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Monday, December 26, 2016

Update Dec. 26/16

I have been very tired the last week.  I had to learn how to rest LOTS in order to feel good this week; but, with pacing myself (and going to bed right after the kids!) and keeping activities spaced I have had a lovely Christmas.  It was so wonderful to see all three kids fully loving Christmas!!!  And today I have been blessed with a surprise abundance of energy!  Last week mild headaches and vision changes started (similar to before my tumor removal).  If these increase I may have to go on steroids (most brain cancer patients are on steroids post-op or during treatment, so I have done well!), but it is my goal to stay off them.  (I do not want the sleep issues and mood and metabolic changes they bring with them).  So I have been emphasizing rest and it seems to have paid off well.

That said, I have been thinking more about my "self-care".  I want to find weekly space to really delve into writing more (legacy pieces and maybe finish the novel I started years ago?!).  I dream of a place to retreat (since our place is too small to escape the noise of our family and my bedtime has been very early). My dream is a place at Cultus Lake, but really any quiet zone in Chilliwack, Cultus Lake or Abbotsford with a private space with a place to relax (ie. couch or bed) and a table or desk to write at would be wonderful.  I am exploring monthly spiritual mini-retreats, but do long for weekly solitude. 

So I will ask: does anyone have a space they are not using once a week, during the weekday daytime that they are willing for me to retreat to?


Blessings of Christmas:
-  The joy of our children and of spending time with extended family, both in person and via video chat
-  Playing in the snow and getting the twins outside and seeing them love it!!! (They kinda got a bit cooped-up when the weather turned cold and I started getting more tired a couple weeks ago, so this was refreshing)

Prayer Items
- For a suitable "retreat-zone" to come my way
- Thankfulness that I only have 8 more radiation treatments left!
- The twins have colds again, so far they are still sleeping through the night - pray this continues and that I continue to avoid the colds (I'm tired enough without getting a cold!)

Thank you for the messages I have received.  As I get more tired, it is difficult to always reply.  Please know that if I haven't replied, that I have still deeply appreciated your messages.  I am certain I do not even know the amount of people reading my blog; but, I thank you for journeying with me.  Also, I feel so surrounded by love and support when I voice a need and it abundantly gets met. Thank you!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Here's some family pics!







Photo Credit: Vicky Falk

Christmas Letter 2016


Joshua 1:9

“ Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 As I sit to write our Christmas letter this year and ponder the year gone by, January feels like an entire lifetime ago.  The places we have treaded this year seem impossible, but to know that they are true as evidenced in our current lives.  I’ll write this letter chronologically, since I know no other way to tackle the enormity of this year, and invite you to read my Advent Letter also, if you haven’t already. 

 Our year started in Saskatchewan.  We had not planned to travel with infant twins back to freezing temperatures; however, with the passing of Ryan’s Grandma Braun we welcomed the travel to be able to celebrate Grandma’s life and spend precious time with extended family.  Indeed, we had a lovely time.  After returning home Ryan’s parents headed to Florida, and my parents flew out to give helping hands with the twins (Ryan’s mom helped ALOT the first 2 months with the twins).  Our babies were all-consuming in these months, so after my parents left we made our way to Ryan’s parents’ for 3 weeks of sunshine.  Rayna LOVED absolutely every moment at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  We kept it simple, sticking around “home”, swimming lots, and a couple of trips to the zoo.

 In March, my parents returned for a couple weeks, and I don’t know what I would have done without them!!!  The rest of spring through July (which was chilly!) feels like a bit of a blur.  These were hard days with the twins. But, I started running again 3 days a week and Ryan kept on pickling (playing pickleball). Through out the year he has continued to attend tournaments whenever possible. We also attended Rayna’s dance performance in June.

 At the end of July we road-tripped for 3 weeks to Saskatchewan.  The twins kept it crazy, but Ryan and I managed to keep it together and Rayna, again, loved every minute (and we love this girl for keeping us going on the adventures we do like to go on!)  First stop was my parents with my sister and her family (husband + 5 kids) in tow.  Rayna has decided she doesn’t like Saskatchewan; unfortunately this trip she met Saskatchewan mosquitoes – in swarms!  However, our next major stop was a huge highlight.  We went to Camp Oshkidee in Meadow Lake Provincial Park (where Ryan and I were married and where Ryan grew up going yearly to family camp).  The logistics were pretty much a gong-show with the twins; but, by the end of the week we were indeed able to connect with some great people (Thanks Sheena and Jeremy for essentially adopting Rayna!) and Rayna loved the freedom the camp environment offered (she was able to go places “by herself”).  As always, God’s presence is evident when you are at Camp Oshkidee and I managed to receive a bit of spiritual fuel for the challenges ahead.    We were also able to connect with some of our extended family in Saskatoon, as well as our close friends, Brad and Ashley, and my friend from University, Erin.

 The end of August and beginning of September were lovely.  Our weather was fantastic and we were able to make impromptu trips to Cultus Lake (a favorite memory is when Ryan and I took the twins swimming there one afternoon when Rayna was at her Daycare which she attends 3 days a week.) I also started playing soccer again with the team I played on a couple of years ago.  This was my first consistent (weekly) “me-time” since the twins were born and it felt fabulous!!!

 By the end of September I was starting to experience dizziness.  I had also had an occasional migraine, which was new to me, but I chalked up to stress of mothering 3 kids.  I felt gradually more “funny”, and was starting to explore if it was because of vision changes etc.  Three days before my tumor diagnosis I had difficulty functioning properly at soccer and backing out of my parking spot afterward.  The next couple days I was struggling just to get food on the table for my kids, even with omitting outside time from our schedule.  Then on Wed. Oct 5 after pushing the twins while I went running (during which I was dizzy), I brought them to the playground, had them in the swings but could not figure out how to get them out.  This along with a funny sensation in my right arm (like it was dissociated from my body) brought me to call Ryan and head to the ER.  I was given a CT scan that day which diagnosed a brain tumor.  The next morning when we saw the neurosurgeon he gave us promising words as the tumor seemed to be contained.  It was removed Oct. 19 (gross total resection) and unfortunately when the pathology came back early Nov. it was cancerous (yes, the paperwork got lost but I didn’t really feel a sense of urgency given the surgeon’s initial impressions). And treatment (radiation and chemo) began Nov. 24.

