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Thursday, July 6, 2017

My daily bread for today

Psalm 138

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever

When I read this I got an image of God wrapping His right arm around me while holding His left hand out as a shield to protect me. Powerful. And a much needed reminder.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Other Side of Brave


I want to leave you with an explanation and update before I go into a bit of a blogging silence. 

The explanation:
It takes me hours to write a blog post.  I am a perfectionist at heart and it is hard for me to publish anything on my blog without first combing over and over it; therefore, blogging is not a quick event, even when I try to be less thorough in an attempt to simply get my thoughts out there.  I do love blogging and it is therapeutic; but it takes a lot of quiet time (which is a hot commodity for me).

Actually talking with people is also therapeutic….AND relationship building.  In attempts to build into relationships and actually TALK to people (how scarce that is in our world today) I am going to prioritize such talking encounters over blogging.  If you want to know how I’m doing feel free to call me (or message me for my phone number) 

Furthermore, I started writing a novel shortly after we moved to Chilliwack (about 8 years ago).  It has sat 75% complete for about 7 years.  I want to focus efforts to complete this novel.  

Finally, its summer.  We are heading on a 3 week vacation shortly.  And to fit in the active fun I want to enjoy, I need to ensure I also rest properly.

Update:

I titled this post “The other face of brave” in order to convey a holistic sense of what my life looks like.  The last couple weeks I’ve been back in a daily struggle to stay optimistic, to stay positive, to keep my head up, to believe that I can keep living day in day out.  Our days are challenging.  Let’s get real: our days feel like a battle traipsing chest-deep in thick mud holding our kids in our arms above us to keep as much muck as possible off of them.  We are burned out and putsing on fumes.  I looked back at where we’ve come from and I don’t even know how we got through that.  It was hard on so many fronts at the same time and I think now that I have time and capacity to process what we’ve been through and that we have to keep going through this – I am exhausted. 

The only way I keep going is citing scripture.  I role over in bed in the morning to see on my wall “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And I pray to God that I need Him so I can rejoice in the gifts around me.  I cite “Be strong and courageous for the Lord is with you wherever you go,” And I courageously get out of bed because I know God will help me through the day.  I depend on daily bread.  Because I
have no reserves of bread for the week, I need daily sustenance to keep pressing on through the mud.

And I call out to you giving voice to the other side of brave, because it is often left unheard.  It is a HUGE part of our stories and it is left unvoiced.  And I acknowledge many of you too have your own daily struggles to be brave.  In speaking these words I hope to champion giving VOICE to our stories – ALL parts of our stories.  Our stories are empowering.  We need to share them.  We cannot journey by ourselves through these wildernesses, through the other side of brave.  It is ugly.  It is messy.  It is impossible!  God is with us and yet we need to be God’s hands and feet and voice to one another!  So join me here on the other side of brave  ---- it takes a new kind of courage, but God promises to be with us wherever we go.           

On a practical note:

Please pray:

God hears our prayers!!! Please pray for me and my family, desperately I need your prayers!:
-       Pray for healing for Cheryl, for the cancer to be fully destroyed.
-       Pray my vision would clarify and my headaches (mild) disappear as I try to focus on good sleep and stretching– I’m pretty sure they are fatigue and muscular related, but these sorts of symptoms are unnerving
-       Pray praise that I have only 1 more round of chemo starting Thursday
-       Pray for wisdom in managing/allocating the energy I have
-       Pray for energy for the continued demands of our family.
-       Pray for seeing and seizing opportunities to bless others as we press on in our journey
-       Pray for safety traveling this summer and for a blessed time visit with friends and family


From our family to yours: We love you and thank you for joining us!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

An Anniversary Post: Remembering my wedding day



Today Ryan and I have been married 15 years!!! This helped to spur this post that I've been wanting to write for awhile.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him.

To my kids: These are the verses we chose as our wedding verses.  As I reflect on them, I hug and I embrace and cry with my 20-year old self for getting it SO right even as I was just barely an adult.  By God’s grace, covered in the prayers of our parents and their parents, this marriage has been on solid ground since its beginning.  My children, marriage is not easy.  Marriage takes commitment, sacrifice, and arduous work.  But, in following God’s example of loving well and living out this example first and foremost in your marriage, your union with your spouse will become the sweetest fragrance.  Then this love, poured into your lives from God himself, can flood your families and then bring Hope to this world which desperately needs it. 

Who you marry matters SO profoundly.  The best decision I ever made was to marry your father.  He is a man of integrity, ingenuity, insight, wisdom, and perseverance.  I fell in love with him because he was always optimistic, always up for fun and adventure and activity, he was confident, and he seemed wise beyond his years.  He doesn’t dally in “shoulds” or “should haves”.  He lives free of the box others place around their lives.  He comes up with wild ideas and I’ll admit they often make me nervous and up-tight.  But, oh how I appreciate your Dad’s ability to think and dream without inhibition.  Because I know in his wisdom, he will make good choices.  Furthermore, never have I doubted that your Dad would always be by my side.  Yes, we’ve had to talk about how to best support and love me.  But even in the chaos of twin babies and the turmoil of a cancer diagnosis, your Dad is firmly by my side.  That is what marriage is: committing to stay beside one another even when the lightness of life turns heavy. 

Fifteen years after saying our vows, I am more committed than ever to love my husband who God has graciously gifted me with.  Thank God for the blessings He keeps pouring into our family.  Our marriage is rooted in love, firstly to and from our gracious God, secondly to one another.  Nothing is going to tear apart the foundation of this family.  In proclamation, in the voice of Paul, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from [God’s] love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t and the demons can’t.  Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.  Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And if God’s love is in this marriage and in this family, I am confident it will stand firm.  It will stand firm!


So, when did this family start? I am so happy to share the story with you.
(I’ve been wanting to write some of these details down, I don’t want them to get lost, and our anniversary feels so very fitting a time to make record.)

The Pursuit
It was fall 1999.  I did not want a boyfriend.  I was just finished high school and had moved to Saskatoon for University.  I was content being single and focusing on my studies.  Somehow, Ryan managed to get my interest.  In fact, well into our relationship he later told me that he knew he would win me over.  While I was turned off from his cockiness when I learned this and appalled because he certainly would NOT have won me over had I known this; his confidence is truly one of his strengths which I admire, now.  The first time I spent time alone with Ryan, he invited me to go for a run with him.  It was perfect, but I was nervous.  Slowly we started spending more time together, usually along with our mutual friends.  By Christmas, though, I really was getting antsy for this guy to make “us” official.  Finally, the night before I left Saskatoon to go home to Swift Current for Christmas break, he asked me to be his girlfriend. 


Our engagement.
Ryan and I were at family camp together, must have been the summer of 2001.  We went for a dirt-bike ride to a spot along the side of the lake that has a clearing.  We stood there enjoying the beauty and Ryan said to me, “I think we should get married.” My reply was simple, “Me too.”  (I was confident in my response because six months into our relationship, the summer of 2000, I did an assessment.  I decided that I needed to evaluate what I wanted out of life and to determine if Ryan fit into this plan.  At this point, it was either move on with life or invest fully in our relationship.  The best choice was clear, and indeed it is the best choice I’ve made!)  Very shortly after our “pre-engagement” we had dinner at Mom & Dad Rostek’s along with my parents, since they were out visiting.  It was here that we stated our intentions to get married and received the blessings of both our parents to do so.  Dad Rostek booked Oshkidee, because I knew that was exactly where I wanted to get married: it was the perfect place.  And later that summer, Ryan officially proposed when we were out in Jasper.  He had a “hidden song” he had put on the burned CD we were listening to.  It was the guitar music he had written and recorded for the proposal song.  He sang his proposal to me one evening when we were out for a drive after going to the hot springs.      

