Follow by Email

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Identity

As I’ve opened myself to grieving the loss of my career, I optimistically survey my new realities and receive much clarity.  I see that for the most part the largest change in my life is energy level. 

I’ve been asked a few times (and have wondered what the answer is myself on many occasions): what percentage of my previous energy do I now have?  It’s a tough question to answer because cancer came barging into our house when there were two 11 month old present.  It had only been 4 months since I was waking every night to nurse a babe or two.  I’m not sure I even remember what ‘rested’ feels like!  I don’t really know what my old “normal” is to compare to.  But slowly over the last couple months I’ve been pondering this question more.  I’ve been surveying my memories of energy levels before the monster attacked my brain, and poison was used to try and kill it, and radiation left me utter wiped.  I remember being in Disneyland with Rayna, post-op right before starting treatment.  I remember feeling so good there, feeling so normal, feeling 98% like myself.  (And here I release my anger that the best we do to treat cancer is to bombard it with cancer-causing modalities!!!! --- brief vent, deep breath to compose myself and let’s move on).  I was normally a very high energy person.  Pre-kids I worked 5 days a week, worked out/ran 5 days a week, volunteered weekly with youth group, and had hobbies: writing, reading, hiking, playing games with friends etc.  Post-Rayna I worked 4 days a week, ran 3 days a week, and enjoyed many leisure activities.  Post twins I went out every single day, started running again 3 days a week, and kept 2 babies alive and breastfed.

Sixty-five percent.  This is the number I am landing on: I have 65% of the energy I had pre-cancer.  I often try to pretend that I am still that high energy woman, and at this point I can do so for a day or 2 and then I crash. Hard.  I have an energy tank that I now view as a weekly tank.  I can steal from tomorrow’s energy; but if I do that, tomorrow will have that much less energy.  I also feel like an old cell phone whose battery doesn’t charge properly.  You plug it in and it says 100% charged, then start to use it and it drops to 65% instantly.  And sometimes my battery’s on 25% and then a second later it’s shutting down on 0%.  And then there are “new” factors which fatigue me.  It bothers me that stimuli overload (noise, lights, commotion) also depletes my battery.  It’s not simply physically and emotionally draining things that tire me.

This has been hard to come to terms with.  I fight my new reality; but it always wins.  And when I fight my reality I end up exhausted which lands me with exhaustion’s struggles: mostly impatience and anger (plus then my body starts to ache because in my fatigue my posture slumps and tension rises…).

In this all I struggle with identity.  What is my identity?  I am not who I used to be.  I’m sure this happens to us all as we traipse down life’s path and seasons come and seasons go.  I struggle with grief because I am no longer pharmacist.  I struggle with shame because I am not able to care for my own children by myself for extended periods of time. I struggle with disbelief that my once patient persona has been hijacked by impatience and anger (when that first reared it’s head at first I wanted to blame it on the cancer, then I realized it is my humanity rearing her ugly head--- tired people are prone to impatience and anger.) 

My personality is a performance driven perfectionist.

I’ve been stripped of my ability to perform to the capacity I’d like.  I’ve been forced to be “less than”.  I’ve been forced to slow down (but, oh, how I still fight this one.  I fight this one hard).   I’ve been forced to leave things undone and/or imperfect.

 (I’ve begun to see how intimidating I may previously have presented myself to many people by striving to be and appear perfect.  As my “perfect” life crumbled with my diagnosis, I was newly able to engage in tender and beautiful conversations and interactions.  This area is a work in progress; but an area where I expect good and beautiful buds to continue blossoming.) 

I am now humbled; and I am also gifted with seeing the beauty of life in the slow lane.  Before having kids quiet times were commonplace and life-giving in my day.  After kids such times all but disappeared.  I don’t know if I would have ever willingly slowed down, given how hard I still often resist my new reality and I keep trying to “perform and perfect” in new capacities.  So in many ways I am grateful to have been forced into the slow lane.

But what is my identity in all this turmoil?  If I’m not pharmacist.  If I’m not a very "capable" mom anymore.*  Who am I?  If I can only do 65% of what I used to. Is that enough?