 Now we are on a journey that I have been documenting on my blog.  Please feel free to continue to follow our journey there.  We have been blessed with so many beautiful encounters and wish to thank everyone who has shown such generosity with food, gifts, childcare, prayers and support. Unfortunately, I have not been able to respond to and thank you all individually, but we are truly grateful.  Some moments this journey seems unfathomable; but, we are surrounded in love and hope.  Also our kids keep us going (and of course keep us tired too!) and this is a blessing.  This last week I’ve been pondering Mary’s joy: “oh how I praise the Lord! How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me.  His mercy goes on from generation to generation to all who fear him.” (Luke 1: 46-50) Likewise, I am delighting in our children and that God has blessed us with “bonus” twins!

 I am tired these days from my treatment (I feel years beyond my age and have to pace myself so much).  But fatigue, indeed cancer or ailments, cannot steal joy.  And what joy we have at Christmas.  We invite you to join with us in taking tally of the blessings in your own lives.  It is truly our prayer that Christ’s joy is in your homes and hearts and well.


Much Love and Merry Christmas,

 Ryan & Cheryl,  Rayna (4 years old) Garrett and Allison (14 months old) Rostek  




Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent Letter 2016


Isaiah 32 & 35 (NLT), selected verses, emphasis mine (these are prophetic verses foretelling Jesus’ coming

 Look, a righteous king is coming!  Then the wilderness will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will become a lush and fertile forest.  Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field.  And this righteousness will bring PEACE. Quietness and confidence will fill the land forever.

 My people will live in safety, quietly at home.  They will be at REST. Even though the forest will be destroyed and the city torn down, God will greatly BLESS his people.  Wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up.  Their flocks and herds will graze in green pastures.

 The desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and JOY!

 With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees.  Say to those who are afraid, “Be strong and do not fear for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf.  The lame will leap like a deer and those who cannot speak will shout and sing! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness and streams will water the desert.  The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.  Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.

 Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with JOY and GLADNESS.

 John 3:16

 For God so LOVED the world that he gave his only son. That whosoever believeth in him shall have everlasting life.



 Conciseness and eloquence escape me my friends and family.  This is in light of the magnitude of what we celebrate going into the Christmas season.  The gift of Christmas is unparalleled.  I’ve been writing these Advent letters for years now.  I’ve acknowledged before the greatness of our God and the amazing wonder of salvation through Jesus.  I believe that Jesus came to earth as a babe, grew into a man, died for our sins, that if we believe we can be secured everlasting joy that does not cease and only grows when we leave this world behind.  But, listen to me.  LISTEN TO ME.    Without this belief, life is bleak.  Without my faith it would be impossible to embrace the Hope, love, joy and peace that I have been given and which I absolutely, daily depend on.  I stare death in the face.  (I am being stark; but I want you to know where I’m coming from and that this is what happens when I know that the average person who has my disease only lives for one year. ps. I do not intend to be “average” and invite you to continue praying with me on this front; but, these are the facts.)  My outlook could be so dismal.  My prognosis could zap the joy from my days ahead.  Many of you have mentioned how you are amazed at my attitude.  I’ll tell you that I don’t want to live with an alternative attitude.  Indeed, it is work for me to stay positive on a daily basis. But I choose to stay positive.  How? Ultimately and completely by my faith (through reading the bible, praying and spending time in community with other like-minded people) and by the power of God.

 Reread those verses above.  Jesus brings peace, rest, blessing, joy, gladness and love. The angels announce, “I bring you good news of great joy for EVERYONE!” (Luke 2:10)     

I feel my words’ inadequacies to proclaim how truly great this news is.  So, I pray; fervently I pray, that you too would experience this life-changing, life-giving, peace, rest, blessing, joy, gladness and love this Christmas.

 If you do not know God and his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who is given to believers, I beg you to open your heart and your mind to experience the hope, love, joy, and peace he gives.  That baby in the manager means EVERYTHING.   He changes EVERYTHING. Open your hands and your hearts to cherish Jesus' birth.          

 Now, because of this, let’s celebrate this Christmas in absolute extravagance of our hearts.  Let’s celebrate richly everything we have been given.  Throw the confetti up in the air.  Sing, dance, laugh, party.  This is worth celebrating! 




Psalm 31

I went to Psalms this morning looking for Psalm 23 and ended up at Psalm 31.  David's prayer reflects my own heart and gives words to the prayer I desire to bring before God:


For the honor of your name lead me out of this peril,
Rescue me God, for you are a faithful God.
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am in distress.

Your goodness is so great!
You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you.
You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence.

So be strong and take courage, all you who put your hope in the LORD!

Update - Dec. 12/16


I haven’t given much of an update for a long time so here’s a recap of the last couple weeks. 

Going to the cancer centre every weekday has become like a “job” for me.  At first it was all new and so was more taxing.  Now it is just routine and this is a good thing for me! (Though certainly it does become tedious heading out there daily).

 My side effects from treatment are still minimal.  My hair has just started to thin out a bit (my hair loss will be patchy – just in the spots where the radiation hits my scalp; my chemo won’t cause hairloss) I am starting to get more tired, but it seems manageable as long as I get a solid night’s rest and have a few days a week where I get some quiet time/rest time during the day.  It’s more of a mental fatigue than physical so I don’t sleep during the day; but, my “soul” needs to rest/journal/recharge.  I do find that I am pushed to impatience much easier than usual and at times this is a challenge.  However, if I take care of myself by allotting my needed rest, I feel really good.  Last week was a challenge because all 3 of the kids were sick and so I didn’t sleep good at night.  I then found a bit of headache and mild nausea popping into my day; but again they were manageable.

 I am adhering to a low carb diet, but have decided to give myself much grace in this area.  I eat small portions of starchy foods, but am still really limiting them.  I am still trying to emphasize veggies and fruit.  I was finding that meal planning was just too onerous if I had such a rigid diet, and really I am unsure of the benefit of going full out low-carb.  Speaking of meal planning.  This is currently the area that is the most demanding (and cleaning).  I don’t like meal planning at the best of times, so now is even less fun.  Cleaning, I’m hoping to hire someone to clean.  I just need to find someone (we have a contact for someone in Abbotsford, but it would be nice to have someone local) and to figure out how to get my crew out of the house for the bulk of the time the cleaner is here so she can actually do her job!

 My parents were out for 3 weeks and they have just gone home. Ryan’s mom will now be helping us out a couple days a week and our nanny about 3 days.



So, people have asked how they can help:

1.  Meals are much appreciated! My family loves pasta dishes, so these are great; but, I’m trying to stay away from them, so meals that are protein focused (ie a chicken bake dish with a veggie) are also helpful.  Thank you in advance, I really appreciate everyone’s generosity with food.   

(I particularly have a hankering for some veggie soup if anyone happens to like making it/has some on hand.)