Our wedding day
I awoke that morning, June 22, 2002, got my journal and my bible and headed to my favorite place of all time (to this day still): the boat dock at Camp Oshkidee.  It was probably around 7AM and it was perfect as always: a prisitine lake before me with loons calling, a serene stillness and the sun warming my back and I lay on my stomach, propped on my elbows, chai tea by my side.  I don’t know what I journalled, I suppose I could hunt out that journal in my stack in storage, but I don’t think it really matters, because I can feel the desire I had for my future with this young man completely unaware of what the hardships of marriage look like, but also completely committed to bring God into this marriage and to love Ryan for as many days as I am blessed to call him husband.

The whole day was absolutely incredible.  It was my wedding day and I had hopes for it to be grand.  It was.  That morning, Ryan and I went waterskiing.  I remember being nervous that I wouldn’t get up, because I wanted a great ski for such a great day.  It was a great ski.  I am still thrilled that I got to go waterskiing with Ryan on my wedding day.  This puts a huge smile on my face and in my heart.             

I showered and Ryan’s aunt Sandra set my hair in rollers.  Guests started to arrive to the camp and I was able to visit with many of them, my hair in rollers still, as we were slowly getting ready.  My auntie Anne did my makeup on the deck of the lodge, while my maids of honor (my sister, Carmen, and friend Rahimay) also did their makeup there.  It was relaxed and I was relaxed. 

It was time to get dressed so Carmen, Rahimay, Mom and I headed to our room in the upper lodge to get ready.  Ryan and the guys were staying right next door to us and I remember hearing at this point (the lodge is NOT soundproof at all) the guys starting to shower.  Starting to shower.  But they did still make it to the Chalet for the ceremony before us. And little did I know that some of the guys (Ryan’s ushers) had just been out on the boat and flipped it so my Father-in-law had to rescue them!

I remember my Dad coming to join us before the ceremony and when he saw me, dressed as the bride, he said, “That’s my girl.”  Those words embody so much meaning: I love you, I’m proud of you, you’re beautiful.  As a teenager I really didn’t understand my Dad, nor the demands his health-struggles placed on him.    It was Father’s Day one week prior to my wedding.  On that Father’s Day I took my Dad to the park for Ice cream and read him a letter I had written him apologizing for my lack of respect over the years.  I am so glad I had the courage to open my heart to my Dad that day, to reconcile the strain in our relationship, and to go back to simply being “his girl” for my wedding day. (PS. Dad, I’ll always be your girl. Always.)   And what a beautiful speech he presented me with at my reception.  My Dad does not like public speaking; but he took the time to write out his speech and took the time he needed to present it to me at my reception.  I don’t remember the details other than a general “I am proud of you” sentiment and it meant SO much to me that Dad brought Mrs. Peters into my wedding day, by speaking of her in his speech. (Mrs. Peters was the blind lady I read to on Monday nights through out high school who became a mentoring friend/Grandma and so much more to me.  She passed away about one year before our wedding.)  

I loved my wedding.  I remember only little tidbits of the ceremony, which I’ll share here. I remember that it was getting a bit late and my Auntie Faith (her husband, my Uncle Randall was marrying us) came stating it was time for the bride to come.  So, in true Cheryl form I thus became hurried to get there and rushed ahead of my attendants and parents over to the chalet (there’s a picture somewhere showing me walking ahead of everyone else over to the chalet, that is why.)  I remember wishing I had a longer aisle to walk down and that it was very important not to see Ryan before walking down the aisle.  I remember being excited to be at the alter with Ryan, but mostly that I was thinking about how warm I felt up there and that my armpits were starting to sweat and I started holding my elbows further and further away from my body as I held my bouquet to try to prevent my pits from starting to drip.  I remember Grandpa Ernie Rostek praying a blessing prayer over our marriage during the ceremony.  (Likewise, I remember my Grandpa Krahn speaking words of blessing to me and for my marriage, despite dementia setting in, prior to the ceremony.)  I remember Uncle Randall praying that our marriage be blessed with children (he did ask prior to the ceremony if we wanted to have children; but I admit, that I have thought about this prayer and the fact that we have twins!). 

Between the ceremony and the reception guests relaxed and swam while Ryan and I had hours of pictures taken (which I loved!)  We served milk chocolate chip cookies (we had tried to get Chip-Its to somehow sponsor this through sharing our story- to no avail). These are the cookies which I loved to make for Ryan. 

At our reception I appreciated Auntie Shelley speaking on behalf of Grandpa Braun, who had passed away a couple weeks prior.  She spoke approving words of how Grandpa was proud Ryan had chosen a girl from Swift Current.  These words meant a lot because  grandparents mean a lot. (And I have to add it here because it is a beautiful expression of true love: until she died Grandma spoke often of how she missed Bill – Grandpa- and near the end of her life she longed to go to heaven to be again with her Bill.  Shelley was with her when she passed away and she says Grandma was calling to Bill as she slipped from this world to the heavenly.  What an example of beautiful love.)

After dinner, we served our wedding cake to our guests.  It was lovely to greet each one of them and I loved that I knew everyone at this party! (I didn’t have to worry about small talk, I could just have a lovely chat with anyone there).  I remember after the reception our violinist, Alison, serenading us on the dock.  That was spectacular. 

As the evening pressed on we set off in Ryan’s red ’83 tercel wagon to begin the rest of our story together.  And what a story it’s been!  Fifteen years later and the best of life keeps on coming.


I love you Ryan.  Happy Anniversary.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

Today, for Father's Day, I Honor my father and my children's father. Dad, Ryan you deserve every celebration and every encouragement in your honor for fathering well. In April I had quite the revelation as I opened my eyes to others' experiences. It made me very grateful for my dad and for my husband.

I can't even imagine to have a father who doesn't love me. I'm stopped because even that thought makes my heart ache --the hole it must leave in your heart to actually experience that must be infinite.

Every girl and woman longs to be cherished, to be affirmed that they are loved, and to be reminded that they are beautiful. This is a deep seated longing and we see the results of it not being fulfilled in our society. Fathers love on your daughters, it means EVERYTHING.

 Thank you Dad for loving me, always, for cherishing me, always. "That's my girl." You'd say with pride. Dad, I'll always be your girl. Always. I love you and thank you for being present in my childhood and in my adulthood and now in my children's lives also. It means everything.

Thank you, Ryan for loving and cherishing our beautiful daughters (and son). My soul is at peace knowing our girls have rich love being poured into their lives by their Dad (and that our son has a Dad to look up to in so many capacities). Never stop giving them affection, telling them they are beautiful, and delighting in them with gifts. This, I truly believe, will empower them to change the world in magnificent ways.

