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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Remembering to remember

We want comfort.  We idolize easy street and when we hit bumps in the road all we want is to get back to the smooth.  But I've come to see: life is a  a collection of bumps and detours. What really shapes us is not the picture perfect that we post on social media. What shapes us is the junk.  I feel like my past year has 'pressure-cooked' learning and growth for me. And when I reflect on that aspect of this past year it's mind blowing (for lack of eloquence)! Verses tell us to consider it joy when trials happen. why? Read these verses in Romans 5:3-5.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us --- they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengths our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."

These verses describe my life! Would I ever have chosen cancer? No. Do I think God gave me cancer? No. But being ripped from comfort, thrown into stormy waves, many beautiful things surfaced.  I met my Jesus anew, I fell in love with my husband all over again, humanity showed her beautiful compassion to me. These are things that can not be taken from me.  This reflects 1 cor 13:13 "there are three things that will ENDURE -- faith, hope and love - and the greatest of these is love!"

Jesus's love for us wasn't picturesque. No, it was gruesome. Similarly, I've come to see that life's beautiful in an ugly and uncomfortable way. This began to happen when I  let Jesus's love take center stage. 1 Cor began to have more meaning when I needed a love that endures all things (vs 7). I desperately needed Jesus's love as my life was exploding.  There were many weeks this past year that I clung- desperately clung- to the image of Peter walking on water. The part where he started sinking and freaking out.  The part where he is reminded to just keep his eyes on Jesus.  Those desperate weeks I felt like peter- sinking.  The waves threatened mightily to overtake me, so I just kept looking to Jesus so I could do the impossible- get through the storm that all but engulfed me.

I battled hard for joy, courage, strength, hope, and faith.  Jesus said, "if you seek me you will find me if you seek me with your whole heart". So I sought Jesus with my whole heart. And I surrounded myself with an army of Believers.

Now, the Storm has lulled and I feel like maybe we are catching our breaths.  Yet, I am reminded to keep actively remembering God's FAITHFULNESS . Just as the Israelites were continuously told to remember and commemorate the faithfulness of God I hear God reminding me of the same.

You see as life is calming down I've starting thinking about things like what will my kids wear for their birthdays, for Halloween costumes, for family photos. These are all good things- but I must remember they are not the main point.  Not the main point at all! (I'm reminded of the phrase- let's keep the main thing the main thing)   You see life just got really real again in our peripheral life. In the wake of this I see it clearly again: I may not get costumes organized for Halloween or birthday party planned all pinteresty. And that is just fine. That is absolutely fine; because that stuff really doesn't matter. What matters is being actually present to celebrate.  Praise God I get to see my twins turn 2!  Praise God I get to celebrate my 1 year survivor anniversary! I never want to forget this lesson of what REALLY matters! I am frightened of how easily I felt myself starting to forget.  It shocks me that the "norm" around me so easily begins to draw me in.  I am appalled that I forget my days to spend with my precious children are limited.  Though these days are a smattering of teeth-gritting, tired-exhaustion, frustrating, heart-warming, awe-filling, proud-momma, marraige-straining, marraige-building they are the richest most treasured blessings. And I want to live actively present in this blessing, because I've got alot to celebrate!  But make no mistake, this is a choice, an active choice.

In this house, we choose to rejoice in the Lord as long as today is called today!

Because that IS the main thing.

Forgive me God for so easily forgetting.

Thank you God for being faithful.

Our God is good! ALL THE TIME HE IS GOOD!

Will you join me?

I invite you to recalibrate your compass with me. I'm striving to ensure I'm not being guided by comfort; but rather that Jesus is my true North.

 I invite you to keep your eyes on Jesus through the storms of life.

I invite you to continuously reflect on and remember what God has done for you through salvation and what He continues to do throughout your own life story.

I invite you to rejoice everyday for God is Good, all the time!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tribute to Grandma Rostek

(Ryan's 96 year old Grandma Rostek passed away this week.  This is the tribute I wrote for her memorial:) 

Proverbs 31:28 “Her children stand and bless her.”