 2.  A referral to a local cleaner who would be flexible enough with my kids’ not so flexible schedule.

 3. Keep praying.  Prayer for God’s mighty power to encourage and strengthen me daily and destroy those cancer cells. I am also particularly encouraged when people send me messages to tell me how they have been praying.  I really enjoy connecting with people through messages.


Moments of thankfulness.


1. I am so delighted by my kids lately.  I have said to close friends how I have now reached a point where I couldn’t imagine not having 3 kids! (It was certainly not in my plans and has been a challenge during the twins’ first year).  I now feel so incredibly blessed as a mom (this is a whole blog post in itself…..)

2.  Playing in the snow with the twins and sledding with Rayna (the latter did give me a bit of a     headache, but was loads of fun!)

3. A visit from Ryan’s dear lifelong family friends



Requests for prayer

1.       Wisdom in balancing the desire to be socially engaged (particularly important for Ryan these days as that is how he gets recharged) with my need for rest and personal quiet time (which is how I recharge)

2.  Prayer that the chemo and radiation are zapping those cancer cells into oblivion

3. Prayer for nighttime sleep in our house (the kids! which would equal all of us!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nov 29, 2016





Emotionally spent.  That about sums up how I feel.  Physically, I feel fantastic.  I am running again and that feels great.  I sleep well.  My body feels strong.  But my soul is starting to feel exhausted.  And anxiety pokes its head out from time to time.  This “job” of being a cancer patient is starting to feel tedious and unrewarding. 



I was listening to music the other day and an Owl City song came on and used the phrase, “when it rains, it pours.”  I feel like it is pouring in my life.  I had not “regained myself” after such an intense year of mothering infant twins and it leaves me wondering: How on earth am I going to be able to do this?  I am trying to figure out how to prioritize myself.  I have not figured out how to create spaces of quiet, of reflection, of meditation, and of prayer with the pressing of my family demands. I want time to be still; but the reality is I have daily treatments and I am still mom to 3 small children. So how do I find S P A C E?  Where can I retreat?  Right this moment I have retreated to my bedroom and yet Garrett is supposed to be napping in our closet, his makeshift bedroom, and he is not sleeping and my retreat zone is punctuated with cries.  And this is simply real life with one year olds. But, it is my prayer to be able to find a “place in the wilderness” to retreat to as Jesus did.



Sunday morning was a small, precious retreat for Ryan and I as we attended church while my mom watched the twins at home so we could be fully present in the service.  It felt powerful to be amoungst other people who believe boldly in the power of God.  And through out the service I was reminded to reflect on Advent.  We are in a season of peace and hope and joy and expectation.  God says, “My timing is perfect. I do not want you to suffer my child.  I will hold you through this. And I give to you afresh the gift of Christmas as you enter this season of healing your body, soul, and mind. I am so much more powerful than you could ever imagine, even as you begin to open yourself to my power, I am infinitely more powerful than that.”  My friend reaffirmed the promises of Advent for my life through an email later in the day.  Furthermore, the pastor spoke on prayer on Sunday, specifically one point was that the power of prayer comes from having a history of prayer.  I pray today because illness stares me in the face and its only worthy opponent is God’s mighty power.  However, I have been praying to this same God for years.  How fortunate I am to have a history of faith, spiritual support, and prayer.  And how ultimately comforting that my prayers extend beyond natural timing such that they have the power to go forward to touch my childrens’ lives even when I am no longer able to physically hold my kids.  My kids, I am praying for you in the name of a very powerful God!



I’ve been reminded that God battled for David to fight a giant and He will fight this giant with me too.  I am reminded that God has spoken: “ The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10) And that I can rest because God has promised, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91)  This is what I need. Shelter to be able to truly rest, a warrior prepared to do battle for me, and the promise of full life. 



So that’s my emotional and spiritual update.  As for the nitty gritty of daily life, here’s that update (sorry I don’t have much energy left to recap these so they will be brief).



Disney was absolutely fantastic and incredible.  I didn’t think about being sick at all.  I felt completely “normal.” Which made it a bit of a shock to reality when we arrived home at midnight on Wed and entered a full morning at the Cancer Centre on Thurs. including my first radiation. 



So far I’m tolerating my chemo and radiation just fine.  As I mentioned, physically I am doing great!  So thankful for that. And I’ve even started driving myself to radiation as I was given the all clear to drive.  This substantially frees up Ryan’s time.



I am thankful for:

- my parents visiting to help out.

- my physical health being so great

- my friend inviting me to an upcoming Advent retreat at Cultus Lake





Requests for prayer

- emotional fortitude

- Being able to find spaces to rest

- the radiation and chemo to find out and destroy all stray cancer cells



Thank you again, everyone, for joining me in this journey.

A letter to Rayna

I had not planned, when I wrote this, to share it publicly.  However, more and more the humanity of being real, genuine, authentic....whatever you want to call it, is increasingly important to me.  I want to share with you the beauty of the time Ryan and I were able to spend with Rayna on our trip to Disneyland.  (In doing so, this serves as a big THANK YOU to our parents for watching the twins, allowing us to make this trip.)  Apart from what I share below, two highlights were attending a drawing class which Rayna took so seriously as she has aspirations to be an art teacher and being able to snuggle with Rayna in her bed in the hotel in the morning as Daddy was working on waking up.

To Rayna:

Rayna, thank you so much for inspiring us to plan a Disney mini getaway.  Because you probably won't remember many details in years to come, I want to remind you of what a lovely, awe-filled time you had. Indeed, it was magical for all three of us.  We didn't have to try hard at all to have a fantastic time. On our second day, walking to Disneyland you said, "this is the nicest place in the world."   It blessed my heart to see your love for meeting the princesses. You wanted to meet them all.  I loved going with you to meet them and watching you light up as they waved at you during the parades.