I can't help but think of the verse: "love covers over a multitude of sins." The deep love your fathering is rooted in covers over any inadequacies or failures.

Dad, Ryan, you HAVE changed my world and our children's worlds and the world around us through your fathering. Thank you.

PS. Lucky us to have a heavenly Father who would do anything for His daughters. Always cherished, always treasured, always loved by the God who fills that gaping empty hole inside us. With His astounding grace He fills that hole that's longing for hope, adoration, and love. He (God) is the answer. The One who never fails us and is ALWAYS there cheering us on with a celebratory bouquet in hand. Praise God for my Heavenly Father!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Card of Thanks........Part 2


Okay folks, this post’s choppy.  It’s like a list. It’s bits and pieces. It’s real-life gratitude and a presentation of beautiful humanity.

When I first sat down to finally get to writing out my list of thanks, I was floored.  It quickly became apparent that taking tally wasn’t going to be a simple task.  Look at this list!!! It’s astounding the community that has surrounded us.  We are humbled, blessed and pour out a prayer of blessing on each and every one of you.  To each of you, and those I have undoubtly forgotten to write here: your words of encouragement, your gifts, your visits, your helping hands, your meals provided, your prayers, these mean so very much to the health of myself and our family.  Simply saying “thank you” feels much too inadequate; but I do not want my appreciation to be unheard.  So, thank you, each and everyone, thank you!  (Note: I almost didn’t want to publish this list as I know it incomplete; so please understand my unwritten thanks to those not on this list who have helped us)

Stefanie (Our nanny).  I am speechless.  You mean so much to our family.  And your presence in our home is refreshing in so many ways.  You are a testimony of God’s provision to us.
First Ave Church.  – We love you
Central Community Church We love you
The Harders  -  Your home is a breath of fresh air in my week.  Your hospitality is unparalleled.   
Brad & Ashley Mckinnon – Dear friends. I’m wrapped in your hug right now Ashley. Your messages after I post a blog mean so much to me.
Bud & Sarah – You are some of the “realest” people around.  It doesn’t seem like years, nor miles since our paths have last crossed.
Danielle Richard – I sure appreciated our walks and talks. And that you brought us dinner – that means a lot (wink).
Carlene and Scott McVetty – food, helping hands, willingness and availability are just the start.  Carlene, when my legacy project seemed insurmountable, you blessed my heart so very richly.
Crossroads Family Practice: This doctor’s office is indescribable. I am blown away with gratitude by their generosity.  Firstly to all the GPs  - thank you for hiring Elevated Meals for our family ---  WOW!  I’m particularly so grateful for Dr. Ross for taking concern of ALL aspects of my health. Then there’s Pippa, oh Pippa! And the meals from Pippa, Chris and Michelle! .  But there’s more ---  this whole office is simply the best, MOAs you make a HUGE difference in a person’s medical experience.  You have always made mine lovely and now when cancer hit its just that much more apparent! Thank you Crossroads MOAs!!!.
Paul & Joni Graham
My soccer team members for the meals, flowers, cards peri-operatively: Sarah, Megan, Amber and whoever I’m forgetting
Stefanie Hampson – I met you once and what followed was an outpouring of food help.
Jenn Penner – you were the first one to declare true HOPE into my diagnosis, I am forever grateful!
Janie Vanderveen
Deb Bowmer
Christina Savage
Baptist Community Church
Bridgeway Community Church
Ken & Heidi Franz – thank you for the support to explore a new diet (Heidi) and for being the ‘someone I can call’ --- like for my car not starting, when I’m in Abbotsford for appointments (Ken)
Ev & Henry Remple – Thank you, thank you for letting us use your space
Ken & Mandy Witt
Rebekah Williams
Pam Engel
Grandma Sara
Jenneke Franke – what would we have done without you when I was recovering from surgery!!!  And that you brought us Stefanie, we are ever-grateful.
The Charltons (Your helping hands came at one of our most needed times)
Anna Wheeler – I’d love for CharleeDee to be praised for the “chemo beanies” I wear all the time!!! And your food help was an outpouring.
Kim Plesman
Kara Humphries –
Ginny Klassen
Julie Massie
Dot Berg
Carmen’s aunt Jeanie
Linda Gillard – who created an inspiring quilt for me
Marianne, my neighbor down the hall – thank you for showing me extravagant beauty
Rod and Karla Garcia – neighbors in the truest sense of the word
Amy Mackay – Thank you for your Thursday prayers, they mean so much
Andrew Krahn – your prayer pre-op meant so VERY much to me
Amy Krahn – Our 36 hours together felt like WAY more, you’re special that way.
Gaglardi Family – Your Easter basket created an Easter cookie decorating experience that meant so much to me
Sarah Bruneski
Naomi Orrell  -
Haley Berger – Thank you comrade for giving me the courage to don my buzzed head
Hugginz by Angel and Mary who connected us with her
Kelly Kallevig
Shawna Vickerman -
Pam Anderson, Lisa Anderson, Ben Prangnell – you guys are such special people, thank you for visiting and everything that meant, especially to Ryan
Shareen Harder
Misty Bedwell -  Graciously I am thankful for you fostering my daughter’s artist heart….and my own in the process.
Elevated Meals – for providing a discounted rate to the GPs who hired their service for us
My Unspoken Blog Followers & Prayer supporters
Ryan’s pickleball cronies.  Thanks for loving pickleball and keeping my husband sane so he can, well, stay sane!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Update May 24, 2017

Most of my health status remains unchanged and my energy is slowly and seemingly continually, improving. My vision is stable, slightly wonky but unchanged as long as I get adequate rest and nutrition.  I tolerated my last round of chemo the best yet with only mild fatigue.  I only have 2 more rounds of chemo!!!!  Slowly (and sporadically), my physical activity is increasing and I am becoming used to the cyclic nature of energy ups and downs related to chemo.  See below for more health specifics.

Praise God for:

- My sick leave benefits
- Stefanie, our nanny, and her continued lovely presence in our home 4 days a week
- (that sick leave benefits allow finances to pay Stefanie!)
- Physical activity re-entering my life and our weekends transitioning from crazy, chaos awfulness to soul-filling (still tiring ;) family activities like time at the splash park and a nature walk at Flood Falls by Hope this past weekend.
- A steadiness of my heart
- Our community of support


Pray for:

- Healing! (See last post)
- Sustained energy to enjoy my family
- Marriage strength – Our marriage is strong, but the pressures on it with our family and health demands are apparent
- Good report (no tumor growth) on my MRI early June
- Energy for increasing physical activity, which I so love to participate in
- Wisdom in pursuing new passionate ideas ever brewing in my head: to be wise to follow my heart in these areas, but to be patient and also wise in allocating my energy.
- Helpful tips from the dietician next week to have health-filled as well as practical advice in order to “fuel” my body well
- Summer holidays!!! We will be away from home for over 3 weeks --- Heading to the Shuswaps for a week with friends, visiting in Saskatchewan, then spending a week at family at Camp Oshkidee.  Lots of kilometers and different sleeping arrangements.  I’m trusting that the craziness would be well out-weighed by the sweet family, friends, nature, and God time!  Pray for the preparations and for a calm spirit preparing for and embarking on this adventure. 