Grandparents are very special to me and you Grandma, were a gift.  Marrying your very amazing grandson, Ryan, brought you into my life. And for that I am so thankful.

You always made me smile, Grandma.  You had a way about you which was just so endearing and your hospitality was unparalleled.  Gatherings were centered on plenty of delicious food (I do miss your Christmas cake at Christmastime!); but your hospitality was more than just the heaps of food you forcefully put on our plates. You loved people.  You loved having people around and you loved engaging people in conversation.  You made conversation with anyone, even when you were too deaf to properly hear their responses you tried your very hardest to talk to everyone. Grandma, your hospitality made it so easy to love you and to love spending time with you.

Speaking of spending time together, perhaps my fondest memories with you are of the 2 of us making perogies: rolling dough and freezing pan after pan of delicious perogies.  You were happy to be busy working productively in the kitchen and I was happy to be relearning the art of making my favorite childhood food!  What simple, but special memories!

Grandma, I don’t think you ever thought of yourself as old.  I remember one time about 10 years ago when you looked at a picture and seemed so appalled, saying, “But, I look so ….. old.” Yes, Grandma, most people consider much younger than 85 to be old; I’m glad you didn’t.  You lived a motto which I sum up as: “You’re only as old as you think you are.”  This determined way of living, alongside your faith in God, encourages me to live strongly and courageously in the LORD, and I thank you for that!

Grandma I smile when I think of you in heaven.  You were committed to God and now you live in the very home He specially prepared for you!  But, mostly I smile because I think you are dancing again.  You told me once how you loved dancing but that you stopped when you became a Christian.  This was hard for you because you really missed dancing.  Well, I believe there’s dancing in heaven; so, I feel confident that you are dancing once again, this time in the very presence of Jesus himself!

Grandma, it was very important for you to always wave goodbye, from the doorway or the window, when we were leaving your place. As such, I feel that you must have been waving goodbye as you passed from this earth to heaven; quickly shuffling to some celestial window to bid your family farewell with a queen-like wave.  And Grandma, one last time we wave back and we thank you for the legacy, your legacy, which we’re a part of.

You loved your family, Grandma, and we love you!

Commentary on my tribute to Grandma Rostek

I want to post the tribute I wrote for Ryan's Grandma Rostek to be shared at her memorial.  But in stopping to write this out as a blogpost there's so much more to say than just my tribute.  I loved this woman dearly.  Ryan's grandparents were this huge gift to me.  I only had one Grandparent left when we were married and joining Ryan's family gave me a whole new set of grandparents.

Elders, our elders are so important.  They need to be honored.  They need to be loved.  They need to be heard, because we need them.  We need their wisdom.  I read 2 Chronicles 10 a few days ago and it made me pause to remember that we need to listen to the counsel of older people who have gone before us!  In this passage King Rehoboam called for the counsel of the men, older men, who had given counsel to his Dad, King Solomon.  But then King Rehoboam also asked his peers for advice.  It was different advice and he chose to take the advice of his peers over the tried and wise advise of the older men.  It didn't end well for him.  We need those older men and women to help advise us!!!!

Furthermore, I am deeply struck that the value of life is inherent in life itself.  I am beginning to uncover that most people are either not comfortable with or see little value in being present in the end of life.  I admit that this surprised me.  I've never been uncomfortable with being around very elderly, demented or end of life people.  My mom had me volunteering in nursing homes starting in my preteen years, my own grandmother (Elias) developed dementia not much later and in fact I was present when she passed away years later, my Grandpa (Krahn) a few years later, also developed dementia. This probably had a key role in shaping my perception that life has value, just because it's life.

Last month we visited Grandma Rostek.  The decline in her well-being and quality of life from the year prior was huge.  Here was Grandma at 96 with a healing broken leg, pretty well near deaf, overcome with dementia, and a simply labored existence.  But this 15 minute visit was strikingly beautiful and valuable for both her and myself.  After we left I am sure that she didn't remember we had been there; but for those minutes we held her hands she knew on some level that she was not alone.  She knew that she was loved. She knew that she continued to be treasured. This in and of itself was beautiful.  Life in and of itself is beautiful.

