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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Update - Jan 26, 2017


I am tired.  I feel like over the last few months I have come to know so many different types of tired.  Right now, I feel like I am so very tired, but at least it is more of a ‘normal’ tired.  I feel the need to get fully away from my responsibilities to relax.  To get away from my 6 AM (or earlier) crying wake up call.  I am worn out of being Mom while trying to take care of myself well, too.  It has been a long haul.

Our nanny normally comes a part day Tuesday, then full days Wednesday through Friday.  Last week our nanny went home sick Wed at lunch for the rest of the week.  It was a very hard week. It felt pretty much “impossible”.  Our counselor mentioned in one of our sessions that we are living an impossible situation.  Then the pastor 2 Sundays ago spoke that God is in the business of doing the impossible.  I feel like we are pushed to our max and the max gets pushed even further.  Many days, particularly last week, felt impossible and I just kept thinking about Peter walking on water.  Walking on water is impossible, but Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat.  Peter started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus.  Last week I felt like I was near drowning in our impossible situation.  I had to just keep my eyes on Jesus.  It was still (and continues to be) so hard; but I know at least if I keep my eyes on Jesus I will not sink, I will not drown.

Friday night Garrett was up a lot with his cold so I got poor sleep.  Thankfully, Saturday Ryan’s mom came to help but I was still tired since I can’t seem to sleep during the day, and my emotions were high.  I suppressed them until I could sleep.  Sunday I awoke after a great sleep and the emotions were still there.  Discouragement and an overwhelm of the impossible.  Tired in a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual way.  So when I entered church and they started the service with one-on-one prayer at the front for anyone, I didn’t hesitate (much) to go forward.  Prayer, I need prayer to live the impossible.  Then Tuesday we met with a new Christian small group our close friends have connected us with.  These people are amazing, living real life out in the open, giving of themselves sacrificially for us, and battling spiritually with and for us.  On Tuesday they took time to pray specifically for me and for healing.  I am overwhelmed and its not with fatigue!

Monday I awoke and felt different.  I felt like I was back in action and starting to feel like myself again.  The mental fatigue has subsided.  With great spiritual support, the spiritual and emotional fatigue has subsided.  I am learning, however, that I still have physical fatigue.  It feels a bit unusual since in my mind I feel so good and ready to tackle life; but, then the energy behind my thoughts does not translate into physical energy.  I feel like when I was a child and my mom would make me sit and count to 10 if I got too over-excited or hyper (I am learning that I am more prone to catching the excitement vibe than I realized).  I have to calm my excitement until my body is ready to catch up.  It still needs to rest very much.      

 Blessings and points of thanksgiving:


-       I have started taking Rayna on dates on Tuesdays.  This is special time as I feel like I haven’t had good chances to connect with her since the twins were born.  This girl is amazing and starting to really step into a big sister/helping to mother role.  I am thankful for an eldest daughter with such a cheerfully helpful personality, it is such a blessing these days. 

-       We are so thankful for the spiritual support we are receiving.

-       Lately, I have been particularly thankful for my mom.  She is in remission from cancer herself and only 2.5 years ago life seemed pretty dire for her (indeed, my mom’s cousin who is her close friend, said that in those days she didn’t think my mom would live to meet her next grandchild who my sister was pregnant with at the time. But now she has that grandchild plus 3 more new ones-the twins, plus my sister’s 5th child!!!!) Thankful for my mom’s help with the kids when my parents come out and also having her to talk to and ask advice from.  Please pray for continued remission and health for my mom, Alice.

Points for prayer

-       pray for healing for me.  Pray that this cancer is eradicated from my body, it has no home there and does not belong.

-       Also right now I have caught the kids’ cold.  Pray for energy since I feel tired on top of tired (but praise that at least it is only physical fatigue). Pray that the physical fatigue alongside the ever-present demands of our children won’t push me into emotional fatigue. 

-       Pray for us and determining next steps required for a future home for us.  We are doing fine living in our condo (our neighbors probably don’t view this so positively, though) but this is not a long-term home for our family.  We keep pushing the matter aside because it’s not an easy decision and so far life has more pressing issues.  That said, it is a subject that needs to eventually get sorted out.  Please pray for much wisdom, discernment, guidance, and peace about this subject.  Pray that when we start exploring options that a clear choice would be made super clear to us.

-       Pray for marriage-building, particularly as Ryan and I plan to go away for a night next week. 

Cards of Thanks

-Thank you for your continued embrace of support through gifts, messages, cleaning, help with the kids, and food.  I am blown away by our circle of support.  It is hard for me that my etiquette is tossed out the window and I haven’t properly thanked each one of you.  Thank you ever so much!