I love you and I depend on you, my supporters.  Thank you.  


A Call to Prayer

The first few months after my diagnosis I didn’t quite know how to deal with the idea of requesting prayer for healing and what to do with faith, this elusive faith-thing, if healing did not occur.  I still always welcomed healing prayer, absolutely; but there was always a feeling like perhaps I wasn’t “all in” just in case.  It’s a tough place to be when you want to believe; but you don’t want what little faith you have to be dashed. 

I am no theologian, nor have I been reading books on prayer or on faith healing; but I have come to a place where I am now compelled to pray passionately for my own healing – and invite those of you who pray to do the same (and I graciously welcome healing vibes from those of you who send your support that way).  You may ask, as I did myself, “How can I ask you to pray fervently for healing for me when we know so well how awful cancer can be and brain cancer is one of the ‘bad ones’?”  Psalm 112 begins to answer this for me:

A righteous person will always be remembered.
She is not afraid of bad news.
Her heart remains secure, full of confidence in Yahweh.
Her heart is steady, and she is not afraid.

Then hear these words just a bit further into Psalms (Psalm 116):

I love God because He listened to me….
What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation ----
A toast to God!


I realize that these verses do not provide a full answer to the unanswerable question of healing prayer.  But through God’s peace these words and concepts are enough and truly, I am not afraid.  No, rather than being afraid, I celebrate in a toast to God the blessings he saturates my life with.  My God will go with me wherever I go, wherever cancer takes me.  With this steady heart join me, I graciously ask, to echo my heart’s prayer:


I plead to God to add days to my life; but truly I praise God for the transformation of my soul and for adding LIFE to my days*.  In this spirit of thanksgiving I petition God: keep the cancer away – destroy it, anniliate it, cut it off from even starting to grow, starve it! Heal my brain.  May my scan in 2 weeks be spectacular as I trust in Your power God.  Your mighty, amazing, healing power!  Paul in the bible tells us that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives within his followers! In this same power of the Holy Spirit I pray this all-in petition, God! Heal this diseased body and give me years upon years upon years in my life.  Grant me my desire to grow old with my husband that we may look back on how far God has led us.  Continue to give me the great blessing to raise our 3 precious children and the wisdom and patience, oh boy the wisdom and patience, that I need to do so. I ask to be privileged to parent them into adulthood and then to continue the joys and struggles of parenting as I become grandmother to their children.  Oh God, give me these desires of my heart!!!   Along the way use my words ready to proclaim your goodness, use my hands open to receive God’s blessings to overflowing that they would flow out of my life and into those lives around me.  

Oh God, we praise you for the power of your salvation!!!! It is unparalleled. Humbly, I thank you, God.

Amen       


And thank you to all of you who join me in this prayer. Thank you.

*Philip Yancey quotes Dr. Bob Moorehead's The Paradox of Our Time in Vanishing Grace (p. 153-154)  This quote inspired this sentence: "We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years to life, not life to years." 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Art of Rejoicing

I have this verse hung beside my bed, “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”*  I put it there before the twins were born, because I knew their arrival would bring struggles to rejoice.  Those days I did not find much to rejoice in.  In fact, I started to question the validity of that verse altogether.  Do we have seasons where we can rejoice and others where we have to simply plod along?  Only when I entered the enlightment of cancer survivorship did the answer start to be apparent.

I will NEVER be one to discount the difficulty of motherhood.  However, can joy be found daily even in such trying circumstances?  I proclaim, “Yes!”.  Ann Voskamp has written the book One Thousand Gifts.  I read this a few years ago.  Her prose is choppy but poetic and in this book she seeks out the little gifts of joy through out her day.  Where do these joy moments or gifts come from?  From finding the beauty in the ordinary. 

The value of beauty and art has been brushed aside in my life for a few years now.  I am university-educated in sciences which followed with a career as a Pharmacist.  The current model of medical practice is “evidence-based practice”.  In lay man terms: make medical decisions based on what good medical studies have proven.  This is good, but it does have a propensity to turn people into numbers, if you let it.

As I processed my diagnosis I began to see the very usefulness and power of beauty in one’s life.  Furthermore, I realized how little I had given pause in the most recent years to ponder, to create a gap in the incessant busyness that bombards life.  People most certainly are not numbers.  They are beautiful creatures created in God’s image, each one of them!

Indeed, as Voskamp highlights, there is much beauty and value in the rote tasks of the day.  In the mundane.  Say, for example, in the days of changing diaper after diaper after diaper.  Also remember the beauty in the people themselves whom we are surrounded by.  Be it our kids as stay at home moms, be it our care-aid for the shut-in senior, be it our friends, be it the cashier at the grocery store.  It may seem cliché, but I speak this truth to my daughter regularly: at the core of all hearts is a sparkling diamond.       

As I explore how to leave a positive and beautiful mark on my sphere of influence, I find myself praying “God, bring out the beautiful from within my soul and give it words.”  Honestly, I long to know how I can also follow my words with action.  Yet, I have been reminded by Philip Yancey that there can be great purpose in art and that it can “suspend the relentless passage of time.”**  Is that not the breath of fresh air we need in the busy, busy rushing?  Art creates space.  When I took time to contemplate at my cancer diagnosis I saw the need for beauty; but, oh how we need space to pause. 

In light of Ann Voskamp, can I assert that art extends beyond the written word, the artist’s paint stroke, the filmmaker’s performance?  Is not art present also in the mundane rote tasks of life?  Is there not living art in a parent coming up with a creative solution, in the cashier serving respect and a compliment to the customer who belittles and criticizes him, in the daughter in law who holds her mother in law as she breathes her last breaths? 

Art and beauty are often overlooked.  This is certainly to our detriment.  For, I have come to see that in order to rejoice in the impossible places where life takes us it is necessary to embrace the artful beauty that abounds in our lives***.        

 
*Psalm 118:24
**Vanishing Grace, chapter 7, p. 147.
*** This comes alongside the art of graciously asking for and accepting help so as to truly live in community. 


Friday, May 12, 2017

Love You Better

This is the Song my amazing husband wrote for me when I was first diagnosed with Glioblastoma and just shared with me ON THE RADIO (through an interview with CKNW 980 today) as the best mother's day gift ever! I love you Ryan.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

On Mothering

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”  Andy Stanley


With Mother’s Day approaching I want to share revelations about mothering that I have uncovered recently.  However, it is necessary to step back and first tell you about my “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12) who I have firsthand learned from.

I think on mothering and I praise God for the heritage He has given me and the heritage which I know will extend beyond me as I commit my whole heart and all my desires in mothering to God.  I am blessed to have met my maternal lineage three generations back.  What a gift to have spent time with my great grandmother in my childhood.  My memories of great grandma Krahn consist mainly of visiting her in the nursing home at Herbert, Sask. ( a half hour drive from Swift Current) where we would eat Wagon Wheels with her.  She serves as more of an icon in my memory; but oh what an important one.  Her daughter, my Grandma Krahn, passed away when I was fourteen years old.  In those 14 years I learned much from her about being a godly woman of character.  Shortly before she passed away Grandma attended my cousin and mine’s baptism.  When the congregation was given opportunity to encourage the baptismal candidates she stood and loudly proclaimed to Lindsay and I that we ought never to forget Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake thee.” Grandma Krahn’s daughter is my mom, Alice.  My mother’s life speaks in so many ways that cannot be fully captured in words.  However, in striving to honor the incredible godly heritage I have, I attempt to capture her importance in one word: a saint.