Rayna you are such a special, delightful girl and I am so thrilled that this treat for you was such a special time for me too.  I enjoyed myself so very much.  I loved the Anna and Elsa performance, the "paint the night" nighttime light-spectacular parade, the Mickey Ferris wheel, the Christmas parade, and all the beautiful Christmas lights and spirit.  You, Rayna, are such a blessing for encouraging our family to have delightful times.  You love airplane rides and are always ready for an adventure- even if you appear very serious as you take in all the sights and sounds of the adventure.  What touched my heart preparing to leave for this trip, was when it fully sunk in that we were leaving Garrett and Allison at home.  You were sad to leave your brother and sister behind.  You are so sweet and caring. It is way more than I would expect from a 4 year old and yet it exemplifies your genuinely loving, caring, generous and compassionate characteristics.  Never lose touch with these traits Rayna.  I believe they are defining for you and will allow you to richly bless others.  You really are special in this way and it is beautiful.  Today we saw so many beautiful princesses and yet the beauty within your heart far surpasses the beauty of those princesses. Never forget you are beautiful. I tell you daily you are beautiful and I mean it and desire for you to always remember it.  You are so special that you most often reply, "you're beautiful too mom." (This is in addition to the random compliments you give me telling me I am "the best mom ever" at least daily.)  And I know you mean it. Thank you.  It inspires me to be the best mom possible for you and Garrett and Allison.  That is what I want so deeply, to be able to keep being your mom with all that includes. To teach you, encourage you, have fun with you and to learn from you. You have already given me these dear gifts and I petition God to give me many more opportunities for more teaching, encouragement, fun and learning.

This Disney trip has come at a pivotal time in my life; but the joy of it truly is a reflection of the joy you bring to mine and your fathers lives on a daily basis.  It really was so good to greet princesses and take in in all the spectacular performances and displays.  Thank you Rayna for keeping my days bright. It certainly is not your responsibility; but, inevitably it happens.  You are so loved my dear precious daughter.  I want to hold you and kiss you and somehow make sure you remember these lovely times we are sharing together - both in daily life and in the extra special times such as Disney.

Love you always,

Mom


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rain on my parade

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and encouragement. I have been encouraged to keep my head up and to look up, and I find the play on these literary terms remarkable: the secular uses these phrases in a passing way of encouraging optimism while we as Christians know that the whole reason to keep our heads up is to fix our eyes on the One who empowers.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬ 

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of God."
Reference: somewhere in Hebrews I think, my internet is spotty so I'm having trouble looking it up :)

This second verse I memorized as a preteen at camp and can recite it still. It is so meaningful as it turns my eyes to Christ, reminds me of his power to conquer death, and focuses my attention to joy in the unbearably difficult.

I want you to know that through encouragement I received yesterday and the experiences of today I have adopted the following motto: "No one can rain on my parade."  

You see day 1 of California has been cool, rainy, and much too reminicent of BC weather. However, we had a lovely day today despite this weather. AND we had a nice time at Disney despite getting soaked and them cancelling the parade that Rayna and I were so looking forward to (Though really I did question why rain necessitated a cancellation- guess I'm a true west coast girl now!) And I don't usually pray on the weather front but my prayer life has entered all realms lately so I can honestly say that I had a good day today but I am praying for dry tomorrow­čśŐ

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Spiritual Attack


Nov 19 2016



Today I face a spiritual battle.  My spirits have been dampened.  I’ve felt discouraged.  This is despite feeling great physically.  The neurologist gave me the all-clear to run, so I added some run intervals into my walk yesterday and it made me feel alive!  Today we pack for Disneyland and anticipate an unparalleled experience with our delightful firstborn daughter.  We are going to the place where dreams come true!  God answered prayer and we have hired a nanny who we are thrilled to welcome into our home and lives.  I’ve got a naturopath lined up. I really like my oncologists and feel encouraged after leaving the cancer centre.  I had a lovely visit with my sister, who flew out for 3 days, this week.  Everything feels like its working out so well, and then I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling down. 



I had a message from my close friend asking how I was.  As I replied to her, I came to realize Satan is trying to steal my joy.  But it is not his to take.  I invited my close friends to pray against this spiritual attack of discouragement.  I invite you to do the same.  This is a new realm for me; but it is beginning to feel very real. It is spiritual warfare.  I claim the promises of God and intend to stand on them.  I stand on the powerful name of Jesus.  Daily I have much to rejoice in.  These are the joys of now:



-       Starting to run again!

-       Finding a nanny who is extremely flexible and lovely

-       Feeling like I’m “normal”, I don’t feel an ounce sick.



Prayer requests:



-       Spiritual strength and wisdom, there is a lot to my faith and to spirituality that I    have never explored before

-       A delightful and relaxed time in Disneyland

-       Health for my family, we are in cough and cold season

-       Wisdom in discerning diet choices and resources to implement them (I’ve started a no grains diet, but am still trying to sort the finer details out and figure out practical matters and how this translates into our whole family’s diet)


Thank you all for your support, love, concern, and PRAYER.  Each step the support surrounding me is more cherished and vital.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Plan of Attack



Nov 13/16

This past week has been filled with much exhaustion.  Initially after my diagnosis of glioblastoma I would wake at night overwhelmed with tears and sorrow.  I was full of grief for the loss of the future I had envisioned for my family.  These moments still surface as their reality is a lurking possibility; however, my continued lack of sleep is not due to sadness, it is because I have so much to do – so much life to live.  I certainly have things to sort out in the immediate future to ensure optimal health care; but, more crucial (and fun) is that I have things to sort out to ensure I fully live.  I have always been one to strive to make the most of all times.  Holidays have been squeezed in with usually no buffer days to return to work, so as to optimize vacation time.  We have done so much with the twins even though it was so very difficult to travel with them.  We don’t sit around waiting for things to happen, we strive to be proactive to create these memories.  We have been blessed with good professions so that we have been able to have finances for frequent lovely trips.  However, we have also created many, many local adventures, taking in all our city and surrounding area has to offer such as hiking, playing at the lake, cross country skiing, trail running, playing tennis and playing pickleball (this one is Ryan’s exclusive as I certainly did not catch the pickleball fever).  And these are just the initial things that come to mind.  In Ryan I have found a partner who doesn’t let what others are doing dictate how he chooses to live his life.  This has been a foundation for us for making choices that proactively allow our family to thrive.  In the past year of challenges mothering twins my prayer was this: “God grant me wisdom, patience, love, tenacity and the power to THRIVE.”  And you can count on this: thrive we will.  God has been faithful to our family for generations.  He will continue to be faithful.  (ps. Ryan and I are taking Rayna to Disneyland next Sunday for a couple day! How exciting!!!)

There are many questions in this.  Supernaturally, I have not been inclined to ask, “Why?” but I know many do.  My response that I gave to a friend on facebook that I would like to document here is this: The only way it makes any sense to me is to focus on what a fabulous 35 years I’ve had (though really tough last year raising twins!) and acknowledge that every day is a gift, why some people get more gifts than others….who knows, right?  Life isn’t “fair”, that’s for sure. BUT I’m sure I’m gonna make the most of what I’ve got!

People also don’t know what to say.  This is understandable.  My response: There are no words, it’s crazy and messed up; but, “it will be okay.”  Those are the words my mom told me when she was diagnosed with cancer.  I get it now.  God gives hope, strength, and LIFE. So keep praying!!!! 