I admit that having to stare death in the face with my stage 4 brain cancer diagnosis, alongside my realization that few people feel comfortable in the domain of end of life, has prompted a survey of my own support network to ensure I have adequate support in the worst case scenario.  I am at peace knowing I do indeed have the supports I need.

I also am realizing that my love for the elderly is indeed a special gift.  I am so thankful for it.  And in transparency I share that this week I have petitioned God for my life and for longevity so that I may be there for my parents and parents-in-law as they press in closer to 70 and for the years beyond which likely begin the shift from being the helper to being the helped.

Today, I toast my elders with a whole new appreciation.  At the same time, I ask you to survey the value of life in and of itself.  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Good MRI results

Google photos reminded me of these photos from one year ago today.  It seems surreal that we had no idea what the next 4 weeks would reveal.

Today I am thankful that my MRI last week was a good report. I'm trusting God as we hope for my remission to be sustained (next MRI is late Nov).  And I acknowledge daily that "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

Thursday, August 31, 2017

MRI today

Please pray for me as I have my MRI today and await results next week. I feel peaceful going into my scan, but historically it's been a battle against anxiety as I await results.

Thank you!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Summer Vacation 2017!!!

Blessing upon blessing.  That is how I sum up this summer vacation. 

Launching this trip felt huge.  Huge in the “Wow, this is a crazy (and I just might go crazy) monstrous undertaking!”  I honestly was only hoping for the blessings to outweigh the craziness, as in at least 51% good times, please!  I was blown away.  The blessings were HUGE.

Thank you for your prayers for this trip.  This trip gave recognition that God answers prayer!!! (Thank you Henry & Ev for acknowledging on Facebook how your prayers for our trip were answered, this allowed me to see clearly God’s hand in this blessing!).

I came across this verse today and I feel it fitting to include here.
Proverbs 15:6a “There is treasure in the house of the godly.”

I feel treasure abounding in my life.

Our trip was so amazing in the way we felt at home wherever we went.  There were so many people who surrounded us and loved us on our trip, it was incredible!  We love you all so very much too!!!!

We first spent a week with friends in the Shuswaps at a lakefront house we have rented as a group before.  Our friends loved on us so well: unpacking our stuff when we arrived, doing all the supper cooking, watching our kids, loving our kids.  These are some of the people we are so privileged to do life alongside and it was a rich experience to enjoy vacation together.  We enjoyed calm waters, a bit of waterskiing, paddle-boating (Allison’s favorite), propane campfire, the guys golfing afternoon, the girls boating adventure.  Ryan had a day of tooth-pain that was really bad, but thankfully it subsided for the remainder of our trip. 

From the Shuswaps we went to Radium, a favorite place from Ryan’s childhood.  We soaked in the hotsprings and actually enjoyed a night in a hotel (historically they involve chaos)!!! This felt profound and it was a strange sense that because hotel time was fun time, we had “arrived” as a family.  A neat little blessing.  The next night we had an equally fun night at a hotel in Lethbridge.  We were able to connect with Ryan’s uncle Carl here.

Then we arrived in Swift Current. We only had 2 nights in Swift Current but they were absolutely heart-warming.  I was home.  I was so relaxed to be at my parents’ house (wish they lived closer) and the kids had fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s too.  I was able to have a playdate with my cousin Lindsay and her kids. I had a lovely conversation with my highschool soccer coach who lives just down the street from my parents, reminding me of the joys of my youth! The highlight, though, was the pizza picnic at the park we organized.  Everyone invited came.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends – some who it’d been years since I’d seen them.  People came and thanked us for hosting the gathering and then they blessed us with words and prayer and conversation and gifts and love that was just the richness of sharing a simple meal in the park together.  It was an incredibly blessed evening.  At one point my cousin said to me, “this is your party.” I tell you, I felt like an honored guest similar to how I felt at my wedding.  For lack of eloquence, it was so good! (Thanks mom for getting it all organized)

From Swift Current we made our way up to Saskatoon.  Here our friends Brad and Ashley completely catered to us, giving us both their children’s bedrooms.  We enjoyed lovely company and conversation with them and felt so loved on.  We had a wonderful BBQ at the Forestry Farm where we saw some other family as well.  We also enjoyed a morning with my aunt, 2 cousins and their kids.  During this Saskatoon stay I was able to see my University friend Erin, who I annually visit with at McNally Robinson bookstore/coffee shop.  I was also so blessed to reconnect with my friend Amy who I lived with in first year university.  Our recently rekindled friendship was made even sweeter by a visit in person. (Ryan and our family – I stayed home to rest – also enjoyed an excursion with the McKinnon family to Kinsmen Park to take in the family friendly rides!)