My dear friend, Andrea, shared in church awhile ago, about her own struggle to have a positive perception of herself and a struggle to have a healthy identity.  From the outside it seems shocking.  She is an amazing, educated woman.  She is a working mother of two small beautiful girls.  She is poised, friendly, and warm.  She is so easy to like and absolutely beautiful.  But she is at war, just like I am at war, to be rooted in a life-giving identity.  To combat the negativity that can so easy worm its way into our lives, she created a list of affirmations and a prayer to declare daily.  With her permission I share them here.  They are so good! 

Affirmations about God to declare daily:
-He is strong when I am weak
- He is courage when I’m facing fear
- He is peace when my heart is in turmoil
- He is wisdom when I haven’t a clue how to parent
- He is support when I am weary
- He gives when I feel like I have nothing left
- He is love and grace and mercy everyday, no matter what
- I am a dearly loved daughter of the Creator of Heaven and Earth and he is pleased with me, just as I am
        


A prayer:

“God, today I claim your victory in Christ! My identity is NOT in my short-comings, my failings, past experiences, or my successes. My identity is in YOU!! Daily I will declare this victory in my life and walk out the day in thankfulness for each new day and your Goodness that fills my life.”


I am not enough.  No matter how hard I try.  No matter if I appear put together.  I am never enough.  If it wasn’t cancer (previously, it was being a new mom) there would have been other matters to rattle me and jar my identity. 

I received a couple notes from women I know indicating sentiments to the effect that they could never be half the woman I am.  Right here, right now I want to uproot and discard that sentiment.  Of course you couldn’t be half the woman that I am!  This is because you are 100% wholly the woman that YOU are!!!  And you are beautiful! You are treasured! You are loved by an Almighty God! You and I have different gifts and talents, but each is equally beautiful.  I also hear from time to time that I am inspiring.  First off, it is by God’s mighty work in me that I am the woman that I am.  If I am inspiring this is only God working through me.  I am merely a woman trying to make the most out of what life gives me.  I hope this is what I inspire in you: to survey your realities and your giftings and make what you have come to LIFE through the divine power of God. Less of me, more of God; its so much better that way (understatement!!!)

 I encourage you, find your identity, right there where you are and declare it out loud!  Don’t let your short-comings, your failures, your past experiences, or your successes hold you back.  Shout it loud and clear:

I am a dearly loved daughter (or son) of the Creator of Heaven and Earth and He is pleased with me, just as I am!!!





 *I am so thankful that I read a book (When a parent has cancer by Wendy Harpham) which stated that a parents job is to make sure a child is cared for.  It is not necessary for the parent to be the one doing the hands on care, especially if they aren't able; their job as parent is fulfilled as long as they are ensuring the child is cared for.  I return to this information regularly, reminding myself that I am not a bad mom because my kids are in daycare while I'm at home.  I remind myself that this is healthier for us both (remember Cheryl, fatigue drives you to anger and kids know just the right buttons to push even without trying!)  But it certainly is an on-going challenge in our "super-mom" culture.

  

Friday, June 22, 2018

Happy 16th Anniversary to us!

Celebrating 16 years of marriage!  Here's some pics of anniversaries over the past 6 years 😊
Rayna came along for our 10 year anniversary to Whidbey  Island



11 year anniversary, had our friend  fly us to Victoria for the weekend. So  fun!

Seattle. 12 year anniversary



13 year anniversary, Las Vegas: twins in utero.



No 14 year anniversary celebration, twins took over our lives...
Below is 15 year anniversary date❤️

Look at these kids, were they old enough to get married?!  Excited to head back to Oshkidee, where it all started, in a  couple weeks


Oh how I love this man so much ❤️. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Peel back the Junk – part 2: Grief



As I peel back the junk of my life my grief takes a different form.  My grief oozes to the surface as my armor of perfectionism, performance, and pride begin to crack.  Our society doesn’t like to grieve.  From what I see it doesn’t even know how to grieve well.  Other cultures have protocols for grieving.  Our society doesn’t like to discuss the matter.  My generation thinks it is invincible, death seems irrelevant.  To be present in dying is awkward at best.  So we wait until its thrust upon us and cope in quiet.