Many verses refer to saints in the bible, I particularly like Psalm 30:4 (ESV), “Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name”
 I capture the picture of a saint as brought to my attention through Philip Yancey** “What is a saint?...: someone who, however flawed, ‘leads us by example, almost never by words, to imagine the hardest thing of all: the seamless love of God for all creation, including ourselves.’”

Why do we think that at some point we ought to be able to coast in life?  My mother has done nothing of the coasting sort.  My mom grew up in a godly, loving family which nourished her mind, body, and soul.  She attended University and became a social worker, empowered to make a difference in people’s lives.  The difference she could make in the parameters of her job were more meager than she had hoped.  She stopped working for pay outside the home for sometime when she had my sister, Carmen, 3 years my elder.  But, I recall her never stopping work: her volunteer spirit in our church and in our community was thriving.  When I was 5 years old, my Dad was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.  Over the years he had numerous surgeries and appointments, always a 2 hour drive from home.  My mom previously did not highway drive.  My Dad went back to work 6 weeks after brain surgery expected to resume his normal duties, all the while maxed out with fatigue and hence laden with depression.  My Dad attends acquired brain injury support because truly all these operations have left Dad with numerous struggles.  My mom was mom and wife and a stronghold during these years. 

Fast-forward and at 60 years old (as I’m having my first child and feel like I need my mom) my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and required a mastectomy.  Mom was cured of the cancer but the physical evidence of her disease plummeted Dad into depression again.  It was a somber time and I know it was hard for mom, and yet I really do not know.  Two years later intense backpain entered mom’s life.  I live 2 provinces away from her and did not realize how bad it was.  I noticed that she wasn’t calling anymore, but that was the extent of my selfish realization.  It became apparent that there was more going on and her back was badly broken and cancer was on table.  I froze in fear, even moreso than with my own diagnosis.  I needed my mom!  Her response was, “it will be okay.”  I return to this over and over.  The moment she first uttered those words to me is burned in my memory.  I have written about it elsewhere, but, it comes afresh these days with my own diagnosis.  My then 2 year old daughter played oblivious to us in the kitchen in these early morning moments and I started to cry.  Mom hugged me and stated those words: “It will be okay.”  This is my mom.  Rooted in God’s graces to know that no matter what, God is with us so it will be okay.  My mom has had to battle her own disease of multiple myeloma, now in remission, only to learn that her daughter has a brain tumor subsequently diagnosed as Stage 4 Glioblastoma.  My mom has to keep on mothering both her sick daughter and her needy wee-little grandkids.  And she does so without complaints (I know when I was initially recovering from surgery that I just wanted to be the patient, not worry about my mothering duties; but, mothering duties never stop.  My mom can attest to this.) This is my mom’s life through out which she has demonstrated a commitment to her family, to her faith community, to her prayer life and scripture reading.  My mom is a saint who I am so privileged to continue to learn from.     


With this heritage as my backdrop I have a good starting place to learn about mothering.  However, I uncover, I have more to learn than I thought.  Thank God, that He is with me and will never leave me because this mothering thing is a hard gig.  Join me to listen to how God is encouraging me in mothering.

I make a huge difference in the lives of my children.
This is an enormous truth, often overlooked in the busyness, in the chaos, in the difficulty and tediousness of it all.   Mothering: it is hard and beautiful and exhausting and ugly and rewarding all wrapped into our heartstrings. 

I am writing letters to my children, one for each year until adulthood, to be presented to them on their birthdays. The intention is that my words will continue to speak on into their lives even if I am no longer present to physically speak the words.  It is indeed a big task to write this stack of letters -  letters of the most heartfelt, heart-wrenching, vital nature, all with prayerful hope that I myself will speak these words to my kids.  When I sat down to write my first letter, the magnitude of this task became apparent, and I’ll admit, felt quite daunting (especially with the intermittent looming fear of disease returning and the foggy-headed fatigue my treatments gave me).  These letters however, have become a beautiful task uncovering hopes and dreams, past and present, which enrich my daily living.  Furthermore, in writing these letters I am certain that my children will know my love for them and this provides deep comfort.

Let me step back.  A couple weeks ago I felt the heaviness of mothering.  My eldest was deep in a 5 year old disobedience phase and my 1 year olds frustratingly are still learning what obedience even means.  So I was writing letters of love to my children (as I do each week) and feeling the love for my kids and yet not.  The living of love for my kids was arduous.  I was annoyed with my kids.  I was burnt out from my kids and couldn’t wait for time away.  I was experiencing motherhood as motherhood is.  This is the reality!  I’ll be honest, I never realized how hard mothering would be.  I never intended to have more than 2 kids because I knew it was difficult --  but even despite this, oh boy it is hard in ways not mentioned.  Mothering demands so much- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – all of me!!!! 

I am supposed to be grateful for every moment with my children, right? Especially because I have terminal illness, right? When my twin one year olds are crying hard because who knows why and my 5 year old begins to whine and cry even harder than them because of something so small I can’t even remember it.  And it is chaos and noisy and in my post-brain-surgery brain the noise feels like jack-hammering.  I’m supposed to cherish all of these moments, right?  NOPE.  Flat out, NOPE.  For almost a week I wanted to be FAR away from my children.  I am a human and I am a mother and I fail big time.  Thank God, for His grace.

Because only by God’s grace can I love my children and then love them lavishly. Listen to what God’s grace did within my mom-heart this week.  I will share excerpts of my journal:

“What a great privilege to be used as a parent for God and His purpose.  Oh God give me wisdom to parent well – give Ryan vision to parent well and create a vision for our family.  Oh LORD you have given more children than we asked for – bless them richly, seal their hearts for Your purpose.  Use them for your glory as I pray the same for myself.

Oh give me supernatural energy to parent well.  For wisdom. For vision. For tenacity. 

Bless these children.  Rayna, Allison, and Garrett.  And bless their children.

The importance of my role as a mother to my children ought not to be overlooked.  It is HUGE and it is powerful.  What God will do through me as a mother if I fully open myself up in faith and love, is profound.  There is great purpose for me in being a mom and in being stretched in being a mom of 3 small children.

So I trust You and I invite you into our home and our family to get cozy, God, to make us uncomfortable to get moving for you.  God place a barricade of spiritual, physical, mental protection around our family starting with mine and Ryan’s marriage. Guard it, embolden it, breathe life, rich life into it.” 

To my children:
Oh I am a proud mother! My children I’ll tell you a secret, mothering is a very hard job.  It is harder than I ever imagined.  But the fruit of my hard work, with God as my strength and the Holy Spirit my Helper, is oh so sweet. And this is only the beginning!!! I am blessed. I am blessed to overflowing! How rich I am. To call you daughters and son is a blessed gift.  My sweet children, you are so very cherished. I love you.


