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Tag Archives: friendship

Pain and Church

16 Sep

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I saw a friend the other day that I haven’t seen in years. After the initial surface questions and conversation she broke down in tears. She shared about the many difficulties her daughter has had from a lifelong illness and also shared recent difficulties in her marriage. She expressed her exhaustion, her sadness and her hopelessness; she is at the end of her rope. As she was asking me how I was dealing with having cancer again my heart was breaking for her because she looked so defeated. What was more heartbreaking was after sharing her pain she said one of the last places she wanted to go was church; she’s angry with God, she didn’t want to be judged, and she didn’t want to hear any ‘Christian-ese’ talk. Knowing some of my past struggles and now cancer again she looked me straight in the eyes and asked, ‘How can you still have faith in God? How can you not be angry?’ Tough stuff. When did church become ‘unsafe’ for the heartbroken, hopeless, and weary? Why do we sometimes feel like we have to put on our ‘best face’ to go to church? These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asking myself for awhile.img_4188

I have a confession. When I first found out my cancer was back a year ago July, I also didn’t feel like going to church for awhile. Sometimes even now, over a year later, I still feel the same way. ‘With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.’~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church. I go to an awesome Christian church with great leaders and great people. I’ve been attending for over 20 years, have volunteered here, was on the worship team, and have gone on mission trips. I love it yet I wanted not to go after I got the news of cancer’s 4th return. Why? I can only speak for myself when I say that I didn’t want to put my happy, ‘God’s got this’ face on at a time when I felt raw, sad, and disappointed. I didn’t want to hear ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ or ‘God only gives you what you can handle.’  Phrases I’ve probably used before. Do we really think about things before we say them? I listened to a great interview with Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist who spoke about this exact thing, watch it here. She says that Christians are so used to these words and phrases (‘Christianese’) that we have stopped thinking, have we? Maybe. These phrases, words, and easy responses sometimes take away from us listening, thinking and loving the people who are hurting. Words have power and when you’re hurting you hear every single word so when you are on the receiving end of these patent phrases that we use all.the.time. you can’t help but want to roll your eyes and think, ‘You have no idea.’ I’m sure it’s all well meaning.

So what was my response to my friend? I hugged her and stayed silent awhile. Then I told her I was so sorry she was in such pain and that I truly had no words. I told her to be gentle with herself, and that it’s ok not to smile. I look back at some of my pictures from the first few months post diagnosis and I’m smiling but my eyes are not. I told her I’m not mad at God and even though I don’t want to go to church sometimes I know that I still have God and more importantly He has me. I told her churches are filled with hurting people regardless of the shine of the facade but vulnerability and authenticity can only happen if we’re willing. I shared my pain and told her that illness and in her case, serious adversity can be lonely because most people can’t know exactly how you’re feeling. I told her that for me, that is the reason I can’t let go of my faith in God. At the end of the day if I don’t have faith that God is real, if I don’t have God to talk to and if I didn’t believe He loved me I would have nothing to hope for after this life and there would be no possibility of joy in crappy circumstances. How do you convince a broken person that God loves her? You start showing God’s love by listening and loving. ‘Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. img_4187Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.’ I LOVE that quote from Morgan Harper Nichols. In my low moments I don’t remember many conversations but I do remember the encouraging notes, those who sit and pray with me, and the many hugs with no words…love. Can we think on our own and not defer to a Christian-ese phrase as a response to someone’s pain? ‘No one leads people to Jesus; He leads people to Himself. All the pressure’s off; just go love everybody without agenda.’~Bob Goff

Today I’m feeling the red lipstick just because. I chose Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Love Drunk which is a deep red. Love the name, love the color. Cheers!

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Life is Not Short

22 Jul

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It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. When it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. Life is long if you know how to use it.’~Seneca

What a change in mindset. I read this a couple of times…we are forced with the realization of death that life has passed before we knew it was passing, how true is that?

Since my last blog my daughter arrived safely home from serving in Haiti (and shortly after the Haitian government fell), and now she is preparing to say img_3425good bye again and leave for college. Raising kids is basically a life long series of good-byes, oh my heart but a blog for another day. Back to the quote at the top. I don’t think there is any other event in life that opens your eyes to the realization of life passing then facing your mortality. I have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have been diagnosed with the ‘c’ word 4 times over the past 10 years so it has been a constant reminder that life is passing by and to live intentionally. I love the last line of the quote which says, ‘life is long if you know how to use it.’ My interpretation of that is instead of saying ‘life is short, do what you want,’ he means if you spend more time doing things you love with people you love, serving others, living with intention, your state of content and well-being will add richness to your life~making whatever time you have on earth worthwhile or in short, a long life well lived.

Last weekend I got to see a couple women I’ve known more than half my life. We met years ago and eventually moved to different areas of the midwest

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Trying to follow directions off our phones..so lost

so last weekend was a reunion for us. We’ve been able to meet up in Chicago a few times over the past few years and we can always pick right up where we left off,  great friendships and time well spent. We talked a lot about life, our current joys and struggles, and just a bit little about my cancer which was perfect. We were lost a lot, we laughed a lot and I cherished every moment.

Over the past several years since my first cancer diagnosis I have learned so much about myself and the biggest lesson has been that I am enough. God made me to be exactly who I am and life is too hard to try to be something else. This has been a hard change since I am a people pleaser by nature but ‘adjusting’ or ignoring your needs to please someone else or make them happy can be detrimental to your spirit and it’s just plain exhausting. Cancer has shown me what I’ve made of; strong, courageous, and smart. I am surrounded and loved by a sprinkling of amazing family and friends (both old and new)  that have given my life that extra sparkle. With eyes wide open to the possibilities I have said ‘yes’ more and ‘no’ more, have done things I haven’t thought of, and have tried to stay away from toxic people. It’s a work in progress but again, it’s about being more intentional. I am hyper aware that life is passing. This past year of having metastatic cancer but stable disease has been a difficult time of crushing heartbreak with the thought of leaving my family sooner than later, but also a strangely beautiful time of completely trusting God with my life, learning more about myself, and truly ‘resting’ in each moment. Yes, life is long if you know how to use it. You are enough.

