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I love to create, be a mom, a wife, a teacher, and a Jesus follower. These are just some of the musings about who I am!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

By His Stripes

This year, Lent, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday have all felt especially poignant to me.  This year, I am healthy, have a head full of hair, and am even sporting an early tan.  The tan has nothing to do with the importance of these spiritual holidays, but it is a definite bonus.  :)

Our lenten reader for church this year took us through a reading of the Psalms.  If you've known me for any length of time, you probably know that the Psalms are some of my favourite pages in the Bible.  I can, and have, read there for years at a time (not that I recommend this approach to scripture, mind you).  I just really connect with the honesty, the grit, the emotion of those pages.  David gets real with God and I love it.

Reading through Psalms and the reflections written by faithful followers of Christ all over Canada has had a profound impact on my days.  It is amazing how often the reading was completely fitting for the day I had ahead.  If I needed a word of encouragement?  Done.  If I needed a challenge?  It happened.  If I needed comfort?  I could find it in those words.  I am so thankful for the thoughtful preparation of the reflections and their partnered Psalm.

Enter, Good Friday.  What a day.  It is full of grief, darkness, and sorrow.  Our beloved Lord is tortured and killed.  And we are left waiting.  Waiting for the promise, waiting to see if our hope will be fulfilled, waiting for the pain to subside.  This, my friends, is so much of what moving through a major illness is like.  I do not dare compare my suffering to that of Jesus, but the days and months after diagnosis are like a horrible waiting.  Will I live?  Will I die?  Will my body be disfigured and unusable?  Will I get to see my kids grow up?  Will it always hurt?  These thoughts mirror the emotions we find ourselves in on Good Friday.  They are dark, painful, and seemingly without end.

1 Peter 2:24 says something I have long struggled with.  "By his stripes we are healed."  Many people today use this verse to give a directive that we can be healed of our present sufferings, if we have the faith to receive it.  Oh the trouble that strikes in my heart when I consider some of the most faithful among us have passed of horrid diseases, all-the-while believing with every fiber in them that healing came from our Lord.  And yet, this Easter, I find myself seeing these words in a new light.

You see, I have been healed.  A miraculous, wonderful, God-breathed healing.  Some of you might be wondering at this, and I would be glad to share the story with you some day.  For now (to keep this post shorter than a novel), let's suffice to say that I have received physical healing from God.  So, do I believe what 1 Peter 2:24 says, or don't I?

I heard a smart woman (ahem, Beth Moore) once say, "You can be delivered from something, delivered through it, or delivered on the other side of it." (my rough paraphrase)  Let's look at those three options for a moment.

  1.  Delivered From:  God has the power to totally save you from something, before it even happens.   This option, friends, feels like extreme grace.  You don't even have to experience the hard thing; God rescues you before the peril.
  2. Delivered Through:  You are in a circumstance, whether it is sickness, a broken marriage, or financial woes, and God brings you through it.  This is my story.  I was sick with breast cancer, and God delivered me through the fire.  Hallelujah!  His power was made perfect in my weakness.
  3. Delivered Past:  You are in a circumstance and God brings you home.  Whatever it looks like, you don't see the end result (the healing of the situation) until you are made whole in Heaven.  Your suffering here on Earth is ended by death, but the sting has been removed by the Cross.  Glory.
Now, getting back to 1 Peter 2:24.  "By his stripes we are healed."  Do I think that this means I may receive physical healing in my present circumstance?  Certainly I do.  And have.  Praise be to God.  BUT, does that mean that I will receive healing?  Perhaps not in this lifetime.  You see, the text is actually referring to the affliction of sin.  By his stripes, we are healed; forgiven.  "It doesn't preclude physical healing, but it doesn't demand it either (reference can be found here)."  Glory to God when we get to see it on this side of heaven!

Oh the Cross, that despicable and wondrous cross.  You see, Christ dies for us, and we are plunged into utter darkness.  Then, the glorious Resurrection occurs.  We awake to a new day and Jesus has done what he said!  He is not longer bound by death.  He is alive!  Glory!  Joy!  What good news!