To my Mother:   
Thank you for the gift of teaching me how to be a good and godly mom.  This gift extends for generations before you and beyond you: your elders and children yet to come. How grateful I am to share this lineage with you.  In you I see that mothering is never a completed task.  Life keeps journeying up and down.  Thank you for journeying with me as I face my own celebrations and my own hard paths.  You have taught me firsthand to live out that “It will be okay.” I love you.


While on the topic of mothering indulge me to share what I uncovered about motherhood when I was first diagnosed with a brain tumor; it was startling to me.  I had been trying and struggling to Mother my children myself (read my blog posts from the twins’ first year).  Only when I started getting help because of my brain surgery and subsequent cancer diagnosis and treatment did I realize the amount of help I had been really lacking to actually be a healthy mom (My twin mom friend was there one day and she took note of all the people caring for my kids and said, “Do you see how many people it is taking to do the job you did all by yourself?” I was proud in that moment for all I had been doing BY MYSELF. Yet looking back I realize how unhelpful pride can truly be.)  We need to be mothering in community and realize that our society’s presentation of motherhood only sets us up for disappointment and mental (and physical for that matter) health struggles. 
We need to break down the lies society is telling us about mothering.  We don’t need pinterest to mother well.  Heck we don’t even need to brush our kids’ teeth everyday! (Not that I’m really advocating for this and I can hear Rayna right now in my head asking why we only brush her teeth once a day – and well, the answer is because when the twins were born it just wasn’t worth losing our sanity to brush her teeth in the morning and we simply haven’t since resumed the routine – oh well.)  I don’t brush my kids’ hair much.  Sometimes I only shower once a week! (Twin moming pushed me to every 2-3 days or so and then cancer just shoved personal hygiene way on down in priority --- and, amazingly, I am sharing this with you, but its okay!)  What I need to mother well is prayer and a village.  I need my village moms to mom with me and to pray with me.  That is the only way we can make it in this society that tells us we need to mother on our own in our own perfect house with an excessive schedule of extracurricular activities for our kids, which they better start early so they get an edge on the competition.  Tear down the fences! Share the load! Let’s mother in community.  Let’s share our dirty laundry.  Let’s encourage one another instead of compare against one another.  Let’s ask for help when we need it. Let’s give help to other moms when we see their needs.  (I thank all you women who have so graciously exemplified this way of life to me in the months since my diagnosis.)  Let’s applaud the beauty in one another. Let’s celebrate women!  Mothers you are beautiful!  Barren women you are beautiful!  And may I add, Mom, Alice, you are the most beautiful of them all.   

Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful women who have taken time to read this post.  
You are loved. 
You are cherished.
You are delighted upon.

XOXO
Cheryl

 


**p. 71 Vanishing Grace, Philip Yancey quoting Reynolds Price

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May 4, 2017


I really enjoy Philip Yancey, and these insights from his book Vanishing Grace are no exception.  (from the section on being “grace dispensers”, p 112)

….Many questions that we throw at God return to us like a boomerang.  Consider for example the excellent question, “Why doesn’t God do something about global hunger?” The angels’ words after Jesus’ ascension echo through the centuries: “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?”  We, Jesus’ followers are the agents assigned to carry out God’s will on earth.  Too easily we expect God to do something for us when instead God wants to do it through us.

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

My question to God following reading this was, “God, what do you want to do through me?”

The reply, “That is why I am teaching you to rest ---  so I can stir your passions and so you can actually hear me when I speak.”


Point taken, God.




A reminder for women (Zephaniah 3)

A reminder to women, all women, because all of us need this reminder:

Zephaniah 3:16-17 (ESV/NIV spliced)

“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you.  He is the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you.  With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”

God delights in you.
You are cherished.
You are loved.
You are protected.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A poem I penned today:


A Call to Faithful Trust

Rest just a little longer
Rest -----
        Your care’s with me.
Rest all your worn and weary self
Rest and simply be.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Rayna, thank you for opening my eyes to the spectacular beauty of dandelions. May dandelions be a reminder to you and Garrett and Allison that I will ALWAYS love you and that my love will go with you ALWAYS❤️ The gardens of your hearts are beautiful bouquets​,my precious children.

xoxo
Love Mom

Dancing in the Dandelions



What’s been happening in my life lately is simply spectacular.  My physical energy has been fantastic and even this last round of chemo hasn’t knocked me down like usual.  And I am compelled to believe that my physical well-being is tightly linked to my spiritual well-being. 

I feel “like myself”, granted a new me.  I am worn down from my chemo; but despite this I have a sense of feeling healthier than I’ve been for a very long while.  And the “new me” is the one surfacing with the twins growing up a wee bit and me feeling like I’m starting to grasp what it means to be well and how to truly immerse myself in my source of strength and energy, my Father God.  But I set aside my family dynamics here to focus on me.  (Since it is healthy, in fact, to focus on myself as a mother, so I can refuel to love these kids which just take so very much out of Ryan and I -  and I know there’s many who relate to this.)

Let me focus.

In my last post I spoke of how God is teaching me to rest (and that I’m NO natural in being a student of rest).  But as I trust in Him, He continues to guide me.  And I truly believe that it is only by resting in God, that I will find healing (physical, emotional, spiritual). 

It is a battle to find this peaceful rest.  Our pastor brought to my attention the story of Jesus in the boat sleeping while a storm raged.  He rested amidst the storm.  And then chastises his disciples for having fear instead of faith.  Jesus gives rest akin to providing sleep in a rocky boat.

Rest.

This is a process.  It’s a major overhaul for a person who likes to cling to control.  So I am patient and I trust.

One day I got thinking.  (okay, so I think alot about alot of different things these days).  But these thoughts started to help me uncover changes I need to introduce.  Thank you Holy Spirit for giving me some practical pieces to chew on!  I have a tendency to want to makes moments shiny and spectacular, especially if I feel there’s a general expectation to have a shiny and spectacular moment like a birthday, anniversary, trip, etc.  It doesn’t sit well with me that even birthday’s can bomb and anniversaries can feel dull.  So when presented with a life-threatening illness the expectation I placed upon myself to make moments shiny and spectacular, was HUGE. And yes, I continue to absolutely love celebrating life and celebrating within life; but, not ever single moment can be a momentous celebration.  That simply is not life. Ordinary life is where life is really lived – at least in its majority.  So, I am freed from the expectation of creating something grand, so that I can LIVE.

I felt Jesus say, “I AM, so just be.”


It’s simple, it’s beautiful, it’s what I needed to hear.  It’s back to the Martha story in Luke 10.  She’s flitting about and ticked at her sister for not helping but instead sitting at Jesus’ feet.  I remember still as a teen reading this and being like, “really Mary just sitting there is doing the right thing?!”  (I guess this should have given me a clue to where I could work on myself, but really didn’t until now)  

“I am, so just be.”

And then I read the quote (In that crazy sexy cancer survivor book) that “during the time of the darkest night act as if the morning has already come.”  That sounds like…. faith.  So my secular book is telling me to have FAITH.  And I’ve been reading in Luke and Luke 18 has all this talk of faith and faith like a child and persistent faith.  And then verse 27 says, “What is impossible from a human perspective is possible with God.”  This whole ‘faith’ topic gets a little confusing to me because I am just not capturing this, it feels mind boggling. 

