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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.
What a delightful Christmas it was! (though capturing 2 toddlers in a picture is near impossible!)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas Letter 2017

Christmas Letter 2017
(photos to follow at some point)

Luke 1:37  The angel answered [Mary] “…For nothing is impossible with God.”

What a year it has been!  It’s truly amazing what has happened this past year from January until December.  Life this year has been rich, beautiful, exhausting, terrifying, exciting, and incredibly BLESSED.  I am entering into Christmas this year with the wonder and excitement of a child!  I am buying gifts joyfully, anticipating Christmas morning with the same thrill as my 5 year old.  And at the heart of Christmas, I am uncovering more of just who Jesus is and why celebrating his birth is so spectacular! God has given an abundance of gifts to our family this year.  Let me share them with you.  (It’s been a long and BIG year, hence you get a long and BIG letter!)

The beginning of this year was difficult, a roller coaster, and felt kind of like slugging through chest deep mud.  I completed my radiation treatments mid January, continuing with 6 more monthly cycles of the chemotherapy I had been taking alongside the radiation.  The fatigue from these treatments was very challenging.  I encountered tired on so many different levels and was at the same time processing the emotional implications of my diagnosis.  All the while, our family continued to be ever so demanding.  Praise God for our nanny Stefanie, who came on board 4 full days a week at the beginning of the year and continues to be a Godsend and complete answer to prayer in our lives!

I started having weekly Tuesday dates (usually to starbucks) with Rayna which delighted both of us.  I felt like I was having some “catch-up” on quality time with her that had been non-existent since the twins were born.

Moreover, with the support of Ryan’s parents, Ryan and I were also able to take a couple lovely mini getaways to Harrison Hot Springs early in the year.

Furthermore, in February our family traveled with Ryan’s mom and Ryan’s Brother, his wife and their 2 young kids to Oceanside California.  Oceanside was absolutely lovely even though the weather was cool.  I was too exhausted to properly enjoy this trip; but the kids had fantastic cousins time together and looking at the photos today, I want to go back!

In March we watched our 4 year old Rayna turn into a beautiful (sometimes a bit sassy) 5 year old, seemingly overnight.  It was a delight to celebrate her birthday with her friends, with extended family, and with our second annual Mom, Dad and Rayna birthday lunch at Cactus Club!

Through out the year we graciously welcomed my parents (Mom and Dad came for 3 weeks over Easter; and Mom came for 3 weeks in October).  We also had our dear friends Brad and Ashley visit in Feb, and my cousin, Amy visit from Winnipeg in May.

Ryan continues to participate in pickleball tournaments whenever possible.  Though more challenging to leave for a few days at a time, he was able to participate in a major US tournament in Washington State and the Canadian National Tournament in Kelowna, BC as well he continues to organize and host local Chilliwack tournaments alongside his Dad through out the year.  With the help of my gracious Mother in law, Ryan has been free to continue pursing this passion!  And he further received the coveted 5.0 (highest-caliber) status this year! 

As spring was rolling into summer a favorite family time was hiking our local Flood Falls.  We also went to Harrison Hot Springs for a couple nights in June with Ryan’s family. Then, in July, the splash-park across the street from our place became essentially our backyard!

In July I completed my chemo treatments and off we launched our monumental and epic nearly 4 week summer vacation!  You can read my blog-post about our Summer Vacation for details; but it was superb!  Shuswaps with friends, to reconnecting with Saskatchewan and Alberta family and friends, to a week at camp Oshkidee!  A huge thank you to everyone who made this trip extra special for us.  I have tears of endearment for all the work you friends and family put in to making this a memorable, cherished memory.

Summer was also punctuated by the delights of Cultus Lake.  We enjoyed the Waterslides and the Adventure Park as well as swimming in the lake!