As I have moved through this day, this Resurrection Sunday, the reality of life has fallen heavy on me.  I have received healing in this lifetime.  I got to wake up after the darkness.  I'm alive!  The weight of this is not lost on me.  Now, to go out like the disciples, telling my story for all to hear...

Glory to God for all he has done!  


Easter 2017 family photo


Friday, August 19, 2016

Buzzed By

On this day, last year, I had to buzz my hair because it was falling out and leaving bald patches.  It made the reality of the life I was living even more visible.
August 19, 2015

Today, I am done treatment (well, for the most part).  I have hair.  I regularly exercise, shop for groceries, clean my home (less regularly, let's be honest)--all the normal things that people do in life. 

 August 2016

In short, I have moved on.  But, really, I haven't.  This "new reality" that I'm living in is hard.  
On the outside, it appears that I'm healthy and functioning just like everyone else.  And physically, as far as anyone can know, I am.  The hard part is that I can't ever really just move on.  I have aches and pains and I immediately pray they aren't some form of recurrence.  I have pills to take for 10 years that can have severe physical side effects.  Our adoption agency is really digging deep to make sure that we're fit to have more children.  

The "new reality" is that having cancer doesn't just end because the treatment is over--the ramifications continue to ripple through our lives.  

And yet.  (side note:  I just love that statement.  And yet.  It is so hopeful!)

And yet, our lives do go on.  My kiddos continue to grow, play, learn, laugh.  My husband continues to love this community we live in and serve in our church.  I keep creating, take a new job, regain strength.  We have begun the adoption process again.  The world keeps right on spinning.  And I'm so glad it does.  

I don't want my life to be defined by the past.  I know I am shaped by it, but I will not be defined by the disease that tried to take my life.  I am more than my cancer diagnosis, but I also have to live with the effects of it.

The cool thing is, that in all of this God is near.  I have had a great summer.  Busy--too busy, actually.  But I have also struggled with some real anxiety about the cancer coming back.  It came on unexpectedly (that's a story for another day:  panic attack on a plane) and lasted for the past month.
This last week, on one of my runs, I got real with God.  I laid it all out:  my feelings, my doubts, my questions about my future, but also my willingness to serve Him, to follow, and to trust.  That honest dialogue with God gave me more peace than I have felt in a while.  I was reminded that I'm not in control, though "life going on" can sometimes make me feel like I am.  I was reminded that I am still cared for, prayed for, and deeply loved, even though the cancer is gone.  And I was reminded that I have a future, a hope, and work to do.  God doesn't just go back to his heavenly throne and rest because my cancer has been healed.  Truth is, He never left his place of authority and power over my life, and he won't stop now.

That's good news for me, for you, for all of us...and now I'm going to go camping.

(can I tell you something funny and totally unrelated?  When I typed the word "news" just a moment ago, I first tried to spell it "noos!"  Chemo brain!!)


Thursday, June 02, 2016

E Day

I'm sort of dreading tomorrow.  I honestly feel like I have a rock in the pit of my stomach.  I can't avoid tomorrow...it was bound to come, but oh boy do I hope I can mourn joyfully.

You see, last year, on June 3rd, we were matched with Emmett.  E Day, I call it.  It was such a brilliant day.  I cried with joy and hope in the Castlegar 7-11 (that is where I listened to the message from Jason for the first time). I bought a celebratory cake at Safeway on the way home.  We danced and laughed and cried with joy.

Exactly 3 weeks later it seemed as though our dream of Emmett was diminishing, and ultimately that precious boy went to another home.  

Lord, have mercy.  

Last weekend I was at a women's retreat (well we decided it should be called an Advance, because we didn't retreat from anything!!) and I spent a lot of time praying for what the future holds with regards to our adoption.  I don't yet know what the Lord has planned, but I don't feel like he is done with us yet.  My heart is open to what he has for us, and I just hope I can follow Him into it with hope and obedience.

Tomorrow, I head to Spokane with a dear friend.  We will do all the things we love this weekend:  spend time together, eat favourite foods, shop, craft, sleep, etc.  It will be a great time.  My heart will be full in many ways, and part of it will always be talking to Father God about the loss I'm feeling.