Then Luke 18 resurfaces and I am reminded to have faith like a child.  Children who believe anything is possible.  Children who rest well as they know they are cared for, loved, nurtured and safe.   Children who believe they can do anything if they believe. 

It’s like a billboard:  Faith like a child is how we find rest.

So my journey continues and I seek out faith like a child.


Today Rayna came home from a walk with the nanny and she had a crown of dandelions on her head.  I am stopped.  Read my blog from last May about being stuck in the dandelions, aptly titled Stuck in the Dandelion Field to see, here is an excerpt to help you capture my perspective:


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.
(May 2016)
----

Oh to see a crown of dandelions on Rayna’s head! (for I called it a headband and was promptly corrected; and indeed a crown is perfect.)

Dandelions: Isn’t the naked beauty of life most present in the blessings that just pop up.  Not planted, not tended. Most call them weeds and rush, oh how we rush, to get through them, past them, out of this season that has our city blossoming in brilliant, radiant, carefree yellow.  This year I pause. I smile. I celebrate. The crown atop my gorgeous daughter’s head befits my little queen and my breath becomes intentional because I am deeply present in this moment. My life is in blossoming with dandelions and for that, I praise God.

Indeed, in the dandelions is where life is lived.  And I’m finally starting to see it’s beauty.  As I release my adult notions and expectations and broken expectations.  And this is exactly where Jesus wants me.  Enjoying the simple pleasures of life, not needing them to be grand, and believing with faith like a child. 

From here the journey is one step at a time.  I’m always expecting (wanting) a point by point 5 year plan, but here God speaks, “the future looks bright, ah it’s looks spectacular if you just walk with me moment by moment, day by day, year by year.”  And I feel like I can breathe, because all that is asked of me in this moment is what this moment demands: my presence. 


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Christian mysticism

My spiritual counselor (highly recommended by friends I deeply trust) roots herself in Christian mysticism. I'll be honest this term 'Christian mystic' had me feeling uneasy. So I went reading more about it to ease my mind and soul. I came across this gem of a quote by CS Lewis that I'd like to share:

Discovering spirituality is like discovering you are in a boat. Mysticism is like pushing off from the dock. Since many leave safe mooring and perish in the waves, this is not to be done in a cavalier fashion - even though it can be exciting to push off into the deep.
The issue is not of whether we should push off, for Christians must do so as well if they intend to get anywhere (and that is what boats are for), but rather of where you are going...The Christian casts off from this world as well, but with clear intent to where he is headed, with the best of maps, circumspectly, deliberately.
The Christian Mystic arrives, against all dangers and odds. Thus we launch out with fear and trembling, but trust that He who commanded us to do so can calm the waves, and see us through to His real, safe port.
- C.S. Lewis


Friday, April 21, 2017

Update - April 21, 2017



It has been a long while since I’ve provided a basic update of how I am doing.

Chemo Round 3 is complete (on Easter Monday)! This means I am halfway through my chemo.  My chemo was delayed one week this last round due to low platelets.  In round 2 they increased my dose 30%; but put it back down for round 3 and going forward. The lower dose seems to prevent my mind from feeling so fuzzy that I can’t think clearly, so I am certainly ok with the lower dose.  AND I don’t want any future delays as that will push my chemo treatments further into summer (originally last chemo was scheduled July 3, now will be July 10) as vacation starts July 16!!!

The 2 weeks preceding this last round I felt really fantastic.  I’ve formulated a plan to play soccer in fall and am (slowly) working to get there and it seems feasible! 

I greatly appreciate the HUGE outpouring of support through the meal/helping hands train my friend set up.  I was feeling really good since my chemo was delayed; but this allowed me to really focus on being fully well – body, mind, and spirit, as well as to simply enjoy family time without fretting over dinner.  And I didn’t feel anxious about our nanny being away that week.  Thank you so much, I feel so hugely blessed!!!!  And on that note, here’s a HUGE shout out of thanks, envision balloons and streamers and flowers of thanks, to my GP, Cameron Ross and all the doctors at Crossroads Family Practice.  They have paid for one month of meals for my family from Elevated Meals, a local healthy meal delivery service!!! Isn’t this just the most fantastic outpouring of health-giving support? Thank you docs for caring about all facets of my health, I am blessed to be your patient!

As I mentioned in a previous post my last MRI showed a small enhancement.  What this means is questionable and only my next scan (at the end of May) will tell us more.  But as my oncologist says, the MRI only tells you part of the story, the other part is how I am feeling – and overall, I am feeling great!


My Aunt has been praying that Garrett “sleep in” --- you know past 5:30 AM.  This is a huge piece in our family’s life.  For the most part my wake-ups are being pushed back to 6AM and usually a couple times a week a bit later!  Keep praying for sleep for this family!  Oh, what a difference sleep makes!  As I seek out soulful rest, pray that there would also be physical rest in our house this spring as we round out of cough and cold season.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Cards of Thanks - part 1

Praise be to God for my comrades and co-survivors:

My husband, Ryan.  My brilliant, wise, and optimistic partner.  It’s been hard, for you, for me, for us.  It must have been tempting to run away, our family was crazy, crazy, crazy.  Thank you for sticking it out, learning by my side, and championing bringing humor and celebration into my life. I love you dearly.

My kids.  They keep me going, both literally (exhaustingly), and emotionally, praise God for Rayna’s complements, Garrett’s smiles, and Allison’s snuggles. 

My Mom.  There are not enough words to express how grateful I am for my Mom, a cancer survivor, twice over, herself.  I continue to have much to learn from my Mom and thank God for a first-hand role model of mothering well.  I want to write a book of the women of impact in my life, my Mom is top of that list!

My Dad.  Seeing and knowing and hearing how much my Dad loves me, respects me, and believes in me is exactly what a daughter longs for.  Thank you, Dad. I love you too and appreciate your visits and watching you play right on the floor with your grandkids.  You inspire me to keep giving you reasons to proudly say, “that’s my girl!”

My mother in law, Phyllis.  I think particularly to those initial days of diagnosis and how much you did for my twins.  And you continue to love and support me and our kids.  Thank you.  Your willingness to help and watch the kids and love on the kids is evident in the unparalleled relationship you have with our kids and is absolutely a major reason our family is able to thrive even in difficulty.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

My Father in law, Gerry.  Thank you for being willing to enable Ryan and I time away, by helping with the kids. And for being a major support to Ryan.

Josh and Cassie (my Brother in law and Sister in law) .  Thank you for your compassionate, genuine concern.  It’s palpable that you care about us deeply and that has blessed us.  Thank you for loving our kids, we are so grateful our children have you for auntie and uncle.  Thank you Cassie for making time to make Rayna feel so special by doing her hair fancy.  It means a lot to me that you take that time and I know no matter my energy level, my girls have an auntie able to help them see their beauty inside and out. 

Jason and Carmen (my sister and Brother-in-law).  Thank you for your visiting, and Jason, for enabling Carmen to come out for a couple of days without your kids.  There’s nothing quite like a sister to visit and do whatever comes up that needs to be done.  Thank you for praying. Thank you for calling.  Thank you for showing me what calm within chaos looks like!




Connect Group through First Ave Church. Phenomenal Support network here.  These couples as (mostly) strangers sought us out to give us support and then embraced us.  We are really learning what living in community means through these relationships.  It’s incredible. Thank you: Chris & Vicky, Dave & Crystal, Shawn & Andrea, Gavin & Rebecca, Kelly & Karina.