September brought 3 majors changes: firstly, I was figuring out what a “new normal” looked like for me.  Secondly, Rayna entered Kindergarten at a school within walking distance from our home.  These changes have proved to be delightful as Rayna LOVES school and I am finding my new rhythm filling my days; I enjoy bringing Rayna to and from school.  Furthermore, writing has become my “day job”.  I am working towards completing my novel I started years ago, I have a goal to write out my story when my first draft of my novel is finished, and I’m keeping up with blogging.  All the while it has become so important for me to maintain, build and start the valuable relationships which keep me full of hope, inspiration and life! Thirdly, Ryan hired our friend, Crystal, to begin selling blinds for his business, hence launching The Chilliwack Blind Factory (   

This past year has opened up joyous delights for Ryan and I of time spent together as husband and wife, falling in love all over again!  We celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary this year in June.  This anniversary plus my 1-year Survivor anniversary sparked a trip for Ryan and I to VEGAS in October!  Though we arrived the day after the devastating shooting, we made necessary hotel changes and were able to enjoy rejuvenating time away.   

In November Ryan helped me arrange a getaway to Canmore to visit with my Mom and Sister.  This was a restorative, heart-filling, casual time of spending time together with actually having opportunity to talk (no kids!) and relax together.  It was simply lovely!

Two highlights of Dec this far include our family being featured in our Neighborhood magazine as well an opportunity for me to speak at a ladies' Christmas brunch and share my story.

Now as we head well into December and look back it is incredible to see the growth in the kids!  The twins turned 2 in October and from that point life is slowly, but steadily becoming more manageable.  Garrett is developing into quite the sweet and active boy; usually smiling and on the  move!  Allison continues to both love snuggles and to assert her spunky personality. It is delightful (and exhausting) to watch and facilitate their development!

We began this year with weekends being, honestly, dreadful, to arriving at a place where weekends are filled with opportunity for family fun time!  As expected, there never seems to be enough time in the days for everything we want to accomplish; but we have reached a place of much thriving, rather than simply (barely) surviving.  Praise God!  And thank you to everyone who has continued to support us in prayer, meals, visits, phone calls.  We particularly appreciate our mothers who have worked so hard to keep life going for us!  We love you, moms!  We celebrate YOU all who have empowered us to thrive!!!

Most of all, Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ!  We adore you.  We celebrate you and celebrate everything you have done for us in 2017.  We welcome you this season and we anticipate you to do good, big and bold things in 2018.

Merry Christmas!  We love you!!!

Love Ryan & Cheryl, Rayna (5 years old), Garrett and Allison (2 years old)  Rostek

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent Letter 2017

I'm still working through some of this and I apologize for the lack of conciseness and clarity; but I post this regardless in hopes that you are able to be encouraged and inspired this Christmas season.

Advent Letter 2017

This year I sat with the verses from Luke 1 as I prepared for Advent.  These verses spurred a passion in my heart for women, which I was able to speak about as part of my story that I shared at a Christmas women’s brunch last week. 

I will openly share that talk; but today

As I sit to write down all the thoughts that have been dancing around in my head surrounding Advent I am overcome with a spectacular sense of Who Jesus is.  In Luke 2 when Mary learns she is pregnant with a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit she says, “For nothing is impossible with God.”. 

Jesus’ brilliance rests in his Who he is.  The Son of the Almighty God, conceived by the Holy Spirit to a virgin.  Full of wisdom, humility, counter-culturalism, and mighty, MIGHTY POWER.  He demonstrated the power to heal, He demonstrated the power to save and forgive souls, He demonstrated His ability to give “more and better life than you could ever have imagined” (John 10:10)

The last month I have wrestled with the notion that what I believe is “crazy”.  After spending an evening with 2 of my close friends reflecting on Advent and the passage in Luke 2, I came home in disbelief.  I said to Ryan (the voice of ultra-logic in my life) , “How can you believe what we believe?”  I knew he had spent much time with his buddies debating the answers to unanswerable biblical questions. “How have you come to a point of being okay accepting the craziness of our faith?”  