My plan
Strengthened by people and prayer

I have formulated a plan of attack, people and you are a key component.  I can not do this without you.  You empower me.  To be honest, when I first realized how far my blog was reaching I was intimidated.  What I say is being read by so many people and I am but human.  Know this, I am just like you: struggling to connect with God.  Yes, my faith is powerful; but at the beginning of my diagnosis I felt so distant from God.  It was the prayer of 2 close dear friends (plus countless others I’m sure) which drew me to Him.  God is using you, my friends, in my story.  You are not bystanders, you are co-authors.  Thank you!!!!  I covet your prayers.  I have days of exhaustion where my requests to God are but whispers.  On those days I lean on your prayer of intercession for me. 

In my prayer, I ask God specifically to destroy these cancer cells.  I have a degree in biochemistry with some education in cancer molecular biology.  So I pray specifically against what I know cancer needs to survive.  I pray that these cancer cells would be cut off from blood supply.  I pray they would forced to conform to the check points which keep regular cells in check.  I pray that their division would be halted such that they would wither.  I pray that these rogue cells would know they have no home in my body.  NONE.

Visualization    

Subsequently I visualize this destruction of cancer cells happening in my body.  God has given us an amazing and powerful mind.  I intend to enlist it in my fight.

Exercise

I love fitness.  Daily exercise is inviting to me and yet with my family demands has proven challenging to fit in.  However, it is my goal to implement daily fitness.  This empowers both my mind and body.  I love being active and always strive to serve as a role model to my kids in this.  Now is no different.  Our bodies were made to move!

Diet    

I have always maintained a relatively healthy diet avoiding junk food.  However, my plan of attack involves stepping it up by emphasizing organic fruits and vegetables.  Again this feels like a bit of a challenge as we figure out how to procure this produce in a practical way, but it is becoming a priority.

Complementary treatment   

I have limited time to research therapies.  My background as a pharmacist certainly directs me to put confidence in traditional western medicine.  However, I see value in other modalities as well.  Evidence suggests acupuncture can be helpful in improving energy and reducing nausea in cancer treatment.  I view this therapy as a physiological approach and welcome it.  I plan to seek guidance from a naturopath with the intention of counsel on lifestyle changes and implementation of acupuncture.  I have no interest in herbal therapies as I know they have the power to interact with traditional medicine.

Chemo and Radiation

I will have 6 weeks concurrent Chemo (oral at home) and Radiation (5 days a week in Abbotsford) treatment, followed by 6 months continuation of chemo (likely to start around Nov 24).  The forefront major side effects will be fatigue, nausea, hair loss.  My plan is to continue to live life as I have been, just perhaps in an attenuated fashion with naps.


Today I am thankful for:

-So much!!!!  Life is good!!! I am thankful for these days before the treatment will start wearing me out. 
- Visits from friends and family
-the incredible support we are surrounded by
-Taking my 4 year old to Disneyland next week!!!!!

Requests:

-prayer for getting a nanny sorted out.
-prayer for the radiation oncologist on Monday as he makes the plan of where to radiate my brain.  This treatment plan is crucial!
-prayer for our kids understanding (supernatural understanding for the twins I suppose!) as my treatment rolls out and I’m tired and start looking different (hair loss etc.)

Today I leave you with these verses from Ephesians 3:14-21 which I have referenced in a previous blog, that were highlighted to me in summer.  Let’s rest in them:

14 When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e]15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Answered prayer

Thank you all for praying. I got a call this morning that my oncologist appoint would now be Tues. (1 week earlier than originally booked). I was feeling good about that when 5 min later they called back with a cancellation for TODAY! I'm on my way to meet the oncologist now!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Nov. 8/16

Today I request prayer surrounding my appointment date with the oncologist.  My referral to the Cancer centre was delayed (the paperwork fell through the cracks) which I feel will not be a big deal if they expedite matters now.  However, my current initial appointment date with an oncologist is set for Nov. 23, 5 weeks post-op.  From my reading and talking to a knowledgeable friend, this may not be optimal and treatment should likely begin almost immediately.  We have pressed my GP (who is actually a brand new GP locuming for my physician who is away until the 17th) to persuade the neurologist to contact the oncologist which is apparently the only way to be seen before my given appointment date.  Pray that I will be given an earlier appointment date with the oncologist and be able to begin treatment promptly.  


Today I am thankful for:

- A calmness that is starting to enter daily life (may it translate into good nighttime sleep!)
-  Family dance party after supper!
- Warm sunshine
- An amazing husband to journey with

Monday, November 7, 2016

Nov. 7/16

I found this promise in my journal that I heard God speak to me in August; I embrace it:

TRUST that you will be blessed to jump into the water (context is having a wonderful time "playing" in the lake - one of my most favorite places to be) and celebrate joy with your family in years to come.

I dream of teaching my kids to waterski and pray for the opportunity to do so.

What I am thankful for today:
-morning snuggles with Rayna before the twins got up.
-"meeting" a new friend who is also a twin mom of babies and battling cancer
-Watching Rayna teaching Allie her ABCs by pointing to her alphabet wall decals and singing the ABCs while Allie absorbed her lesson intently.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Diagnosis


Promises.  I have been given promises, hope, and truth.  They are not as I expected or desired.  Indeed it is hard to fathom my diagnosis: glioblastoma.  Nasty, aggressive brain cancer.  In the deep sorrow of grieving the future I had envisioned for my family, I remain steadfast. 


I am promised in Joshua 1:9 that I needn’t be afraid or discouraged because my Lord and God will be with me wherever I go.  In Psalm 118:24 I am reminded to Rejoice in this day that my Lord has given me.  I am brought to a place where I rest in how much I have been GIVEN.  I am in a place where I am ready to fight! With prayer and with determination!  I feel so very good right now and I am ready to LIVE.  I have always lived my life with no regrets, full-out, now is no exception. 


My dear friend shared these words with me about cancer:  Cancer is so limited.  Remember this. It cannot steal joy or love or family.  It cannot take your faith.  It cannot destroy peace or kill friendship.  It cannot shatter hope or steal eternal life.