Girls Group: My like-minded friends committed to Jesus and to supporting one another whatever that looks like at that particular time.  Carmen, Vicky, Sarah, Rachel, Jocelyn : you girls are absolutely my comrades and co-survivors and never forget it!!!!!


Learning to rest and a note for my comrades - YOU!

I enter my retreat zone and immediately the tension that was wound within me begins to unravel and I feel the call to prayer.  I’ve been restless.  I feel God telling me that this is a season to learn how to really rest in Him, and at the same time I feel an increasing restlessness.  This restlessness crosses through out many aspects of my life: restless feelings of thinking of my career again, restless feelings regarding being a demanded upon mom of small kids, restless feelings about my treatment plan and my chemo plan – its so hard to put this chemical into my body when I know it is so toxic.

 I am antsy. I am getting bored, I’ll be honest.  And I think this is partly because I feel God prepping something so big within and through me.  My powerful and mighty and awesome God has a spectacular plan for me.
And right now, in that plan is to learn to 

s   l    o    w

it

d  o   w   n.


To learn to rest.  And it is hard. 
Because I am learning that to really rest, to really have true health in all capacities (spiritual, physical, mental, emotional)  so I can rest requires me to open up my fists that are clenched so tight in control of whatever I can possibly grasp to control.  My husband saw it before I did.  I demand a lot of myself and hence of others.  It is hard to release this.  To open up my fists and cup my hands to be able to receive.  To raise my arms in true surrender.  Oh, it is not natural. 

I want to learn to breathe. 
I want to learn the unforced rhythms of grace
I want to be free as Jesus promises.

And I have so much to learn.  So much sin that entangles me that I have to learn how to throw off so I can run and dance and prance as God intended.    

Matthew 19:24New Living Translation (NLT)

24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

I’ve been reading Deuteronomy and God warns over and over to the Israelites that once they enter the promised land not to forget, not to forget, not to forget what God has done for them.  How? Intentionally remembering. 

Oh how rich I am.  (And this is not necessarily bad – but does absolutely require generosity and responsibility of me).  And oh how easily I forget.

I have so much to learn.  And yet the beautiful thing is that this wisdom of Jesus’ is both unparalleled and it is open to everyone.  In fact, it’s inclusivity is a large part of what defines it.    

Cancer has thrust me into ugly places.  It has forced me to question and evaluate – everything.  It has searched out my dark corners, my rotten garbage, and given glorious insight along the way.  I am empowered (you had better believe that I am a cancer SURVIVOR!!!)  and at the same time humbled.

Trust me that I am taking EVERY gift that cancer is giving me.  And trust me, there are indeed many.  I browsed through a book called “Crazy, Sexy Cancer Survivor.”  In this book the author calls her support, her “posse”, her co-survivors.  YOU, are my co-survivors, though I prefer to call you comrades (as it reflects the battle we are in which I spoke of last post).  None of us ought ever to live in homes, secluded from those around us.  We are created and meant to live in community.  It’s the only way we can truly survive and thrive.  And it is exemplified in the enormity of the support network I have garnered through YOU my comrades.  YOU are supporting me so I am free to learn how to rest, so I am able to regain all aspects of my health (which I believe are completely intertwined as purposely designed by our Creator).  

I am beginning to write out those who have blessed me, to publicly acknowledge my comrades.  I am abundantly thankful.  Yet in initiating this task I am floored by the enormity of the list and realize this is not a simple project.  So here again, I am simply brought to reiterate, THANK YOU.    


Its a battlefield

I’m bubbling over here, my friends!  What a few weeks I’ve had.  God is speaking.  God is moving.  God is mighty. And thank God, because it’s a battlefield out there.  As you read my words remember that I struggle daily, just like you.  Indeed, my personal battle is waged daily in my heart and in my mind just as much as in my body.

This past week I’ve been feeling top-notch.  We’ve had so much support that I can just focus on being WELL even with our nanny away.  Thank you!!! (Insert jazzy hands right here). I am in a season where God is speaking to me that I need to learn how to rest.  Like really rest.  I am still clinging, grasping, clenching onto the control of what is left in my control.  I need to release it.  It is biblical and it is good for my health in all capacities to do so.  I am fighting this notion of rest.  I will share what I journalled this morning; but, I also want to let you know some background turmoil in my soul.  I had my MRI Monday, saw my oncologist Tuesday.  His impression, though he clearly stated he was awaiting the radiologist’s report, was no tumor growth.  Then today I got the call back: a small area of “enhancement”. My doctor’s impression is that this enhancement is residual swelling from the radiation, particularly given my fantastic well-being.  (My friend’s impression is that ‘enhancement’ means I now have a superpower! ;)  I knew this scan could give ambiguous results since swelling can’t be differentiated from tumor growth; however, it was still unnerving to hear these results.

After hearing the results emotion ensued, a conversation with Ryan occurred, Ryan prayed and followed it up with a “chin-up, live life fully no matter what it throws at you” pep talk.  And here I am evermore empowered and emboldened to share my heart, my life, my learning. 

It’s a battlefield out there people.  It’s a war zone.  Satan is trying to steal our joy.  I firmly believe he is and he is waging the war starting in our minds.  Our minds are a powerhouse when properly fitted for battle.  So let’s fit them properly! 

Ephesians 6:10-18New Living Translation (NLT)

The Whole Armor of God 

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[b] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[c] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.[

Put on your armor!!!! My friends, you who love Jesus, PUT ON YOUR ARMOR! Put this armor on so you can be equipped to really love as we are called to do.  My comrades, its going to be a hard battle.  The battle for a fulfilled life is not an easy one.  I get it. At least I’m starting to.  In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us, 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a]that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

I let Jesus’ words speak for themselves because they are clear and wise.  I exhort you to seek out their wisdom.  You see, we all have numbered days.  Cancer clarifies and highlights this in my life.  (I hope you don’t have to have cancer to clearly see this.)  I remind you again that we’re in a battle.  We have numbered days.  We need to make them count.  We need to throw off the junk. That’s the sin that so easily entangles us that Hebrews 12 talks about: pride, control, fear etc. (those are my life examples).  Throw them off and claim truth!  Say truth outloud (mine right now is from Joshua 1:9 – through out the day I say outloud “I am strong, I am courageous, God is with me wherever I go.") Say it outloud so you believe it.  Say it outloud so Satan can know he can scram! (There’s a cotton patch version of Matthew and it has Jesus say “Scram satan” when Satan is tempting him.  I love it.)


I believe right now I am to be in a season of rest.  It is a training ground allowing space for passions to incubate.  You are my comrades here.  I encourage you to join me.  My friend stated the other night that he wished for the personal, internal, spiritual growth he hears me speak of, without the cancer part.  I hear you!  And that is why I embrace you all in my journey.  That is why I fight the notion that I don’t necessarily have anything profoundly new to say; and rather share with you my experiences.  That is why I say: “Lean into Jesus with me like you have never done before.  Throw off the junk and let’s see God move spectacularly, profoundly, majestically, supernaturally – (there’s not one word to describe it)!!!”