It is irrational to believe that Jesus came through virgin birth, died on the cross and rose again to forgive us from our sins.  I spent this past year pressing into God out of desperation.  I needed a Hope outside myself, bigger than myself, and I knew I could find it in Jesus.  I started seeking Him with my whole heart because the bible says, “If you seek me you will find me, if you seek me with your whole heart.”  But what I found was a God who doesn’t make sense to my rational, logical, science-trained mind.  I started truly seeing what the bible says about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And I needed to wrestle with jumping all in to such a “crazy” belief.  I was also preparing to talk to a room of women about my belief and so I needed to be certain I could proclaim with all of me, the words that just didn’t have any logic.  I had a lengthy talk with Ryan hoping I could find myself confident in what I believe as I was about to assert it. 

Ryan’s advice was that you just have to not think too much.  You have to come to a point where you jump onboard.  He sees the benefit of faith itself and the principles of Jesus make sense and embody what he desires to be like.  For the logic you just have to not get bogged down in it, faith is not logical but what it offers matters so much.  I had easily seen the benefit of my faith in the past and so easily believed in the past; but at this point I wasn’t quite satisfied.  There needed to be a bigger driving force to align myself with surreal and illogical beliefs. 

As I sought more I found myself seeing that we are spiritual beings.  We all crave “touchy-feely” moments and from my experience if you don’t acknowledge you crave them, then you are a person with a grumpy disposition (aka miserable).  We’re created with a soul that isn’t tangible.  Furthermore, we have emotions and there are just things that science can’t explain.  I remember in research there were things that should just work; but in practice they don’t.  Logic only goes so far.  My own counselor told me that people who have Hope and Faith do better in their cancer journey.  This cannot be explained by logic; but Hope matters!  Spirituality matters! I experienced it, we need something greater than dismal statistics!  When I was diagnosed with cancer the first breath of Hope I received was incredible (my colleague who pulled out stories of glioblastoma survivors).  It held POWER.

So, I realized there is no reasoning your way into faith.  Faith is just that, faith.  I have seen the evidence the past year of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  Without the hope of Jesus there is no way I would have had a focal point, a driving force, the something bigger than myself that I needed to get through this past year. 

Moreover, in Sept. I was sitting in an emotionally charged church service.  I felt no emotion; but at the same time felt God communicate to me so strongly and calmly that He is the Faithful One.  He doesn’t need the hype or emotion to be present.  He is always there.  This is the Jesus I knew!  This is the Jesus I needed and why I found it important to wrestle with the basis of my faith.  I came to a point where I needed to embrace the bible and everything that Jesus is about with all that I am or I need to discard it.  Because the Jesus I am learning about is crazy.  He is bold, miracles are in his hands, He’s powerful, He calls us to love like crazy, to see people as people, to trust that He is enough, to trust that he is in ultimate control.  I NEED THAT JESUS POWER IN MY LIFE.  I came to a point where I said how can I believe what Jesus has claimed?

The bible responded in I Corinthians 1 (my paraphrase) that such a spectacular God would only naturally “do things” in a way that is absurd and foolish to believe because we are humans limited in human rationale.  Okay, I let that mull around.  My rational brain still struggled with such a wild belief.  I needed this Jesus because of the Hope He gave me; but I needed to be certain I wasn’t placing my anchor in utter foolishness.  

I had grown up with this belief system and certainly I had assessed it’s place in my life through out adulthood; but now it REALLY mattered.  I had to resolutely find my belief for myself.  I had to resolutely be prepared to stand by my beliefs.  Whole-heartedly.  All-in.  The belief of those around me was their belief, I needed mine. Rooted. Grounded. 

So I kept seeking, hunting for how this could possibly be so. The faith I had cried out for a year ago needed this hurdle either elegantly leaped over or plowed through.  I’m not sure which exactly happened; but I read this in Ephesians 4.

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

These verses tell me that by being my head too much I align myself with a hard heart.  I need to get out of my head, out of the futility of my mind.  We all know our minds and bodies trick us into things we don’t actually want to do.  We are spiritual, emotional, as well as physical beings.

This was the final draw.  The hurdle was overcome.  I am a spiritual being.  I need something bigger than myself.  God’s power has already shown itself in my life. So I am compelled to be “all in” believing Jesus is the Mightily Powerful Son of God who He says he is.  I am compelled to believe that I am not alone.  I am compelled to believe that this season I truly worship the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World!