During my cancer diagnosis my one dear friend made sure to let me know that no matter what she was going to be by my side, she surveyed the realities and let me know straight up that she was willing to go deep with me, even to the point of navigating death with me.  I appreciated her willingness to express this; but it was not until later that I began to realize the value in her promise.  Most people aren’t willing to go there, to a place of deep grief faced head on.


As I am thrust into all of my life realities grief takes different shapes.  The overt grief over the loss of my future I had hoped and dreamed for is apparent and accepted by others.  But as I begin to process the more subtle grief I realize the burdens others hold.  In our society grief is not allowed to be called grief unless it is big and clear-cut.  Conversations with friends regarding miscarriage have made this apparent.  Miscarriage is so very common and yet still minimally talked about.  Still many women do not feel validated about their grief over miscarriage.  I had a miscarriage.  Ryan did not grieve it.  I did.  It was an emotional upheaval of loss.  What I see from this is that what causes me grief, may not cause you grief and vice versa.  How I grieve will certainly differ from how you grieve.  But grief is grief.  If a circumstance, situation, or loss – no matter how small- is causing you to grieve, you are grieving.  Grief does not need to meet criteria; there is no criteria for what causes grief.  I want our society to peel back the façade and give voice to grief when it is there.  (How else can we love each other well?)


I am grieving the loss of my career.  It hit me sharply.  I was surprised up until this point that I have not felt the loss of my profession.  I thought I was just too busy with other matters and accepted right now it definitely wouldn’t be healthy to be working, even if I was able to keep pace with the mental and physical demands (which I wouldn’t be able to).(*1)  Then I got an email.  It was quite benign, but it was the tap on my back which pushed tumbling forward into grief.  The email was simply a note indicating that my company would not be paying for my pharmacist malpractice insurance this year because it appeared I was not working.  Reasonable. Accurate.  I need malpractice insurance to have my pharmacist license.  Absolutely I could pay for it myself.  This wasn’t really the issue.  It was simply the rub.  As I assessed my circumstance I decided that I will not be renewing my pharmacy license this year. (I have 5 years to return to practice with little difficulty).  Then there I it read on the Pharmacist College website: Former pharmacists cannot use the title “pharmacist”.  As of July 1 I am no longer a pharmacist.  The profession I loved.  The job I worked so hard to be qualified for.  The patients I enjoyed caring for.  The public I appreciated engaging with in this capacity.  It’s disappearing from my life and I grieve.  I cried when I got that simple email that was anything but simple.


Grief is like that.  It’s not simple.  It’s not clear-cut.  But it is real.  It has many faces.  And certainly, to be human is to grieve.  I have learned that when I grieve I can move forward.  If I do not grieve, my wounds fester, life becomes stagnant because I cannot move forward.


Jesus grieved.  He cried at the death of his friend.  Jesus grieved the anticipation of his own death.  Jesus watched his mother grieve as he hung dying on the cross.  Jesus was no stranger to grief.  He understands.  He holds us in our grief, reminding us this world will give us many troubles; but that he has overcome the world.


My mom shared an anecdote she heard with me.  It was fitting.  It helped me see my circumstances in a new positive light.  It’s a “story” of a woman setting off on a lovely vacation and adventure.  She sets to go to Paris and experience the city of love.  Where she ends up is Holland in the tulip fields.  She is anger and upset that she has not landed where she had hoped.  She doesn’t enjoy this one bit!  She wishes she was Paris, she cries for Paris, she dreams of Paris.  It takes her a very good long while to grieve that she has not landed in Paris; but when she finally works through her grief she opens her eyes to the beauty of where she has ended up.  It is not what she dreamed for, it is not what she hoped for; but it is beautiful.


When I peel back the junk and when I open myself up to grieve and move past the grief the results are spectacular.  I begin to see the beauty around me, in this life that I am actually living in, which is not the life I had envisioned.  I wrote in my journal, “I’ve wound up not where I had set out for ---  I set out to be a working career mom of 2.  I ended up mom of 3, stripped of my career.  But it is good! Though it has taken time to see the goodness in it and I’ve struggled to be okay with this, it is indeed good.  Beauty finds me here, its just so different from what I expected, I didn’t see it at first.”




Oh let us be people who accept grief wherever she shows up, not asking her to fit criteria.  Let us be people who are unafraid to grieve and to grieve together.  Let us be people who let grief shape us into more human humans.