Then Camp Oshkidee.  When embarking on this trip I had the feeling that there would be lots of craziness; but at least Oshkidee would have something so good for us.  Little did I know the blessings all along the way and little did I know the blessing of Oshkidee would be simple.  It served as a reminder that God doesn’t need the special place of a camp or a lake to be felt and heard and experienced.  (No, we are the ones who often need those things to help us slow down, take note, and open our eyes and hearts so we can actually hear God when He communicates.)  It was lovely to be alongside other families looking to have fun, conversation, and to grow in faith. The highlights of Oshkidee for me were: 1) One evening the moon was so bright and quite full and it reflected off the lake magnificently.  It was a picture to me of God saying: I am the Light of the day and I am the Light of the darkness. 2) Waterskiing with Ryan one evening with Rayna in the boat.  It was just so good to do something I love in a place I love with people I love dearly, dearly, dearly.  I wrote on Facebook, “Best date ever!” I don’t think I was being dramatic! 3) Being alongside family (my parents and sister and brother-in-law and their kids came too).  There wasn’t a whole lot of room for adult conversation time together, but it was so good to have cousin play-time and Grandma and Grandpa time.  4) Playing late-night games!   5) Reconnecting with friends made last year.

From Oshkidee we ventured back to Saskatoon, because there was certainly not enough time before Oshkidee for all the visits we wanted to fit in.  Also, Ryan popped into the Blind Factory a bit and had a couple games of pickleball.  This time we stayed with Ryan’s Aunt Bonnie, who graciously hosts us so well.  We visited with Ryan’s aunts and uncles and cousins.  It was so lovely to be present with this extended family and Uncle Darryl and Auntie Shelley your prayers for us were so meaningful.  I really wanted to see Ryan’s Grandma Rostek who is 96 and recently broke her leg.  It was a brief 15 minute visit and she is struggling and very aged since last year when we saw her; but, it was absolutely beautiful to be able to bring our family to see her and brighten those 15 minutes for her.  

From Saskatoon we spent a night with a lifelong friend of Ryan’s, Pam, in Edmonton who graciously gave us both her room and her son’s.  Then off to the Jasper hot springs (can you tell Ryan loves hot springs?!) and an incredibly scenic and wildlife filled drive through Jasper.  With no plan where to sleep that night we were aiming for Kamloops; but Allison started losing it just before Clearwater.  We pulled into a nice looking hotel and got the last room there!

Then onward home, to figuring out what life looks like for us now that I am finished treatment.

Reflecting on this trip, look at the blessings!!!! If I was working or if Ryan had a ‘normal’ job this vacation would not have been possible.  And to be honest I didn’t even ever feel the “I’m ready to go home,” even after nearly a month!   It was so wonderful to feel so well cared for and to experience such hospitality along the way.  Seeing how our network of support extends way far from our “home-base” but then to be able to return into the arms of those we love in Chilliwack, well that is just something I have trouble properly describing.  It’s a blessing.  Friends afar, friends close-by.  Friends from the past merging with friends from the present and new friends being added to our network! How spectacular!

Thank you for your continued prayer and support.  I am easily overwhelmed these days.  What helps keep that overwhelm away is knowing I have all of you ready to respond to any need we present. Thank you.  Just knowing you are there if we need you is amazing and life-giving.

We have a couple big transitions coming up which we would appreciate prayer for. 
-  Firstly, as I mentioned, I am figuring out what life looks like for me now that treatment is complete.  For the most part I’m feeling fantastic if I’m able to focus on doing one thing at a time (any sort of time crunch or multitasking quickly overwhelms me). So I am still determining how much I can manage and how that translates into different roles for me (ie. Home-duties, Volunteering in the church, extracurricular etc.). 
 -  Secondly, Rayna starts school in Sept.  We are all excited for this; but it will be a big scheduling shift for us.   