I have a powerful, mighty God.  I invite you to join me in praying to Him.  Join me in asking for a miracle to destroy all these rogue cancer cells in my body.  Join me in asking for years ahead to spend with my cherished husband, children and friends.  Join me in praise to the Giver of life who has given me 35 blessed, blessed years.  Join me in the sorrow, but ultimately in the hope.  In this bad news is the good news; the news of a Savior who gives life in its fullness.  I trust that in days ahead I will “experience the love of Christ…and be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:19)  


In these days I have been greeted with beautiful humanity.  I have a core of precious, precious friends who surround me.  These friends are in addition to the strong support of both mine and Ryan’s family. And beyond these relationships people are reaching out: coworkers, acquaintances, strangers.  It is a beautiful display of love; it is Christ’s love reaching out through meals, childcare and petitioning unrelenting prayer and intercession on my behalf.  Oh how beautiful it is!


Truly I have tried to put words to a situation that has no words good enough to describe.  Thank you for journeying with me.  You are invited to journey with me here as I update you on my medical situation.  If you would like to automatically be emailed my posts please send me your email address through comment or to cheryl.rostek@gmail.com




Saturday, October 15, 2016

It is well with my soul

 It pains me that putting words on paper is so difficult for me these days. Somethings up in my brain that it is such a challenge to string words together and this is hard when writing  is my gateway to communicate .  So this piece will not be eloquent and I'm using my voice typing to put it together but oh how I need to put my thoughts on paper .   Right now I sit in the emergency room at three in the morning and I wait. I wait for them to cut this growth out of my head in a few days time and I pray that by removing this tumour my life can slowly begin  to build back into whatever normal is for us. We thought life was crazy enough already with the challenges of life this is like beyond crazy and surreal. Honestly I don't know exactly how I feel these days I try not to think too much because thinking can get you in trouble and there are such bad scenarios out there and so I stay positive and pray against the anxiety that has crept in.  It's hard to let go to realize  I am not the do er in our family anymore I sit back and have to watch as other hands are busy  doing my mom work and so I try to relax and let these others do these jobs.  This is my job now to simply stay emotionally fit so I can just keep loving my family  and stay mentally well so I can do this:  tackle brain surgery like a warrior .

 My relationship with God feels different these days. I am a busy mom of three little ones I have not had the luxury  of  moments to ponder for ponderings sake. I think these days  I depend on the fact that God is my rock on whom I can stand no matter where my feet are planted.  Whether they're in a hospital bed like this very moment my God is with me. I know his promise to never leave. I lean in  and I listen God I ask you to speak and I know that you will I still myself to hear  because it's been noisy lately and I trust I will still continue to hear as I declare my intentions to listen  well .  casting crowns has a song God of all my days.  My dear friend sent me this song and I've been resting in it. It says
" In my worry  God you're my stillness "  or something like that. I've been resting here in the stillness and it is good . How wonderful to have a God that is bigger than worry who is bigger than all this who has me in his hands  and so I trust. I trust.  Rayna thinks it's no big deal that mom is going for brain surgery I trust that God feels the same way.  I've got this child, just one more part of your story  and don't you know that I am the God who formed you ? who knows you ?

 I know a powerful God and so I invite you to pray with me to him .   I ask that cancer would know it has no home in my body. I ask you that as I place my brain in my surgeons hands that God would fill  dr. Heran with incredible skill and brilliance. I pray  for strength for my family and all those hands that are doing so much work in my home give them fortitude  for the exhausting work of raising twins .  I am so thankful for all of you dear friend and family thanks for joining me  in this crazy journey life has taken me on.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

As it is

I feel overwhelmingly blessed tonight.  I’m sweeping the floor that is covered in the remnants of dinner.  I step on yet another cheerio and sigh.  But today I also smile.  I smile thinking of Allison throwing her food deliberately off her tray.  I smile because I am so overcome by her captivating smile, her passionate personality, and her adorable pigtails.  I smile at the sweet embrace I lingered in with Garrett before I lay him down to sleep.  I smile because that boy takes any excuse to laugh and his laughs are heart-warming.  I smile that tonight I just wanted to stay forever with Rayna at bedtime and catch the invisible kisses she kept blowing at me.  I smile because already at 4 years old she is becoming an absolutely beautiful young woman.  These blessings that I bask in renew my soul that has been taken to some very low points lately.

I struggle with anxiety.  At most moments I cannot relax enough to just breathe.  My breath feels heavy in my throat.  Sometimes it’s a lump that parallels my mental anxiousness which is consuming, mostly my breath just feels thick because I have learned to live uptight.  I try to tell myself why I should be able to breathe calmly and I feel in my head that I should be able to and yet my body disagrees.

Its been a very difficult last four or so months.  Trapped by my responsibilities that never, ever, stop.  Exhausted by the demands of mothering.  Isolated because I was not doing well emotionally and it is in those moments that I am too drained to initiate the social activity and request the supports which would help me cope and thrive.  I was laden in the guilt.  The guilt of no productivity.  The guilt of not doing the social things I knew people were waiting for me to initiate.  The heavy, heavy, unshakable guilt of feeling like a bad mom and bad wife. I tried to lean into all the promises that I truly believe in as promised by my Saviour; but it didn’t make it any better.   

I’ve been wanting to write, however the void inside has only left me more depressed.  But.  Oh the lovely “but” I’ve been awaiting.  But, I am starting to get space.  I played soccer yesterday evening and it was what I needed.  I was “me” doing something social, physically active that I enjoy.  My mother in law has started taking the twins for part of the afternoon once a week. I can relax, I can actually accomplish things.  It is brief, but sometimes even those regular, predictable brief escapes are enough.  And so tonight as I was sweeping and listening to “made new” by Lincoln Brewster I feel whole.  My breath is still thick, even as I write this piece and feel spiritually alive; but I can trust that indeed this love and freedom beginning to brew in my soul will take root and produce fruit.  I trust in the teaching I’ve received lately.

When Ryan really wanted to go to Camp Oshkidee* this summer, I at first thought he was crazy, then warmed to the idea and felt the Holy Spirit say, “it will be good for your soul.”  It was good in an utterly exhausting, frustrating, nerve-rattling way.  But it was at camp oshkidee this summer that I was forcefully put in God’s presence (which was what I needed) and was able to hear 2 important messages. 
First message: “Open yourself up to me, I will pour my love deep within you, so that it can flow through every artery, vein, capillary.  Love covers.  Open yourself to the gift of love.” Love your loving Heavenly Father to my precious daughter.

This message echoed what was so richly meaningful to me in a church service I attended when my mom was acutely ill with cancer. The pastor asked us to stand and cup open our hands in front of us while he prayed a beautiful prayer asking God to fill us with His love. Reminder: life is life.  There’s lots of junk.  I will do well to always remember that God has an abundant supply of love that he’s waiting every moment to pour into my life.