Oh, let me throw off this sin that so easily entangles, let me run with perseverance, let me keep my eyes ever on Jesus.  Jesus who sees me.  Jesus who guides me.  Jesus who grieves with me. Jesus who’s waiting to grieve with you.  Jesus who is full of goodness. (*2)         



1)I do great at focusing on one task at a time with no pressure. So if you meet me in a quiet setting I probably seem completely like myself.  But I fatigue so easy and I’ve had to even release my self-imposed pressure to complete the novel I am writing (which is SO close to being complete; I will get to it as I get to it) because it was not healthy for myself or for my family.  I cannot go in multiple directions, it causes my circuits to overload and I shut down.  I am grateful I can do unilateral tasks – writing with no “deadlines”, running (which is actually mostly walking) with no race to attend, “quiet” social gatherings (I put quiet in quotations because quiet doesn’t usually happen when the kids are there too; then it is “managed” social gatherings.), planning excursions one at a time (not a whole years worth always fluidly being planned in my brain like I used to)

2) Hebrews 12:2

Change your world


It feels like a lot has been going on in our lives lately.  Disappointment and grief over losing the future we had envisioned has cut us open.  Ryan says, “If we don’t have optimism what do we have?” And so we press forth with optimism.  Praying to God for it and choosing to believe that good things lie ahead in the scary uncertainties of tomorrows.  We face the “what ifs” and “hows” head on.  What if I have to father these 3 young kids myself? What if the next scan shows cancer coming back?  How do we press ahead when in 3 months (the interval of my MRI scans) life could be upheaved?  How do we even live engaged in optimism and life when this very life is exhausting at best?  What is “new normal”? 


It’s been a hot mess weeping over the nearly certain loss of my job.  Its been days of “How do we live through this?”.  Its been trying to keep crap contained (literally!!! Potty training 2- 2.5 year olds is not for the faint of heart.)


And then Ryan comes broken to me after watching the news (see here) and shares the heartache of the refugees in the States being separated from their children.  And the video of kids wailing in separation for their parents.  I am struck by the callousness of it all.  I am struck by my husband’s tender brokenness over it all. So I read more and find out Iraqi’s risk deportation from the States to almost certain death, too!  And I can’t ignore what I am learning.  And as I’ve been in a process of becoming more human, I cannot shut it out.  I can not just say that’s awful and keep traipsing through my life. I am compelled to ask: “what can I do!?” Practically, I do not know what I can do. So I pray.  I pray for these families, for wisdom to prevail in the crisis of refugees trying to enter the States and the American policies that seem heartless.  And I wonder again, “what can I do?”. 


I survey my abilities, my scope of influence and I decide, well at the very least I have a voice.  I can speak!  So here I speak thanks for my blessed country.  I speak awareness to a situation I really know little about, but that will not let me ignore it.


The other thing I can do is teach.  I have 3 little world changers in my home, I can teach my children.  I can teach them to always remember that people are people not statistics, not policy, not just numbers.  People are people!  I can teach my children to love others, especially the down-cast, the broken, the under-priveledged.  I can teach my children to love with their God-given love, remembering how very much God has shown His love to them.  I can teach my children that they have a voice, that they need to stand up for others especially when others cannot stand up for themselves.  I can teach my children that they CAN make a difference!  Oh yes, a small difference IS a difference.  I can teach my children that big changes are the culmination of many small changes.  I can teach my children that they can change their world and so can I!!!


As my career is stripped from me this is my new full time job: to teach my children! 


Oh my children, I can’t just sit back and let my world sweep over me.  I need to engage my world!  Where I intersect with my world I need to love boldly, I need to see people as beautiful, I need to speak up for Life and Love and Hope and Light! This is my job!  I am to be the voice and hands and feet of Jesus!  Oh kids, this is what I desire to teach you as your mom.  If I teach you this, God has fulfilled his purpose for me as a mom.  As I lose my career I still have the most awesome, demanding, and fulfilling job.  I have a purpose unparalleled.*  Oh thank God for making me the mother of 3 beautiful, precious, world changing children!  