            - Thank you for your prayers and thank you for taking the time to follow my story

and in doing so, becoming part of my story. 

Practical needs

-       I have received one message from someone willing to provide respite to us on Thursdays in the event our nanny is sick again.  Just knowing that we have this option is so huge to us.  We have Ryan’s mom who we can call, but the twins are hard for her to care for too as she is awaiting a hip replacement and she already helps us every Monday and Tuesday.  Also, the reality is that our peers/close friends are quite maxed out on life of their own these days with small families.  If daytime childcare is something within your scope of abilities and in your heart, we would be so grateful for a couple more contacts we could put on our respite list to have in case our regular nanny is unable.

-       The vegetable soups I have received have warmed my body and my soul.  I am so thankful for them.  My stock is now running very low.  I thought maybe I could start making some myself, but the reality is that I just won’t get to it.  If anyone is wanting a way to help me out, replenishing my vegetable soup supply would be so appreciated. 



I feel honored to have been present with you here in this (virtual) space.  And it seems appropriate that in benediction I share the words my childhood pastor often shared when closing a service (Ephesians 3):

 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

Eagles


Today is supposed to be my retreat day.  But, our nanny is sick.  Garrett is particularly cranky today, and chose to start the day at 5:20.  So, I quickly formulated a coping plan this morning, a plan that is my “go-to” for cranky kids: we need to get outside.  It’s exhausting simply preparing to leave the house, particularly with a whiny little boy crying sadly at my legs.  But I press on with my plan because fresh air solves many problems. 

 Surprisingly, the twins were mostly content in the stroller as I pushed them during my walk (and very much enjoyed playing in the rain at the end).  But, it was the eagles which spoke to me today.  I was feeling angry that my disease and it's treatment limit my energy level.  I was on edge because I am tired and my whining kids can push me to places I don’t like to be.  Today was to be a day of peace; but, caring for two 1 year olds is anything but peaceful.  I set out on my walk to my usual destination: the river.  I was greeted at the trailhead by a majestic eagle regally perched.  And my heart paused.  My God is present with me always.  In the peace and in the crazy.  And I was reminded of Isaiah 40:

 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.



My mother cross-stitched part of this passage and hung it on our family’s wall where it still is today.  I am but a youth of an adult who is tired, diseased and so often near exhaustion.  These days, with the reminder of the eagles along the river trail, these verses are dear to my heart.




Thursday, January 12, 2017

Update Jan 12, 2017


What’s new? Well I’m feeling pretty good….if I go to bed shortly after the kids.  The twins just seem to have rounded somewhat of a corner…hopefully!  Over the holidays and the past few weeks they have simply been cranky and exhausting.  This is trying.  This is the reality of parenting twin toddlers (they’re both walking now!).  But at least it seems I can handle full days if they are reprieved of children’s cries!  On that note, we’ve been having our nanny come full days 4 days a week.  This is a lovely, but temporary, arrangement.  Pray for us in figuring out childcare going into the future – both for determining what our needs will be and who we can get to meet our needs!


Please pray for Ryan as it is challenging to balance work, home, and my extra needs…. while trying to actually determine what a healthy balance even looks like.   


My radiation treatment is complete.  I have a one month break and then 6 rounds of chemo (1 week on, 3 weeks off). 

Fear


Fear.  Paralyzing fear. Because that is what fear does best: paralyze.  This fear felt new as it bullied it’s ugly way into our family this past week.  Instead of gladness for my radiation treatments wrapping up, came fear of when is this cancer going to come back?  I messaged my close friend asking for her support.  She gave me Matthew 6:34 from the Message version: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  Huh!  I read these verses, which I had never read in the message version before, and realized I had learned these things about fear 2 years ago when my mom was healing from her stem cell transplant to treat her cancer (multiple myeloma).  Her treatment was not a cure and the fear of her cancer’s return gripped me.  In the days that followed I heard a broadcast on the Christian radio station on my way home from work.  On it was a woman, Karen Tippetts, sharing about her story inclusive of incurable cancer.  This is what I journalled after listening to her:

 When we portray ourselves into the future we tend to not think of the element of God and His grace being with us in those moments ahead that we wish were not coming- we have to remember that God will show up in those moments.

 She shared Proverbs 1:33 (emphasis mine) “ But those who listen to me will live in peace and safety, without dread of destruction.”

 I couldn’t believe how quickly I had forgotten what God spoke to me just 2 years ago. 

 The fear became attenuated. However, in the dark and quiet of my bed, fear was still there.  Like “a thief breaking into my heart, [trying] to steal all my fire and shut me down before I even start” (Jason Gray, “Learning”). 