Dear ones, whatever it is we are facing, let us face it with the joy of the Lord.  His love and peace is so far reaching, it can meet you in the deepest of your needs.  

(I got to hold the cutest little kitten today.  Too bad they grow up into cats.)


Monday, May 23, 2016

Likeness

Mother's Day has just passed.  We had a great day.  I celebrated my two sons and thoroughly enjoyed the gifts they gave.  Public school is great at helping little ones bring home special gifts (homeschooling doesn't offer the same benefit).

(Korban's gifts are the top two--his booklet is full of kind words.  
Shalem's gifts are the bottom two--he worked so hard on them!)


Since that day has come and gone, I have been thinking about this last year. The ironies I have noticed are overwhelming to me.

Last June we felt pregnant.  We had finally been matched in our adoption and were overjoyed to be expecting a little boy later in the year.  Then, in a fury of speed and depth, that boy wasn't ours any more.

The months that followed that loss were difficult in many ways, but the irony.  Oh the irony.  Did you know that cancer therapy has side effects that, strangely, make you feel pregnant.  Here I am, reeling from losing a child, and yet I feel pregnant.  I'm nauseous, tired, achy, and bloated.  Oh yes, and my breasts hurt.  

Friends, there is learning to be done here.  The very thing I had hoped for, longed for in fact, has been lost, and yet I find myself experiencing the side effects as though I have been carrying him myself.  

I am sure you have experienced something similar.  Maybe not to the extreme of losing a child to cancer and still feeling pregnant, but this is life:  we take the good with the bad and we sort through the rest.  

This is how I deal:  laugh.  Laugh until your belly hurts, until tears roll down your cheeks, and you think you might pee your pants.  Sometimes the hurt is so great and the irony just too much, so you laugh.  Watch the video of the woman wearing the Chewbacca mask.  (seriously, watch the video, you won't regret it)  I can't tell you how good laughing feels.  Now that my stomach has healed, that is.

Friends, I'm not pretending that I didn't don't cry.  I'm not pretending that I haven't prayed heartfelt prayers asking for mercy.  But, I can honestly say that finding joy through laughter has helped me immensely.  Scripture is full of verses encouraging us to find joy, even laughter!

Psalm 126:2-3 Then our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with joyful songs. Then the nations said, “The LORD has done spectacular things for them.” The LORD has done spectacular things for us. We are overjoyed. 

Though my body has undergone massive change and my heart has grieved great loss, still I will rejoice in the spectacular things Christ has done--and my mouth will be filled with laughter!
I hope yours will too--in fact, let's laugh together!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Aftermath

It has been three weeks since my surgery.  I can hardly believe it.  Time has flown by, but the days seem horribly long.  I have discovered that I'm not very good at healing.  This is slow, intentional business--and it is hard!!

Before I go any further, I want to say thank you.  The outcome of the surgery could not have been better and I am so thankful for all the fasting and praying you have done on my behalf.  There just aren't enough thank you's to be said.  God is good to hear his people!

So, surgery.  Let me tell you, it was way harder than I thought.  Well, the time after anyways.  The day of surgery was a breeze...I went in, they put me to sleep, than I woke up 10 hours later.  It was a blink of an eye.  

The feeling upon waking can only be described like this:  I may have felt the same if I had been hit by a bus.  I can't literally compare the two because I have not ever been hit by a bus (thank you God), but my whole body hurt.  I even had a fat lip!!  That was a surprise!  I think the intubation tube must have been pressing pretty heavy on my lip because it took a good 5 days for it to be normal again.

When I first met the surgeon, she warned me that the first 24 hours after surgery would be the worst of my life.  She lied.  The first 72 were.  I was in a hot room people...

Never heard of that?  Well, mostly no one has--even my friends in the medical field.  It means that my little hospital room was kept at 30 degrees C (that's 86 F) for 3 days.  It is meant to promote circulation.  It also promotes nausea and sweating, fyi.  