To close I will share something I wrote after stepping into the controversy over MAiD being implemented in palliative facilities and the (expected but still difficult and biting) backlash that ensued.  I poured my heart into speaking out for something I hold dear and valuable: upholding the beauty and preciousness of end of life.  I spoke out only because I couldn't stay quiet.  This issue matters deeply to me.  I was discouraged by the negative responses I received and the lack of any positive impact my efforts appeared to make. I truly felt foolish for even trying to make a difference; but in the end I learned valuable lessons and hope my steps are an example for my children. This is what I wrote:



April 14, 2018
I feel myself a fool for having stepped out into a conversation where I was inadequately versed in ALL the facets of this issue.  I am a person who strives to be fully equipped before stepping into any controversy, or for that matter any issue at all where I am seeking to be viewed respectfully (and don't I always desire to be viewed respectfully?). I readily admit that my family is my first priority and given my challenged energy, I did not gather as extensive and diverse amounts of information about the issue as I would have liked to.  I like to be well read and try my best to fully see issues from all sides. And beyond this i do not think we'll on my feet. I am a contemplative soul who takes her time to develop opinion and insight in a coherent manner.
But in the end I have to tell my perfectionists self--- would I ever have felt I had adequate practice, skill or knowledge to back my opinions which are deeply seated in my heart and speak publicly about them?  Would I ever be prepared enough so as to not feel foolish after a radio interview, foolish for not being able to clearly and concisely share my views as well as I would have liked to have been able to?
In the end I figure Better to be a fool and try my best with what I have been given to add my voice to the conversation than to not try to be heard at all.  
To my children, even if I failed to make a difference in public policy, even if I failed to have been clearly understood.  Even if: at least I tried and that is all I ask of you. Try.  Try to understand your heart so you can share it with others and make their life experiences richer.  Try to make a positive impact on your community, city and world. Try. And even if you fail, be proud because you have tried.  Be emboldened to love others deeply so you can see the aches of our world which need a voice and most of all which need our love.  And in the end, I am grateful that in failure and foolishness we have a God who chooses not to see me as failure or fool. He chooses to see me as precious daughter.
So children, live boldly. And writing this I am encouraged, despite my discouragement, to continue living boldly.  Oh how grateful I am to call myself your mother.  Though I am the one charged with raising you well, indeed you all shape me dramatically for the better.








I speak to myself as I write: we need to be people who are MOVED!  Moved with compassion, love, hope, and (thank my husband for always reminding me of this one) optimism.  May my family be a family that is moved; may we keep leaning in to humanity, letting her teach us and shape us!  My Jesus loves people, oh that I may grow to love people like my Jesus does!     











*In grieving the loss of my career (see upcoming post on grief) I was crying with Ryan and I asked, “what is my purpose?”.  Life felt so upheaved and in the uncertainties of my diagnosis I was floundering, trying to grasp onto some sort of purpose in the mess.  “Your purpose is to love your kids.” He replied.  So simple, so profound.  In my grief and faults I was blind to it.  What a wonderful purpose.



Thursday, June 14, 2018

Peel back the junk - part 1: Finding generousity and grace




As I intentionally seek God whole-heartedly, He is beginning to highlight, bit by bit, that which does not align with Him. As I peel back the sin, oh how clearly I can begin to see!  Sin is just a fancy word for the sneaky (and sometimes not so sneaky) junk of life that crowds out the wholesome, beautiful, pure goodness of generosity and grace.(*1)

I'll enter a paragraph of uncovering my need for confession.  It matters not what I needed to confess, but what happened when I saw and (began to) let go of the junk that I was clenching. As I discovered junk that I quietly prized I realized I could not reconcile this junk with a life led by generosity and grace.   But, as I uncover and release my junk, (namely for me pride, performance and perfectionism) I unearth the hidden desires of my heart.  It’s like getting rid of a corrupt program on your computer that is bogging the whole system down.  As I sit patiently with my deep-rooted desires and give time for the Holy Spirit to speak I also unveil unhealthy emotions that have been festering and crowding out the goodness of my desires. This allows me to pointedly acknowledge and name things like anger, disappointment, and grief (*2); by naming them I am empowered to release them from my life.  This process of vulnerably seeking out the junk so I can purge it uncovers painful emotions and allows them to become beautiful. 