 Much happened in my heart yesterday as I met with a spiritual counselor.  I voiced the ugly I’ve been experiencing and she reminded me that God’s grace is present in the ugly, just as much as in the beautiful.  Further, God takes the ugly and makes it beautiful.  I am reminded of an experience I had at summer camp when I was around 13 years old.  Before our eyes, an artist created a beautiful chalk artwork: pastels and beautiful pinks and oranges created a sunset framed by nature.  Then he took black chalk and intentionally and with deliberate forcefulness placed a large mar across the page.  It was compelling and uncomfortable.  From that black mar on the page he created the shadowed outline of a beautiful tree creating a strikingly beautiful image.  God takes the ugly and makes it beautiful.

 My friend recommended lighting a candle and watching it burn as a tool to combat fear by enabling being present in the here and now.  My spiritual counselor lit a candle as we met to symbolize God’s presence as we invite Him present.  Though God transcends time, we can only be present right here and now.  This is where God meets us.  I am instructed in scripture to not worry.  God carries my worries for me.  I can lay them down at His feet and He will scoop me into His arms and hold me. And how blessed I am that the place where I meet God is sacred ground.  Gotquestions.org says this of “Holy ground” referencing Exodus 3 and Acts 7:

 “It was not that the actual ground on which Moses stood was holy; rather it was the presence of the holy God that made it holy.

 The holy ground was rendered sacred by the presence of God, who is the very essence of holiness. …Solemn awe and deep seriousness are appropriate for coming into the place set apart for the worship of God, for wherever the Lord is constitutes holy ground.”


How blessed I am to be present today. How blessed I am to be invited to tread on Holy ground.
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, emphasis mine)

My heart is well.  Oh, how my heart is well.



Thursday, January 5, 2017

The "bad and the ugly" of my diagnosis


I have come to a space where there is quiet.  True quiet.  I have not had the luxury of quiet in my life.  It brings me to tears.  Out rushes all the disappointment, all the sadness, and though it’s a much less dominant feeling, all the tension and anger related to where life has taken me.  Where ‘terminal cancer’ has forced me to tread.  I share these things, not because I am not coping well and not because I don’t have hope and a faith secure; I share these things because sharing in these very human and very visceral emotions is what I am coming to see “becoming human” is all about.  I think on this term, “becoming human” regularly these days.  John Vanier penned a book I read as recommended by my high school English teacher, called “Becoming Human.”  His book discusses different ideas than I present here; but, I like his title and the notion it holds.  To me, becoming human is about sharing life in a very real, authentic, genuine and open fashion.  I feel like in the religious circles I’ve spent time in over the past few years, these are ideas talked about, but not so well lived out.  It is my goal to live out “becoming human”.  I want to share what this journey is fully about.  I’ve given you glimpses of the Hope I have.  I hope I’ve shouted out loud and clear the promises of Christ.  I spend much time in those places and always circle back to them.  However, there are other places and spaces and emotions which comprise the “bad and ugly” of my diagnosis.  My professional counsel has advised me to visit these places regularly, for if I don’t they will rear their heads at the most inopportune moments.  It is becoming apparent that my need to visit these places occurs approximately every 2 weeks.  From brief time in these spaces and places I can then move forward to keep living full of hope, joy, peace and love.

 I keep on traipsing on in my life.  I live by words of encouragement I find in scripture. I cry out to God passionately as I have never before.  I hold dear the “regular” moments with close friends as well as the “special” moments.  I make plans for this year, for trips, for more time with Ryan, for writing etc.  I even prepare to write legacy pieces for my kids, which by now doesn’t even always elicit in me a sobbing response.  And then I think about it: this year could be it.  That could be all.  And I cry because I want to see my kids grow up.  I want to be there to see what careers they choose.  I want to return to my career as I should be doing right now.  I want to help them fumble through preteen years.  I want to be there to teach them to make good choices so that I will be so pleased with the spouses they choose.  I want to make sure my son treats women with the utmost respect.  I want to help my girls plan their weddings. I want to travel and adventure with my husband and see how sweet our marriage can become as we chart through the struggles of raising a family.  I want to help my kids when they have kids.  I want to be there in the difficulty of helping our parents as they age and eventually lose a spouse.  I want to reap the rewards of how demanding parenting young kids is. I want to waterski, I want to play soccer, I want to think clearly and concisely and keep writing. 