The other thing that made those days hard (besides the physical pain) was the constant checking.  A nurse came in every hour around the clock for 48 hours to check on me.  That means no sleeping.  Please hear me, I'm not telling you this as a complaint, but rather just for information's sake.  I found the whole hospital stay interesting, to say the least, so maybe you will too.  

Anyhow, I won't go into too much more detail about it all.  I just think what has been done to my body is amazing.  The advancements in medical procedures are astounding and I am thankful to have benefited from them (no matter how much pain it causes).  

And yet, I can't keep Psalm 20:7 out of my mind.  
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but I trust in the name of the Lord my God."
I've been saying it for months like this, "some trust in doctors and some in medicine, but I trust in the name of the Lord my God."  You see, I believe God uses doctors and modern medicine to heal.  I also believe that he heals by his own power if he chooses to do so.  So yes, I am thankful for all that I have been privy to, but above all that, I give thanks to God for my healing.

Healing.  Health.  Yes...I have mentioned it on Facebook before now, but just in case you haven't heard:
I'M CANCER FREE!!!!

The pathology report came back showing no sign of cancer in any of the removed tissues.  Praise God!  Psalm 30:2 says, "O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me."  Indeed, he has.


So, here I am, 3 weeks out from surgery.  I haven't had caffeine in as much time (not even decaf coffee...the doctor didn't tell me this ahead of time!!  I can't wait for a coffee!) and have only just started walking upright again.  My body has a lot of healing left to do.  I will sit, wait, and try to be patient as the wounds turn into scars.  (more on scars in my next post)

Again, thank you for your amazing support during this time.  Now, let's rejoice together!!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Surgery Day

There are less than 7 days left before I have the most major medical procedure I have ever faced done.  If I said I didn't have any anxiety at all, I'd be lying.  For those of you who don't know what's happening, I'm having a double mastectomy, with reconstruction, port removal, and lymph node dissection done all at once.  That's about 10+ hours of surgery.

The procedure I'm having done is a bit of a medical miracle.  They are removing all my breast tissue and putting in its place my excess stomach fat and skin.  Yes, you read that correctly--I'm having a tummy tuck next week.  Praise God for silver linings.  He knew I needed to birth boys that weighed over 9 lbs in order to have enough "material" for this surgery.  You see, everything is a matter of perspective.

While I wish there was another way to complete this cancer treatment, this seems like the right thing to do.  I have spent hours in prayer about it.  It is a BIG decision.  A lot of people have wondered why I am choosing to remove both breasts when the cancer was only found in one.  Good question.

Statistically speaking, my mortality rate (the likelihood that I will die from this disease) does not change whether I remove one or both.  What does change, and only a matter of 3-4%, is my recurrence rate (the likelihood I will get cancer again).  The other thing that changes?  My peace of mind.  You see, I have met no less than a dozen women (who are not genetically predisposed to breast cancer) that only had the cancerous lump or single breast removed.  They are now 2-3 time cancer survivors.  While I applaud their tenacity at beating this disease, I just want to say I'm a 1x survivor.  In other words, I NEVER WANT TO GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN.

There are no hard-fast guarantees here.  Let's make that clear.  But I'll take an extra 3-4%.  I'll take any bonus I can get.  The luxury (if we can take it that far) of having breast cancer is that the affected portion of my body is disposable.  I don't need breast tissue to live.  Praise God for this medical development.

The other reason I need to have surgery is because they have no idea if the cancer is still present.  It has never been visible on any sort of imaging device.  No mammogram, ultrasound, CAT scan, etcetera, has show that I actually have cancer.  The way we knew is because the cells were removed from my body during biopsy and surgery.  So, in order to make sure it is gone (and I believe it is--Praise be to God), means that surgery is necessary.

So, that leaves me at 6 days until my body is drastically changed forever.  I'm not scared of the physical result.  I know it will take getting used to, but I seriously think I'll just be happy to be alive.

Many of you have been asking me from the beginning what you can do for me.  Honestly, between our moms being here and how good I've felt, I haven't needed much help.  Until now.  

Next week my life will slow down considerably and I'll be needing more help than I ever have before.  That looks like a lot of different things, but I have one thing that I feel God has laid on my heart.