Second message, a continuation of the first: Ephesians 3:14-20, NLT (emphasis mine)
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e] 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I think my highlights make their point on their own.  However, I was interested when the speaker shared this passage, how verse 19, speaks of the “fullness of life.”  When we found out we were having twins I couldn’t help but think of John 10:10, MSG :[Jesus says,] “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  I never dreamed of having 3 children, the youngest as a set of twins.  It has been very “trying” for both Ryan and I and yet I am compelled to believe it is part of the more and better life than I would have ever imagined for myself. 
My 3 small children sleep peacefully in their beds and I cherish them.  And it feels so good to be in a place where I can cherish them with all my being.  Where my heart and my mind both cherish them.  Where to the guts of me I can feel it.  I know how deeply I cherish them because it’s tangible inside me.  It’s thick.  And yes, I have this new anxiety, that is also making my breath thick; but, spring is blossoming.  I’ve made it from the dandelion field to the lake’s shore and have begun to dip my toes in the refreshing water.  And so even though I can’t breathe well quite yet, I know it is coming and I can capture a vision of years to come when life will be abundant in our family as we splash and dance and play and do beloved sports in that lake water.  Oh the beauty of it.  Oh the beauty of my family.  And so as I sit beside a neatly swept, but not yet trashed, pile of spat out carrots and stepped on cheerios I pause for a full moment, to enjoy this moment for what it is and for what it is building for the future.
My children, it is my prayer that God will give me love so compassionate for you that it will burst forth into your 3 little lives.  And I pray desperately (for on our own we cannot do it) that with this love your father and I would be granted wisdom and be resourced without parallel to raise you well to love God, love your family, and love life itself with all the people it draws you to encounter.  You are beautiful children Rayna, Garrett and Allison and I love you.





   *Camp Oshkidee is in Meadow Lake provincial park in Saskatchewan and is where Ryan and I were married.  Ryan grew up attending these week long family camps and I began to join him as soon as we were dating. I instantly fell in love with the place.  It is a Christian camp right on the water.  Accommodations best suited to us are a cedar lodge that has walls which essentially function as visual barriers (think – stress that your baby’s going to wake the neighbors), dining facilities in a different building with sandy terrain inbetween. Etc. etc. Essentially logistically tricky for our family.

The Horrible


(Written July 2, 2016.  Not brave enough to post until now)


I’ve been hanging out in “the horrible” lately.  I blogged when I was pregnant about a twin mom commenting on how the early days were horrible and how I was certain my own days of horrible would come.  They did.  And yet they have surprised me.  Perhaps, its because they did not appear when I expected them.  I amaze myself how I got through those wakeful nights and first months of such great demands on me that I had no personal time, unless you count showering and eating which were a struggle to squeeze in.  I look back and don’t know exactly how we got through the crazy crying, Ryan’s struggles in the beginning, and the incredible demands.  But I was desperately needed then and I was able to step up and keep stepping up again and again and again.  It was not in the first 5 months that “horrible” happened.  Sure, I had bad days and challenging weeks.  But, in some form I had resolve.  And then my resolution began slowly dissolving.  Perhaps, it was hitting the coveted full nights sleep and realizing that life was still so very demanding.  Perhaps, it was realizing that this is gonna be real hard for a long time yet.  Perhaps it was my social supports become less tangible as family and friends started coming much less frequently.  Perhaps, it was an accumulation of all that had been demanded of me.  Whatever it was that brought on the “horrible,” months 6, 7 and 8 were gradually darkening shades of gray.

I have wanted to write this blog for weeks.  I have had this desire to be able to be real in the junk of life.  I felt awful inside and I am certain other mom’s live here too: feeling unappreciated, feeling unaccomplished, feeling unable to make goals because theres no time or energy to achieve them, feeling stuck, feeling like no one really gets it.  And this is where I wanted to shout, “women, mothers there must be some of you who really get it, where are you????” and “Not every mom feels like those on Facebook who post of these days with little babies being absolutely beautiful and they wouldn’t trade them for anything, do they??!!” and (privately) “I definitely am NOT a baby person!!!”  I have wanted to blog these feelings, these struggles, to acknowledge, to voice, to proclaim, to document these crazy hardships that have me thinking of Eve’s curse of motherhood.  I did not want to wait until the “horrible” passed to be able to share it.  And yet, I found that in the deepest of the horrible, simply making it through the day was all I could muster.  In fact, I probably could have greatly benefited from help, help which I relatively easily could have found; yet, I did not even know where to start to ask for help.  And so following the climax of a week of pure awful of sick babes, and 2 nights of going to bed right after the kids, I finally find myself in a place to write.  To share, to document.  It is okay that motherhood holds the horrible.  Indeed I will make it through (there were days on end when I was not so certain).  Today I feel blessed. Today I kissed my kids heads and told them I love them, and I wanted to stay in those moments.  Today I did not feel like the crazy was pushing me deep into insanity.

BUT, I have come to realize (through discussions with my sister who has 5 kids), that motherhood with any element of crazy, be it twins, closely aged babies, 4 or more kids, special needs etc.  In these situations everything must align perfectly (and health must prevail, which doesn’t happen much with multiple young children) for the crazy to feel fun, enjoyable, life-filled.  So, I guarantee that horrible will return. Hopefully, now that I have learned something about horrible I will be better versed to weather it.  Though, I am certain that horrible and graceful do NOT go together.  However, I am also certain that it is okay that they do not.  And I am certain that I will make it through the horrible.  And I am hopeful that by speaking out more mothers will share their own stories of horrible, so that when we are living in the horrible we are able to readily realize that this does not make us horrible.  And as I look at the verse I have posted beside my bed “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  I have decided that choosing to get out of my bed and face the day may be the extent of joy and gladness I can produce.  And this is okay.  Keeping my children alive and well so that I can cherish better days ahead is important too, isn’t it?  I’m rambling, but please allow me one more “and”.  And, it is okay that I have so much to be grateful for, and I know so deeply that I do, and I still struggle in the horrible.