Deep breath.  And I rest in God’s arms for awhile so I can keep on keeping on.  And I keep reading the Psalms and keep praying like David. Then I start listening to Toby Mac, “move” and Mandesa “overcomer” and I’m ready to face my days again, I’m ready to not let cancer define me, though it certainly shapes me.  I ready to not let God waste this experience. (My mom shared that this is her friend’s mantra).  I’m ready to keep loving and parenting our twins which keeps us close to craziness (but will surely have sweet rewards).  I’m ready to love on my almost 5 year old as I see the young woman in her already who needs to be nurtured so she can blossom as beautifully as I foresee.  I’m ready to look for opportunities where I may be able to give in a season where I am receiving vastly.  I’m ready to push myself further into my own “humanity” and stretch myself to further and more intimately explore what “becoming human” means in my life.  I’m ready to smile into my husband’s eyes thankful I have him as partner in this life and I’m ready to roll my eyes at the things he will always do that simply make me roll my eyes. 

God’s love lived out isn’t tidy.  No, life is very messy.  And I think it is only when we are willing to trudge through the mire in full view of others that we become truly free to embrace the “more and better life” (John 10:10) that God has for us.  It is hard to find others willing to do the same.  When you find them, treasure them.  Oh how blessed I am that my husband championed transparency long before I opened up.  And how blessed I am that I have parents who loved, and continue to love, me so well (this is a blog piece of itself) that I was prepared to navigate this world with wise choices and a mindset headed in the right direction.  How blessed I am to have special friends, both ‘newer’ and ‘older’.  I feel like I should close with a meaningful scripture, and yet, as I stare into the snow-laden landscape, I lean into the blessing of the presence of God and the promise that He is with me always*.



*so in actuality I am closing in scripture, this is the verse and a backstory about it:  Hebrew 13:5 “[God] will never leave you nor forsake you.”  My Mom’s mom had a loud voice.  In contrast to her husband, she was outspoken.  On my baptism day, that grandmother stood in the congregation and proclaimed this verse to me.  It is my hope that my words of encouragement would also continue into my grandchildren’s generation.           
 


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Update - Jan 3, 2017

“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:19

 My beautiful friend shared this verse with me.  She created a lovely box for me and in it she has pretty cards with verses nicely scribed.  Regularly she sneaks a couple more cards to me.  This one arrived yesterday via delivery by her husband.  I couldn’t share this verse without also mentioning how I am so blessed with treasured friendship.

 This verse is meaningful to me as I am getting so very tired. Even now as I want to write lovely prose, my words just seem clunky.  So be it.  I will not worry about style here, so I can still share a few moments and pieces of my life in the past week. Saturday I felt like I barely made it through the day.  I was so glad when bedtime (both the kids’s and mine!) rolled around and I could sleep away the awfulness of the babies crying and the exhaustion that I felt.  It’s still a bit of a learning game around our family to figure out what works for making life manageable on days when we don’t have our nanny or Ryan’s mom around.  So the promise of the above verse of refreshment of “streams in the wasteland” is so very satisfying.  It is hard to spend less and less time helping around home and playing with the kids.  It is hard to feel like my days are so short because they end so early.  It is hard to feel like I’m back when the twins were wee-little and I couldn’t even think of going out in the evening.  (Now I am making some plans, and hoping daytime rest will afford me the energy to enjoy them….).

 Sunday I spoke with my mom.  She asked how things were going.  Her response was so perfect.  I simply shared that Saturday was awful around our house.  As she inquired more, she replied “so your symptoms or side effects aren’t getting worse?”  No, indeed family life has it’s challenges as I get more tired (and the twins are ever so demanding); but, overall I am still doing really very good.  Sometimes, I get a touch of mild headache, but nothing noteworthy.  My vision is a bit off, but if I wear glasses instead of contacts it doesn’t bother me.  Today I was a bit nauseous after getting up with the kids (which I wanted to do….amazing that a couple days of not getting up with them and I actually want to get up at 6:30!.....Thank you Garrett for sleeping past 5:30!) and then driving to and from treatment.  I will just have to keep preparing to do even less and less over the next couple weeks. My fatigue is expected to be at its max 2 weeks after treatment is finished.

 Thanksgiving and Praises:

-       Only 4 more treatments left!!!!! (it’s a countdown!!!)

-       Being offered a beautiful place to retreat to weekly! I’m so grateful.  If you think to pray for me Thursdays, this will be my “retreat” day to recharge and hopefully pen some meaningful words.

-       All the people praying, the messages keep trickling in and I am so grateful for all the love and support we have been shown.

-       The food that has restocked our freezer yet again! Thank you!

 Requests for prayer:

-       When I get tired, as I am these days, it is more work to keep positive.  Pray for encouragement as the fatigue keeps rolling in.

-       Figuring family dynamics with my decreased energy, but also energy that is somewhat unpredictable from day to day (prayer for Ryan as he carries much more of the parenting and household load).