I’ve come to a point where I’m actually reading my bible and taking it to heart and seeing that Jesus promises much; but he also wants all of me.  I’m excited to see what exactly it is Jesus will ask of me this year.

This I know, as I step into faith of who Jesus is I am expecting a marvelous display of His Power in my life.

Thank you Jesus for the celebration of Christmas!!!

To those of you who believe in Jesus I feel compelled to ask you:

If you are choosing to believe the absurdness of Christianity, I ask you, Why?  Do you think about what you believe?  What does it mean that Jesus came to Earth as a baby? If you’ve never met the power of Jesus before, I pray you meet him!  If you’ve forgotten the power of Jesus, can I remind you of the absurdity of your belief?  If you choose to believe that Jesus came to earth through virgin conception, and that He saved us from our sins if we believe in Him and in his crucifiction and resurrection, you are believing in a POWERFUL GOD!  Is that the God you celebrate this Christmas?  Because He. Is. spectacular!

Personally, I am trusting in God’s power in my life, the same power that allowed virgin conception,

You see my mom always told me to stop and count to 10 because I have a way of getting too excited about things.  I am excited about this power of Jesus! But I see too, that the steadfast love of Jesus that my Mom rests her confidence in procures this same power.  This is not hype or emotion.

I look forward to celebrating Jesus this season.  I look forward to seeing what my emboldened Faith in Jesus looks like the whole year through.

Jesus I adore you!   

Perhaps as you sing your Christmas carols this year, you’ll listen to the power of their words, I know I am.  Jesus’ marvelous, brilliant, spectacular arrival that we are invited to celebrate in.  Sing them out loud and clear!

Here’s some of my favorite lyrics, read them, listen to them!

The thrill of hope
Weary world rejoices
For yonder brings
A new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices

Much love to you all.  May you truly, wholeheartedly experience God with you this Christmas!  I love you!

Love Cheryl

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Poetry of Life

Below is a poem I penned while on a getaway with my Mom and my Sister.  We had the most lovely, relaxing time in the mountains of Canmore, AB.  During this time the poet within me began to get restless; ever since I've been able to write, but especially during adolescence, I have memories of penning poem after poem after poem.  Writing is a passion of mine, poetry is a key aspect of that passion (even if it has been latent for many years).  When writing prose I can hear my English teacher's wise words echo in my head, "Just say what you mean."  This is fantastic advice I continually return to. But this is also why I love poetry.  In poetry you don't have to say exactly what you mean.  It is free and I love it!  I hope you this poem inspires you to keep your passions fueled and blazing!

The Poetry of Life
By Cheryl Rostek

Oh God, immerse me in the poetry of life;
For, Life has given me the gift of a second chance,
a second life renewed in resolve by the threat of death.
In this new life I shall be what I always dreamed to be: an author.  
I shall write you the beauties of this life
for they are too wonderful not to preserve. 
The gifts which God has so graciously granted me, 
necessitate a place of ink and paper. 
I shall journey into my soul 
and from there bring forth the treasures beset by my Savior, the Lord Himself.  
He is a mystery as mysterious as the words of poetry themselves.
Praise God! I have been given this second chance 
to pen the marvels of my Mighty maker, 
my Sustainer, 
and my Hope.  


I am sorry to all my blog followers that I haven't gotten around to posting my Good MRI results.  YES I RECEIVED NEWS THAT THERE IS NO TUMOR GROWTH!!!!!

This feels like an early Christmas gift and I am excited like a child for Christmas this year!

Below is what I posted on Facebook, (a quote I wrote on the morning before I received my MRI results) I wanted to share here too.

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

Psalm 3:3
"But you, oh Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Expect Good

The following is a post I wrote for my church's women's ministry page.  It references a sermon where the pastor called us to "Expect Good" as part of a series about "moving life forward".

An Encouragement to Expect Good.

Pastor Scott’s sermon from back in September keeps kicking around in my head. Expect Good.  Expect that God has good things for you in your life.  Expect that good things are yet to come.  Then in my reading plan I read these verses from 2 Corinthians in the Amplified version and I had to stop. God was speaking. And not only am I to expect good, I am to be certain that this expectation is “firmly grounded”.  (I include the surrounding verses as they are powerful).