Fasting.  I haven't ever asked anyone to do this on my behalf, but a few weeks ago I read this article on intercessory fasting.  It is part of a Lenten reader on the website She Reads Truth.  It is one of 3 articles on fasting and why we do it.  This is the part that struck me:
"Fasting is a tangible way we can declare our utter dependence on the Lord. It can also be a way we lay others at the feet of Jesus."

Wednesday, March 30 is going to be a doozy of a day.  And that may be a gross understatement.  Yes, I am going to need the doctors to be in top form--but even more than that, I need God to do what He does best...care for us!  Friends, if God so lays it on your heart, would you fast on my behalf that day?  There is no pressure here, so don't feel any...I just felt compelled by the Spirit to invite you in to this space.  I don't believe I've had greater need than this, or ever asked for anything that feels this big.  

If you are wondering about fasting, especially on someone else's behalf, I encourage you to take a moment to read the article I linked to earlier.  If you just want to pray, and not fast, that is ok too.  God surely hears our prayers.

Thank you for allowing me to be so vulnerable as to ask for this kind of help from you.  God has been faithful to work in big ways these past 9 months, and I'm trusting he'll continue to do so!

If you were here (and I wish you were--all of you!), I'd give your neck a squeeze and tell you I love you!  Your support and encouragement has been an immeasurable to me.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Season of Lent

Today is the 33rd day of Lent, according to the reading plan I am following.  That means a lot of things:  34 days since I had my last sip of Dr. Pepper; 30 days since radiation has ended; 29 days since I arrived home; 9 days until Good Friday; 11 days until Resurrection Sunday; 14 days until my surgery.

Phew, that was a lot of numbers.  It is hard not to mark the passing of time like that, at least in the past 9 months.  A little bit more until this appointment, or that holiday, or this break.

But, back to the season we are in:  Lent.  A lot of people in the Protestant Christian world do not know much about, let alone celebrate this season on the Christian calendar.  Friends, I have come to appreciate this time so much.

So, what do we do during this season?  What is it even?

Let's start some place you know.  Mardis Gras.  A crazy, drunken festival where there are parades and beads and throngs of people acting as they wouldn't otherwise.  Mardis Gras=Fat Tuesday.  This is the day before the first day of Lent.  People traditionally eat the end of their sugar and yeast and other good foods to prepare for a more somber, simple season.  

The day after Mardis Gras is Ash Wednesday.  We acknowledge our mortality and sin and remember the death of Christ.  We repent and turn back.  We give up (fast) from certain things or take on new faith disciplines.  

Ash Wednesday this year was a sobering time for me.  I was in Vancouver alone.  I attended a church service where the pastor, my friend, rubbed ashes and oil on my forehead.  As she did it, she said, "from ashes we came and to ashes we return."  Can I just say, it was a very deep and real moment!  Too real, if you get what I mean.  I have been presented with my mortality so starkly this past year, and Ash Wednesday was an in-my-face display of it. (we may or may not have shed some tears about that moment at a later date)


Now I am home and Lent has reached its 33rd day.  Acts 3:19 sums up these days for me.
"Repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away and seasons of refreshing may come from the Lord."

I have spent the days asking God to make clear the areas that I need to repent of and for direction in walking anew.  Boy has he been faithful in showing me.  A few days ago, while I was looking at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I muttered under my breath, "I hate cancer."  As clear as day, God's Spirit prompted me...but do you hate sin more?  Whoa.  

What do we do with questions like that?  Cancer sucks.  It steals life and health and vitality.  It is pervasive and undiscerning in its attacks.  If we stop to look at sin and its effects, then we can be assured the devastation is even more far-reaching.  It effects eternity.  Eternity.  As in, forever.  

Lord, have mercy.  
Friends, I pray that this season before Christ's death and resurrection will be a time of turning back, of slate clearing, of true repentance, so that in the days that come we may look forward to times of refreshing from the Lord.  It seems so fitting that just 3 days after Resurrection Sunday that I am having surgery--the last major step in getting rid of this cancer.  Oh how I look forward to the healing and restoration of my body that will come after--times of refreshing, indeed.  Praise him!