- Also, I still want to work on my novel and create space for that (and have God-given inspiration in this work.)  

In no particular order here are some snapshots of our trip!

Mortality and Moonlight

Let me be quite frank with you: I'm dying. 
But, you know what? So are you.
I am 35 years old and live with a diagnosis with dismal statistics.  It has forced me to acknowledge a truth which most of my peers find irrelevant, terrifying, or uncomfortable and thus ignore: mortality.  I voiced to my precious friend a sadness I experienced resultant of being at family camp. At family camp I had such joy with my family.  Watching teenagers have lake-fun with their families, I long (and pray) to be able to have that for my family. I really enjoy teenagers, I want to enjoy MINE.  My friend replied profoundly: “NOBODY is guaranteed years ahead. NOBODY with small children is guaranteed to see their children into adolescence.  Anyone who thinks they are has their head in the sand.”  Oh, how many of us live with our heads in the sand?!     

No one is guaranteed tomorrow; but, Jesus Christ promises reason to rejoice everyday that is today!  
Psalm 139:12 says "To [God] the night shines as bright as day."
My paraphrase: "With Jesus struggles are as sweet as celebration"
It’s a dark world out there. Maybe you're aware and the darkness is right in your face. Maybe you're too busy to notice, you can't stop because if you pause the void will consume you. Maybe others' stories make you uncomfortable because when you hear them from actual lips you realize this is someone else's reality. Maybe you feel like most of my peers: immortal - even though we know death is a natural end we avoid it and avoid considering it at all costs. Maybe in your self-created comfort you long for a 'more' that feels so elusive.
My friends, Jesus has lit up a path for life which leads you along rich, abundant, vibrant life! Now just to be clear this is not easy life. It is not comfortable life. But it is the adventure worth living for. It’s the more life, the better life!  It’s a life of believing that Jesus loved me so much He would die for me. Of believing that the darkness of this world is overcome because Jesus in His Mighty power didn't stay dead; but that he defied death by being raised from the dead to forgive our unforgivables. This is a path of knowing the light that God brings to the darkness. It’s the path of experiencing the Hope in the hopelessness of life that is only possible through a Savior!
 (And for you who hold this truth as 'common knowledge', can I remind you: shout it from your rooftop! live it with your love!)
I close by asking you to look at this image. While at Camp Oshkidee, one evening the moon reflected spectacularly off the lake, very much like in this picture. I stopped to take it in. Breathing deep the rich forest air I was reminded that God brings light to my darkness- and it is incomparably beautiful.  Contemplating your mortality may seem dark; but it is a truth you cannot argue with.  I invite you, bring God into that darkness, He'll light up every corner of your life.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fearfully and wonderfully made

With a thankful heart and an able body I stepped onto the soccer field again today! Similarly, going waterskiing on vacation felt profoundly good. Over the last few months I have become so aware of how thankful I continually am for my body, for all it has done for me and all it continues to do for me.  My body is amazing. It has birthed 3 children, 2 of those at the 'same' time. I fed the children almost exclusively from my body for their first 6 months! How incredible is that. I am committed to always speaking kindly of my body, for it is fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the universe! My body tells a beautiful story and it is beautifully strong. My varicose veins used to bother me, now I say, who cares, I'm alive! Thank you body for all you continue to do for me! Furthermore, with a background in biochemistry I marvel at all the intricacies keeping me alive.

 Here's a picture of the best date ever- waterskiing in the evening on a glassy Lake at Camp Oshkidee.

PS. For those curious - more updates about our fantastic trip to come soon!

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Such an incredible trip we're on. Oh how we are so blessed with amazing friends and family. We Love you all so much and feel so loved by you. And we still have an amazing week at camp Oshkidee coming up!  This is the most amazing, blessing-filled trip!!!! (WAY surpassed my expectations and these pictures are just a teaser of all the goodness!)