of. The line has very little to do with you and very much to do with our own emotional and mental health. Because there are times that we might need help but we just don’t want it. We don’t want to always feel like we MUST have helped to survive. We don’t always want to feel like our home is overrun with people (a stark change from how we felt before I was sick to be perfectly honest). We don’t always want help…even when we may need it. Sometimes we just want to be a family. Sometimes we want to pretend like we’re normal, like our life isn’t overrun by the cancer narrative. Sometimes we just don’t want to receive.

And the reality, I think, is that those impulses are not bad. They’re not off. They’re not ‘wrong’ (though I hesitate to use that sticky word). It’s a valuable tension to hold, one that, again, is blurry in its definition but important in its usage. It’s very very important that we, at times, create those boundaries and allow both openness to receiving and protection from it to be a part of our story.

So to Blur the Lines a Bit…

I’m asking for a bit of help here. One of the things that has been hugely helpful has been the occasional meals that people have dropped by for our family. They’ve been a non-intrusive way for people to care for us, it provides a huge relief for us amidst the stress of life, and amidst the time crunch of doctors visits that run up until 5pm often days. Here’s what our friend Sherilee, who is graciously managing all of this, briefly said:

For those of you that know and love Ryan and Jessica Woods…here is a organized way to sign up to bring food. To give them time together and not worry about what to make for supper – a small gift that means so much.

She says “supper” because she’s Canadian–and we forgive her for that–but it is a small way that you can bless our family from near or far away (they’ve suggested that you can order food to have it delivered or creative things of that nature). It’s all online so it’s amazingly easier than ever before! Thank you so much for your participation in caring for our family during this really strange and surprising time of sickness. I hope and pray that one day we look back on this time and see how it was shaping us for a future life together. But if the story is different–if the story continues on the same path that it’s gone thus far then we are especially grateful for every moment that you help to create for us to be together as a family and for me to pursue a path of health as much as is humanly possible in this life.


Here’s the link to take a meal.

The Pain of Receiving

People have been incredible. People have been so incredibly generous to our family. From various doctors who have served us at a discount or even for free to local business owners that want to give us their products at discount prices. I could go on and on about how generous individuals have been but the reality is that most of those people would probably be very angry at me for doing so…which again shows how great these people are: they want to give while also remaining anonymous! People really have been incredible and they all deserve a huge and sustained ‘thank you’. This is not enough, but thank you so much all of you who have cared for our family in amazing ways. We love you all so much. But…it might be awkward to throw a ‘but’ in here…but, all your generosity is kind of driving me crazy! Wait, wait, wait, don’t judge me yet. Let me explain.

Driven Crazy

Like I said, I’ve got to be honest and say that at times people’s generosity drives me crazy. No, I haven’t become an ungrateful and jaded person. What I want to say here doesn’t fall under the whining and complaining category (at least I don’t think it should). The reason that at times I’m driven crazy by your generosity is that I’m terrified that I’m going to become that person. You know who I’m talking about–that guy who thinks he is entitled, who says ‘thank you’ only insomuch as it warrants him a second dose of generosity. You know that guy. I’m terrified that I’ll stop being grateful, that I’ll start assuming people are going to give me a discount or even something for free. I’m terrified that I’ll stop trying to pay for my half of the bill when we go out, that I’ll start assuming that you’ll buy. It freaks me out to think that this could happen…and so I want to pay! I want to buy your coffee when we go out sometimes. I don’t want you to give me a discount because I don’t want to train myself to think that you’re always going to give it.