Grace to you and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must]. But if we are troubled and distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted and encouraged, it is for your comfort, which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same sufferings which we [b]experience. And our [c]hope for you [our confident expectation of good for you] is firmly grounded [assured and unshaken], since we know that just as you share as partners in our sufferings, so also you share as partners in our comfort.

The idea of expecting good resonated with me.  I am an optimistic person.  But when science started to tell me that my days are very numbered I didn’t know how to reconcile being optimistically hopeful when science and statistics were telling me to prepare for the worst.

I battle fear on a regular basis.  It pops up and then disappears and then comes around with a new face.  I fear my cancer coming back and the loses that would involve: my hopes (even my newly remodeled hopes post-diagnosis), my passions (to write my heart out in hopes of sharing God’s love in this way), my desires (to grow old with my husband and to raise my children and see their children enter this world).  I know that giving in to the fear will only steal this day, today, that I have right in front of me. So I fight the fear hard.

The past couple weeks fear has taken new shape.  I’ve been reading a book called, Unashamed by Christine Caine.  In this book she discusses overcoming shame through the power of God.  As I was reading one story stood out.  The author references the story in 2 Kings 6&7 where 4 lepers sit at the city gate begging for food amidst a massive famine.  They are outcast and downcast; but, are given clarity to their situation:

Now four men who were [b]lepers were at the entrance of the [city’s] gate; and they said to one another, “Why should we sit here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city’—then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit still here, we will also die. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Arameans (Syrians). If they let us live, we will live; and if they kill us, we will only die.”

On the other side of the gate God has already gone before them and spooked the Armeans out of their camp leaving food and abundantly good resources for these 4 lepers.  The author here asks us to consider what gate we are sitting at that we need to get up from and walk through.

Think about it.  What gate are you habitually sitting at?  What gate are you at that may have treasure on the other side if you are boldly willing to go to the other side?  What gate do you need to be bold enough to actually go through?

Not a second lapsed and the Holy Spirit said to me, “You need to walk through the gate of trusting me for healing.”

Bam! This smacked me in the face. 

My response was, “Okay, God I hear you.  I trust you to heal me.”
As I unpacked what this meant I realized that I was actually not so much disbelieving God’s power to heal me; rather, I was scared of being made a fool.  I feared that if I asserted my faith in God to heal me that if the cancer comes back I would be made a fool. 

But God has called me to be all in.  He has called me to expect good, the goodness He desires for my life.  As I see it now I am sitting at a very clear gate.  I can either sit here and wait to die.  Or I can be bold and risk being called a fool and I walk through the gate of trusting God to heal me.  I choose to walk through the gate of FAITH.  I choose to walk through the gate of EXPECTING GOOD in ALL areas of my life.  ALL of them.  Even the impossible ones.  Even if it appears foolish to many. 

Interestingly, I browsed a secular book recommended to me by a fellow glioblastoma survivor.   This book’s audience is cancer survivors and it notes the improved outcomes of those who have “positive expectations” about their disease.  Sound familiar?      

Expect good.
Be bold to walk through the gate.

I’ll admit here that I hesitated to post this before my MRI results which I’ll get next week.  (The enemy tries to knock me down by making me feel foolish to expect good MRI results).  But in an act of faith I post this because my faith has been bolstered to always expect good things from my good God.

I invite you to pray with me to this end.  I also invite you to share what gates you stand at so we can pray together with you for the boldness to walk through them.

Be bold women of God. God has good things for us.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

october 26 2017

I continue to petition you to pray for me.  As I do so I will share this:

This is what is kicking around in my head today.  It’s not concise; but it is real- real life.  I feel compelled to champion being an open-book kinda human – sharing my unedited story, inviting you to do the same. 