This cuts away the rotten, the useless... It is a pruning and a weeding of my soul so the beautiful garden within can be unveiled and enjoyed in all its glory.  (Oh plants still get unruly and weeds still pop up – even the same ones again!; but there is progress, a slow but persistent forward progress).

Is this perhaps the more and better life Jesus promises? (*3)

Within the church we call beliefs we hold firm to, truths (our lives ought to be the proofs of those truths). Call it whatever you want but this is the geniusness of Jesus: his unveiling of the best way to live which grants joy regardless of life's circumstances.  I mean I suppose as creator of life, he understands how to best reveal its beauty? Perhaps.

Allow my life to serve as a proof of Jesus's truth.  Read this next sentence slowly.  This is my experience and my story: It is brilliant to be able to find joy within the sorrow. It is spectacular. It is life changing, life-giving.

I chose to jump all in to this faith because I came to the end of myself.  Its a crazy faith, but as I'm "all in" and discovering more around each corner, it's beginning to make sense in an up side down way. It answers the questions I need answered.  Oh yes, I'll be honest it also cracks open new questions and perhaps more of them than the ones it answers.

But the radiance of Jesus, of following Jesus, grows more spectacular as I press in. Its not about rules, it simply boils down to believing that Jesus is who he says he is.  And believing that Jesus is the son of God, and that he asserted life saving power when he overcame death.  Ok so while it's simple i can understand if you find it crazy.  I did too when I finally stopped to evaluate.  Yes I was out of options, my fragile humanity was cracking, but hear me Jesus is AMAZING!  (*4)

As a young adult I remember thinking, I can believe this faith because even if it's not true it makes for a better life here on earth.   As a 35 year old that didn't cut it.  I was in a take it all, or leave it all scenario.  I chose take it all.

And here I blossom.

Without Jesus I'd be hopeless. I'd be weighed down with unshakeable dread, unshakeable paralysis. The pride and self-sufficiency I've been clinging to would further cloud life. Human ways just cannot reconcile the unfairness of my situation, the awfulness of it all.  The torture of dragging my family through this battle to stay afloat.

Jesus kept my head above the waves, now he invites me to walk on those waves as I confess that I am so so small- but I have a God who loves to take my smallness and fill it with His hugeness.

And I uncover the hugeness of love, comfort, hope, compassion, care (oh he cares), a partner to grieve with me (Jesus weeps with me).  The hugeness of the Warrior who's on my side, who commands angel armies to protect me.  The hugeness of His hands which tenderly hold my heart and soul.  The hugeness of celebration because Jesus knows how to party!!!

This is what happens when you peel back the junk that the Bible calls sin and you discard it as trash.  Underneath you find pure treasure.

To close, my prayer:



Oh God, help me unearth the treasures of my soul!  Help me children to see that you,

you living within them, is the treasure to seek in the most epic treasure hunt of all, the hunt to know more of Jesus.  And that knowing you is more precious than gold.  And the map is in their hands: the Bible.  And the compass is within as the Holy Spirit when they choose to follow you.

My children if you want an epic adventure: follow Jesus and never look back.  Oh it's gonna be good.  It's always good, for God is good.  Choose to believe that God is good, all the time He is good (even when it makes no sense, even when your heart breaks, even when you do not understand, even when it smells so rotten and looks hopeless.  Even then, oh especially then, Jesus will show you his goodness as you look to him. Oh look to him when your world feels like it's falling apart. Oh Look to him and find him, my children.  This is my prayer, for it's gonna be too much, oh the wrenching of my heart, look to Jesus when it is too much.)