Another reason why I’m driven crazy by your amazing generosity is that I want you to know that what you’re giving me for free or at a discount is of incredible value. What you’re giving me for free is incredibly valuable. Whether it is a shirt, a cup of coffee, or a service, what you’re offering is something that deserves to be paid for. I want you to know that I seriously value what you do/make/sell. It’s worth spending money on. It’s worth spending my money on. I appreciate that you’re being so incredibly generous, but you must know that sometimes I want to give to you too! Sometimes I want to buy your coffee ’cause I like you and want to bless you. I want to buy your soap ’cause I think you make a really great product and I want to support your business. I want to pay for your service ’cause your a great technician and I want you to know how much I value your time and what you do. You are amazing and I want to throw my money at you!*

So I’ve said it. I’ve exposed myself to the world and given everyone reason to hate me. You’ve seen my ungrateful side and you might walk away from this blog thinking that I’m not appreciative. But I hope that you don’t. I also hope that you do not walk away from this blog thinking that I don’t want your generosity. That’s not what I’m saying either (shoot, it’s because of many people’s generosity that we’re even able to make it financially). No, more than anything what this blog is attempting to capture is that virtually everything has another side to it; virtually everything has a messiness to it; virtually everything comes at a price–even if it’s a very small one. What I’m attempting to do here is to invite you into our experiences as fully as is possible. The pain of receiving may not be much but it does exist…right?…or am I off in this?

What costs have you had to pay when giving or receiving?


*  Let me say one more time that we feel incredibly indebted to you all. There is no way we can ever say thank you enough to the cloud of people who have cared for us and given to our family. We don’t ever want anyone who has cared for us to feel like we don’t value their gifts. The reality is that we are so overwhelmed by people’s incredible generosity that we often don’t know what to do. You all are beautiful and wonderful people and we wish we were better at saying thank you and showing you our gratitude. Thank you for your love, for your creativity in how to love us, for your testimony to our two children of what love looks like, and for your clear sacrifice in giving to our family. Thank you for who you are and for how you care. Thank you thank you thank you.

How To Help

(As things change I will continue to update this blog post. So below there have been added a number of new bullet points capturing a few alternative options to be involved.)

I’ve just added a new tab to the top of the blog that reads “How to Help“. So many people have asked this question or have been asked it by others that in a random moment of clarity I thought “Hmm, maybe I should post a written response…” Revolutionary right?

Many people have asked how they can help our family and/or support Grassroots Conspiracy financially. Let me do my best to give you a few options:

  • To help fund our trip to Disneyland (that just happened, is going to happen again, and is still being paid for) you can make a tax deductible donation via paypal. Send money to troywagner@mac.com and mark it as a gift for Ryan Woods.
  • To setup monthly tax deductible donations that supports our work in leading Grassroots Conspiracy you can go here: http://su.pr/1VwRyQ
  • To send money or checks that support our work in leading Grassroots Conspiracy you can mail a check written to “Renovatus” and earmarked for Ryan Woods or Grassroots Conspiracy to PO Box 873575 Vancouver, WA 98687
  • To donate monies that go directly toward our medical expenses you can deposit money through any Columbia Credit Union bank via account number: 444289
  • Another way to donate monies that go directly to our medical expenses is to send money via paypal to jonesandindia@gmail.com
Here are a few alternative ways to support our family:
  • Help us tell our story. Forward people to my blog, invite them to follow the posts concerning cancer, and invite people to sign up for our Downtown Dispatch.
  • While my future health is unknown a group still intends to move forward with (what will become) our annual Summer fundraiser. Last year on July 17th hundreds of people showed up at Pop Culture to support our family via live music, raffles, and donations. It was overwhelmingly beautiful. The idea is that this fundraiser will happen each year with or without me, with all proceeds going toward an appropriate destination. Please anticipate this event with us!
  • As other events and fundraisers develop I will add them to this page. At this point a local restaurant is hosting one on April 29th. To find out more visit the facebook info page: http://su.pr/4KxeYP
  • We are still trying to figure out what helpful meals and housework will look like in our current context. As this develops we will provide contact info here.
I know I have just provided too many options and most likely convoluted things a bit! The reality however is that it all ends up in the same place regardless of what method you use. Especially if things are nearing the end as the doctors say that they are, the lines between medical expenses, special trips with the family, and part-time salary wages from the church are becoming more and more blurry.
Please feel free to contact me with questions if you need clarity or further information. Email is preferred: ryan@gr-c.org