An insight into my life:  Today I started getting flashing in my right periphery vision.  This happened pre-op.  It stopped me in my tracks this morning.  It is an acute symptom.  Pause.  Call Ryan. No answer.  Call mom.  No answer.  I lay down and breathed, citing “Be still and know that I am God.”    I was angry.  Angry that I had just arrived to have my “retreat day”.   Angry that I have to go through this.  Angry that my life is riddled with the caveats of incurable cancer. Ryan called back, my mom called back.  We had a plan: Call oncologist.  Left message.  Ryan left to come join me.  Silence. Relative calm, but the desperate “No, no, no!!!” ran through my mind.  I have too much to complete yet, I can’t die yet- I want to write my story, write a novel. More than that, I want to be there for my kids!  Today is my twins’ second birthday.  ( I want to celebrate many more birthdays with them)

I am not ready to die, cancer I’m not ready to succumb.  So here I shout out: “Nuts to that (death, tumor)!”  Oh Satan you have no hold of my brain!!! Scram Satan. Get your hands off of me.  God heal me.  I’ve been weary this past week, near worn out with sick kids and the like.  It’s a hard life.  My emotional life is so topsy-turvy.  Faith is not my gifting.  I’ve learned it this past year.  I sought God and I asked for faith.  It took 1 year of pressing into Him to have some semblance of faith.  Faith that I know no matter what it will be okay.  Faith that God will be with me no matter what. Faith that truly what matters is being one with God.  Faith to know that my ENTIRE purpose is to serve and praise God, whether in this life or the next.  (Whether I live or I die, its all to the glory of God).

And now I see it.  On the drive up to “the ranch” where I retreat God spoke to me.  He spoke that He was there with me.  He was in the passenger seat with me.  That He would always be right beside me.  Right beside me. ALWAYS.

Sometimes, admittedly, that doesn’t seem to be enough.  The bible tells me not to cling to my life or I will lose it.  How hard it is to fully release my life.  Even now, I have God’s work to do and I cling to that.  How much irony is in that?!  Oh how I cling to MY LIFE.

Yesterday in my visit for our church to one of the seniors home, I met a man who shared something spectacular.  He had a near death experience.  He saw God.  God was the brightest light imaginable and amazingly you could look at the light even though it was so bright.  God told him to go back and tell people about Him and His love for them.  Isn’t that what it’s all about? Telling people about God’s love.

I renewed my passport this fall.  This is a simple task.  But we have a choice now: 5 year or 10 year.  Pause.  I’m not supposed to live even 5 years.  These are things other people don’t need to think about.  I chose the 10 year passport.

I spoke with my dearest friend this morning.  She called out that this could be a spiritual attack.  “You’re a force to be reckoned with.” She said, “The enemy knows it.”  So, all the more I rally your prayers.  I am considering fasting for the purpose of prayer for healing and God’s presence.  I just read Esther, she fasted with her people for 3 days before petitioning the King for her people’s lives.  I’ve never fasted, but I think I shall set aside solid food for taking time to petition God for my life, for my ministry I have yet to do here on earth.  Join me if you are compelled. 

And I am compelled to again remind you to look for deeply at the people around you.  So many people have a story lurking heavy and deep beneath the surface.  Last week, with sick kids (hence lack of sleep) and the heaviness of 2 people with brain cancer dying and the underlying fatigue I face as “brain injury”, I was barely coping.  Thank God my Mom was here and that my Mother in Law is a big help in our lives (What would we do with out moms?......I don’t want my kids to have to answer that question).  What I am getting at is often people need to be asked “How are you?” with actually wanting to hear the answer.  People want to be seen.  They need to be heard.  They need God’s love.  God’s love flows through us, people. WE ARE THE CONDUITS OF GOD’S LOVE.   I am very admittedly still learning this, but I want to learn it in parallel to you.  I want to hear your stories.