The horrible: when we really start living, life is full of it isn’t it?  However, this I’ve been thankful for:  that I have a partner, who so truly feels like a partner as he is the one person who really understands what life is like for me these days.  And this past week as I spoke to my mom one evening, I got off the phone and felt so very thankful that my mother is still alive for me to talk to.  There are few people in life whom one can talk to unguarded and I so appreciate being able to do so with my mom.  And isn’t it fitting to be thankful for my mom in days when the struggles of being a mom are getting to me.  Here is where one of those jumbo smiley face emoticons belongs.  And here is where I need to say to every mother starting with my own, “You are doing a great job!”  We don’t say it enough, but women, mothers, mother-figures you are doing a great job and we need to say so more than just one day of the year.  When all else feels like its crumbling remember that indeed you are doing a great job!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Stuck in the dandelion field

This morning I journalled that I feel stuck. In the earlier days of twin-parenting Ryan said to me that it must feel like I have a two-headed monster on my back that I just can’t shake.  It was an accurate depiction that I find resurfacing.  I find myself thinking that most people just really don’t understand how difficult it is to be a mom with twin babies.  Of course, everyone has their “thing” that most other people really just don’t understand and this is mine.  I’m not sure if the evenings “off” and finally actually getting decent sleep and having nap time breaks from the twins has just given me a taste of freedom and left me wanting more. Or the fact that we achieved these milestones, but it is still so hard. Whatever the reason, it is tough because I can’t really get away from these babies unless they’re sleeping.  These babies are wonderful, but they need so much of me and demand so much of me.  Allison won’t take a bottle and even if she did leaving the twins alone during the day with someone else is tough because I know how hard it is even being one of their (Allison’s) two favorite people and I don’t want to overwhelm anyone.  So this brought me to journal today that “I feel so stuck and stuck is the worst place to be."

And then I sat with this idea (in the lovely break of the twins’ morning nap because Rayna is with Grandma) and decided that perhaps stuck is not the worst place to be.  I may want to try and get “unstuck” but sometimes stuck is just where we are. In those times of being stuck we need to acknowledge where we are and if indeed there is anything within our control to optimize our situation, then we need to voice our limitations that disappoint us so, and finally we need to release our two-headed monster to God so it doesn’t crush us.  Stuck is just where I am right now and thankfully I know this is temporary. (I am compelled to think of my mother who is also stuck but in a much more permanent way.  Cancer has wreaked havoc in her bones and her body aches a weighty ache that makes it hard to get out of bed.  She is stuck in her body that is failing her. Stuck. But not crushed.)

Let me explain this more.  You see my life right now is a dandelion field.  Rayna loves to stop and pick dandelions when we’re out for a walk and right now there are fields of them.  My Dad commented about our dandelions when he was visiting here, “you have such a beautiful province; but you sure don’t like to get rid of your dandelions do you?” They are an eyesore to him and he can’t believe our city doesn’t spray them.  It doesn’t aesthetically bother me that there is an overgrowth of dandelions along the sidewalks and in the fields and on unkempt lawns.  But they have certainly annoyed me.  When we go to the playground or to the river for a walk it takes FOREVER because Rayna stops for all the seeding flowers.  And when I tell her, “no more dandelions” I can see her writhing inside that she has to resist the almost uncontrollable urge to pick and blow them.  Sometimes we do need to get going so we can get home before the twins have a melt-down; but often it’s just me. I feel the need to get to the playground if that’s where we’ve said we’re going, to get “unstuck”, if you will.  However, it is in the dandelions that Rayna is having fun and experiencing the simple joys of a flower that others call a weed.  It is more fun to her than going down a slide or actually making it to the scenic river trail.

I’ve been trying to incorporate 5 minutes of silence into my day.  Call it silent prayer or meditation; I am seeking moments to be still.  In the stillness I hope to hear God, I hope to relax my tight jaw, I hope to let go my inabilities and my unchecked to do list.  During one of these silent prayer moments I began to think about my life as a bouquet.  I realized my bouquet right now is dandelions.    It is not a stately bouquet.  It is not even simple and inexpensive like carnations and baby’s breath.  It is weeds.  And in fact it is more than a bouquet, it surrounds me.  I am immersed in the dandelions; I am in a field composed of weeds.  What I do right now feels a lot like weeding (please appreciate that I do not like gardening and so I am comparing this to the least enjoyable aspect – I assume-  of a hobby I don’t even like). On a daily basis, a lot of what I do is maintenance. It’s keeping my children alive and simply caring for the very basic needs of 2 babies that cry and poop and don’t sleep when they’re supposed to.  I’m getting ragged and exhausted.  I’m in this field where it feels very hard to relax enough to see beauty like a child, to embrace the joys of these weeds around me.  Some days if I look really hard I see glimpses of beauty.  Other days I can’t see it at all.  And then when all goes smoothly and the kids are particularly cute I embrace it with ease and blow flower fluff all around me like its confetti at a party (these days are precious but all too few).

So how do I move from here to there without moving at all? How do I garner delight instead of dread when I wake up to the same routine, to the same demands, to the same challenges of motherhood?       

The other day as I was sitting with the twins looking at the river, enjoying some nature time, there was construction noise in the background. And I heard more than the noise, I heard God speak: “Sit with me- in the dandelions- even when there’s noise and you’re seeking peace.  I am building something on the periphery of your dandelion field out of your view.  Trust me, it’s worth the noise.” You see I’m in this dandelion field and it is necessary and, cringe, beneficial; but it’s not where I’ll be forever.

And as I’m stuck in my dandelion field filled with noise I am assured that I am being told to sit with God so He can embrace me.  So He can pull me in tight and reassure me.  His arms are big enough to squeeze me tight and secure even with that two-headed monster on my back.  And when its time to be released from His embrace I am assured that if I choose to I can become like a child and see the beauty in simple moments, like Rayna sees beauty in dandelion weeds.  And this can happen even in this place where no one else may understand what’s going on inside and around me.

Matthew 18:3 (The Message)

 …Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.


Isn’t it brilliant? (And the irony is not lost on me that children can teach me so much to help me in raising my children.) I am stuck in the dandelions and I am oh so blessed.


Monday, February 1, 2016

My Camino


This is my Camino de Santiago: Parenting.  I have always wanted to do the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.  To endure the physical feats of this 600 KM foot journey and enjoy the spiritual component of this travel.  It does not look like the Camino is in my upcoming travel plans.  However, I have realized that this parenting thing, with a 3 year old and newborn twins, this is my Camino.  Parenting really is a journey.  It brings out the worst.  It brings out the best.  These days I have many moments for real life reflection.  My days demand it.  These blogs are a coping mechanism that is working well.  There are the moments when I want to quit.  When I truly would walk away if there was a good way to do so.  There are moments when I feel like I am making progress and that is rewarding.  There are moments when I stand still in the beauty of my children.  There are moments where I want to cry.  There are moments where I feel blessed.  There are so many moments when I just don’t know what to do.  In all of this, two things I know.  Firstly, that my God promised He would never give us more than we can handle in His strength.  Secondly, I will not be unchanged by raising my children. 



And so in this journey, this slow, arduous Camino, I seek and strive to ensure the change that parenting creates in me will be positive and beautiful.