1)  In the Message version of Matt 5:48 Peterson translates the verse "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." As "You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." I like his view of godly perfection being graciousness and generousity.  As perfection opposes sin, may generousity and graciousness oppose the junk of my life, crowding it out bit by bit.  As I see Jesus more clearly, he illuminates the junk I've been blind to.  Bit by bit I discard layers of my sin.  My goal, though I shall certainly not realize it this side of heaven, is to perfectly radiate God's goodness and love.  This is my aim.
2) To be clear, I am not saying that disappointment, anger, and grief are by themselves unhealthy.  I am saying that leaving them unearthed, not talked about and dealt with is unhealthy.
3) John 10:10
4) I can hear the critics voices saying: religion is a crutch, I don’t need a crutch!  I hear you.  Yes, I struggle with valuing my self-sufficiency.  I want to be strong enough.  But humans are human.  They are at their core fallible and breakable.  Our bodies are fragile even in their strength; in weakness they are brittle.  Our Minds are equally frail: dementia and mental illness are rampant.  But I love the John Keats quote “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”  Contemplate death, truly contemplate your own end and you are faced with the existential questions of life: Why am I here, What gives me right and wrong (morality), what gives me meaning and purpose, what is my ultimate destiny when I die.  To answer these we turn to religion.  We all turn to religion.  Your religion does not have to involve a “God”; Merrian Webster.com defines religion as : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.  So whether we believe in God or not, we all have a religion.  I believe we all need religion to cope with our finiteness.   


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Fire Storm


Before you begin reading, Watch this video.  (Thank you so much to the incredible fire-fighters!!)

What you see is a building and a water bomber and a plume of ominous smoke. 

What I see is our beloved camp severely threatened by forest fire.  The fire is pressing in, pushing closer.  It is massive and powerful and uncontained. 

 Those buildings it threatens to obliterate are more than buildings- they are a dream realized by the camp’s founders, their establishment birthed over 60 years ago.  Those buildings are witness to some of my husband’s most cherished childhood memories.  Indeed, it was also Oshkidee which cemented Ryan and mine’s relationship.  It was here we experienced our mutual joy of camp and of waterskiing.  We did crazy teenage, rule-breaking stuff (Shhh, don’t tell---…and my children I wince in dread and fear that I did these things and hope that you are smarter than us and thank God for His protection).  We had fun and we sought God and it was good, it was so good!  I sat in chapel, my first days at Camp Oshkidee, dreaming and brainstorming how a wedding here would look.  I was in love with Ryan; but, also with this beautiful camp.  That was the summer of 2000.  The following summer at camp, 2001, Ryan and I went for a dirt bike ride down the trails (which are currently engulfed in fire).  We stopped at an opening that overlooks the lake and here Ryan said to me, “I think we should get married.” And I replied without hesitation, “me too.”  Upon returning home, we shared our intention with our parents and my father-in-law booked the camp for the following June 22.

 The chalet was the perfect setting for our truly perfect day: our wedding. 

 But that was just the beginning, or perhaps the middle…

 We were youth leaders at camp the following year and my in-laws rented out the camp for spectacular family time a couple times years following.

 Then we moved to BC and didn’t return to camp until Ryan suggested we go when I was on Mat leave with the twins.  I thought he was crazy (and really many elements of that week at camp were pure chaos and craziness!)  But there was still something special about being in that place, Camp Oshkidee, where “we” first began as a 2 person family.  That year at camp I felt God give me a message, “Cheryl, I will give you years in the lake filled with joy with your kids.”  At the time it was an encouragement to press through the crazy days of motherhood, where I wasn’t able to enjoy being in the lake; but, a couple months later when I was diagnosed with brain cancer with a prognosis of one-year survival, those words, that promise of years, became a life-line of hope.  We returned the following year, last summer, and similarly, God spoke. There was one evening at camp where the moon was full and spectacular and reflected off of the lake.  It was if God was saying, in the darkness I am the beacon of light.  There is no darkness in me.  I have overcome the darkness.

 We are registered for camp again this summer.  We discussed whether to go or not, it is a long trip to get there; but, we decided yes, it is worth it.  It is always worth it.

 A few days ago we received word that the camp is in a fire storm.  Blazes are penetrating closer and it does not look good.  As you see how meaningful this place, this camp, is to me, to our family you can understand how this situation is an allegory of our life!  The fire rages; flames licking into our lives, trying to consume us and it looks dismal.  The fire is powerful and raging and pressing and unrelenting.  The wall of smoke ominously threatens suffocation.  But.  Yes, but.  In it all our hope in God does not waver. 



The morning after imminent threat on the camp was apparent, the camp director shared this:

 "If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that God is in control...even if it doesn’t appear so. As the sun comes up I haven’t heard any update about the fire situation at the camp. So we eagerly await news.