I’ve wrestled with my faith and belief system lately.  I’ve looked square at what I believe and acknowledged, “What I believe is crazy!!!!”  God became man, died for our sins and rose again to life, went back to live in heaven.  If we believe this we get our impure heart forgiven and not only that we get access to be with God--- on earth through him living in us via the Holy Spirit and when we die in the direct presence of his glory in heaven.  This is far-fetched and crazy.  Think about it!  I have been.  “How can I really believe this?”  Well, my friends, if you unravel the gospel message, it is the ONLY one that can properly deal with all the uncertainties and emotions and struggles I face with this cancer diagnosis.  So I will take the crazy at face value.  Jesus was kinda a crazy guy.  Strike that, he was crazy.  He loved like crazy.   He turned norms on their heads.  His teaching was strikingly wise and profound.  He didn’t care what people thought or expected.  He talked to women.  He took time for children.  He was God.  Do you realize how incredible the message and Good News of the Gospel is?  It is spectacular.  And as I was processing the “How can I believe this?” I read in Romans, Paul explains that God purposefully chose an unconventional way of sharing His Love and Good News.  Ordinary and Main-stream just doesn’t work for something so extraordinary. 

I invite you today to think about these things.  Most of us will overtly stare death in the face one day and inevitably we will all die.  These are pertinent matters to think about.  Give Jesus some more thought.  I truly believe, as crazy as the faith he calls us to is, that he is THE answer.  The only way not to lose our lives while we’re still living.

I’m far from perfect.  My faith is weak.  But I believe.  I am all in for Jesus.  God is good, all the time He is good.     


Update: My symptoms have subsided (I feel 'normal') and I just spoke with my oncologists nurse. My oncologist is NOT alarmed by this flashing vision. Next MRI as scheduled, mid November. We'll prayfully await those results.❤️


PRAYER NEEDED. I have just had vision flashing like I did preop. This isn't good.  Please rally your prayers

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

My Vegas Vacation

   Ryan and I are in Las Vegas celebrating our (belated) 15 year anniversary and my 1 year survivor anniversary.  We flew in Monday (Oct 2/17).
    I awoke Monday morning and had a message from my friend asking if we were ok, she thought we were in Vegas already.  I checked Vegas news. I started shaking. This devastating shooting happened from the hotel (Mandalay Bay) we were to be staying at that night.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  We wouldn't have been at the concert, but news reports since make it clear that if we had arrived 1 day earlier that Sunday night for us would have been frightening chaos.  We would have likely been in our hotel room at the time of the shooting where we would have been frantically evacuated by police (required to leave our belongings).  I was shaken enough just hearing this news.  I am grateful to not have had to go through the turmoil.
    Last minute at the airport we were able to book into a new hotel and are relaxing in "Paris" and it is lovely. In my gratitude for being able to still enjoy my vacation my heart weighs heavy.  The devastation to so many lives is saddening.  My humanity aches for the families of those lost. The darkness of this act is pitch black.
    ‎I revisit the reality that our days are numbered.  But most of all  ‎I cling to the Light of God to blot out this darkness.  I am overcome with the belief that only the light of God can heal such devastation.  Only the light of God can bring the Hope that's needed in such hopelessness.
    ‎ My God is good.  All the time He is good.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Cancer and waterslides

I've decided I need to rip a page out of my daughter's playbook. With no lead-in tonight at bedtime she asked, "what do they do if a kid gets cancer?" In our house we know the value of facing truth sensitively, but head-on. So, I told her that treatment is often more limited for kids. "Does cancer hurt, mom?" She asked. I told her that I have never had any pain from my cancer, but that her Grandma (my mom) had alot of pain from the damage her cancer did to her bones. I assured her there are medicine to lessen any pain and that we have really good cancer doctors.

no pause just the next statement that came from her lips: " I really like going to the waterslides. It's fun isn't it mom?"

Yes, it is; life is full of fun and full of not-fun, my dear sweet child.

The simplicity of a 5 year old's words were just what I needed tonight.  I snuggled her as much as she allowed and kissed that beautiful head more than usual and let her stay up late to lengthen the moment.  She had no idea what news I had just heard; but, her presence helped cut through the heaviness that a brain cancer contact I had made upon diagnosis just got big (tumor size), bad (inoperable tumor location) news.  This is my real life folks. There's no hiding it and at times like this it gets frightening.

So I turn on Lauren Daigle, "trust in you" and remember that there's cancer in my life, in my head in fact; but there is A BIG mighty powerful and faithful God who holds it all steady. Steady, so I can get to dreaming with my daughter about June when the waterslides open again.

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!