However, I do believe I heard from God this morning! Every morning I get a devotional emailed to me from pastor Rick Warren, who’s from California. It’s uncanny how often it relates to what I need to hear. And today is no different. The promise that God is with us through our fiery trials. I am confident the plans He has for Oshkidee will be seen.
The picture used almost even looks like that trail to the camp! God’s got this!!"



Huh! God speaks.

 As I was contemplating this and the whole Camp Oshkidee situation I was reminded of how God spoke to Moses in Exodus 3 through a burning bush.  As Moses approaches the burning bush God says to him, “take off your sandals, the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Immediately I was reminded how being at Camp Oshkidee, truly feels like walking on holy ground.  God’s presence is so very tangible there; it is holy ground!  (I’ve already mentioned how God has spoken to me at Camp Oshkidee. It was surrounding the burning bush which God was speaking through that required Moses to remove his sandals.  I thus conclude where God speaks, it is holy ground.)  Whatever happens to our beloved camp, I know that holy ground cannot be consumed by fire!



We keep waiting for updates on what is going on with the forest fire and the camp.  In the waiting I was reminded of another “fire story.”  It’s the story from Daniel 3 where there are three men who refuse to worship the gold statue which the king has decreed must to worshipped when music sounds.  At their refusal the king is enraged and gives them one more chance “But if you refuse you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace.  What god will be able to rescue you from my power then?” says the king. 

 The men’s response is striking. 

 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

 These words penetrated me.  They are the words I needed for my own fire storm!  They are exactly the words that speak to how I feel about being cured from incurable cancer.  I trust my God is powerful and that indeed He can heal me.  I pray that God takes my brain and obliterates and banishes the cancer.  I pray for those years in the lake to celebrate joy with my family!  But even if I am not cured physically, my soul has been healed in a brilliant fashion!  We can celebrate this!  And even if the cancer consumes me, I will worship my God for what He has done for me!   Why? How?  I wrote the following, called “Lift my head” I think it helps explain.

 The only way to have fulfilled life on earth is to believe that there is life beyond this earth.  To believe the heavens hold something bigger and brighter than humanity: God Himself full of Mercy and Love, waiting to hold me in His arms and lift my head up high.  This truth not only gives me a future beyond the grave, it gives me strength and sustaining courage to truly live while I’m alive.



Psalm 3:3

“But you, oh Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high.”



---------------



(Remember too, we are not in trusting in God in order to escape the flames.  He is not our safe-guard, He is our everything!  We are trusting in God because we believe in Him.  We are trusting in God as the only One worthy of complete devotion and highest honor and praise!)


The story of the three men in the fiery furnace doesn’t end here.  They are indeed pitched to burn in the flames.  But in the furnace, they are joined by a divine being!  (And they walk out and are not even singed!)

“Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” 

“Yes..indeed!”

 “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire,  They aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a divine being!”


In the fire storms of life, it gets hot.  (My friend describes the chaos of her life as a “hot mess.”)  In these hot messes we are accompanied.  Do not forget the great Comforter who goes with us and the angels who protect us (Psalm 91:11).  Do not forget that through the fire storms of life the chaff of life is burnt off.  God baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and with fire so what remains is the most valuable parts of life (Matt 3:11-12).  Life like God intended for us to have.  In a society adverse to pain and hardship, this is a difficult lesson to learn.  Sometimes I don’t like to admit it (because who really likes to admit that good comes from pressing through difficulty); but, this cancer journey continues to burn off the chaff of my life and polish the rich treasure in my soul.


I Peter 1:7

“These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure.  It is being tested as fire test and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold.  So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trial, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”





Oh God I raise my hands in petition for Camp Oshkidee and for petition for my life; but most of all I raise my hands in honor of You, to whom be the glory! Amen!        



Update: I wrote this a few days ago, the camp is still very much threatened as the fire engulfs the area

    

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Good MRI Results!!

Good news from my MRI and a lovely appointment with my wonderful oncologist.  (He said as we were leaving: it's my secret hope that everyone is cured.  It's my hope to see this building empty.  I am perfectly happy to learn new skills. ) He's so fantastic!

My oncologist is pleased with continued healing in my brain.  My immune system is doing a good job keeping the cancer at bay.

Always trusting in God's faithfulness ❤️