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.’~ Benjamin Franklin

Today I wear Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer in Fenty Glow which is a beautiful rose gold. I wrote about this before but it truly is an amazing gloss that is great on all skintones. You can wear it on top of lipsdtick or even alone. I chose it because it’s perfect for summer and because everyone needs the reminder that you have that inner glow and you are enough! Cheers

Power of Story

16 Mar

I heard a cancer survivor speak recently and I have to admit I was a little annoyed. I am incredibly happy that this person was completely cancer free and that her treatment worked for her, it’s a place all cancer fighters hope for. I think it was her story and her ‘after’ story that irritated me. The presentation was to a large group so I can imagine it may have been stressful but what I missed was a little authenticity, the guts of her journey. Maybe the story was too simple; got cancer, got treated, got cured, stayed positive, doesn’t remember having any ups and downs emotionally. Maybe I’m being too cynical, that’s probably it. All I know is for me to share in her joy and excitement I needed to be able to connect to her story and being a Stage 4 cancer fighter currently, the expectations and probability to connect was high but it didn’t happen. I wasn’t inspired, and all I could do was sigh, ‘that’s nice, good for her,’ a sharp contrast to someone I heard speak last year. Listening to last year’s survivor story left me on the edge of my seat, I was in tears as I was brought into her journey with her words and I wanted to seek her out afterward and know more. I didn’t even have cancer then.

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.’~Erin Morgenstern

Have you ever thought about that? The possibility that your story could actually take residence in someone’s soul and become part of their blood and self and purpose. Whoa. If that’s the case, would you be more truthful about who you are, your feelings, your purpose, your words? What I wanted from the speaker was authenticity, truth, and maybe her truth was just that simple. Maybe she didn’t have low points in her journey or maybe she just didn’t let herself get there. My truth on my current cancer path is different and that’s ok because we are all created differently. The authentic self is soul made visible. – Sarah Ban Breathnach  Be authentic.

Today’s page in my story is a jumble of words and emotions. My mind is all over the place. I have the consistency of work and kid rhythms but my mind and heart are still longing to save the world, to check things off on my ever growing bucket list, to see dreams become reality. I heard a fellow cancer fighter say that she tries to create such a big and busy life in order to shove down the ugly cancer stuff; in essence to make cancer just a small part in her mind. I feel the same, planning big, checking things off my bucket list and keeping busy helps me forget on occasion that I have cancer and it also helps me in a small way not to live from scan to scan. Faith. I recently read from an Oswald Chambers devotional that at the beginning of the Christian walk we are so marked by feelings, more by sight than by faith, but there comes a time when that joy is not what it used to be and that sometimes the soul gets dark but that is when God is taking the soul out of the realm of religious feeling and emotion into the realm of faith (all paraphrased). Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien. Deep faith. I’m right there now too. I have a sweet relationship with God that has deepened over the years through life, cancer, and other obstacles, and it’s what’s giving me hope. On Jen Hatmaker’s podcast she ends each episode with the question, ‘What is saving your life right now?’ I have to say for me, it’s my quiet time with God each day and the people I have chosen to surround myself with, my family and my friends; both give me hope, peace, and joy. My mind may be in overdrive but today I get to add another page to my story, I’m alive.

Today I wear Flower Petal Pout Lip Color in Chestnut Kiss. I was pleasantly surprised by these lipsticks from Drew Barrymore’s line. They are inexpensive, have great color, are pretty long lasting, and are fairly moisturizing as well. I chose this color because I was looking for an everyday brown that I could wear without looking ‘dirty’ on my brown skin and this was actually perfect! Cheers!

And other thoughts…

11 Feb

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You are a better Christian if you go to church every Sunday…and other statements that I ponder. I’m not sure which I have more on a moment to moment basis, thoughts or emotions. I can run from joy and happiness to depressed and anxious and back to joy in less than 30 seconds and the same goes with the various topics that pop into my mind in that amount of time. I can go from my cancer and what dreams and goals I still have, to the kids’ schedule for the week, to ‘I need a piece of candy’ in no time flat. Anyhow, I mentioned church because ever since I got the news that my cancer was back last July I haven’t really felt like going to church. People have asked if I am angry at God or have just assumed I’m maybe running away from my faith for now. No and no. In fact, I have never felt closer to God and felt more loved by Him. I’m not avoiding church, I still go, but sometimes I just don’t really feel like it. I believe there are seasons to our faith; seasons of discovery but also seasons when solitude is necessary and maybe that is where I am. I think also during this time when I’m trying to navigate my feelings of living with cancer I’m not sure I can handle that much ‘religious cheerleading’ (poor description and probably offensive but I can’t really describe it any other way). Bottom line, my faith has to do with me and God and we talk all the time. I know I couldn’t do cancer without Him and I see evidence of His love and grace daily from the words I read in the bible to the kindness and love I receive from friends and even strangers whether that’s in a church building or not. He gives me the peace to move forward and trust that everything and everyone will be ok.

img_1326Thought 2. I have heard many many times that I don’t look sick. It’s true. My cancer’s stable so in the meantime I work, go out with friends, go to the kids’ sporting activities and events, ‘normal’ life, and I look no different with Stage 4 cancer now than I did July 6, 2017 (the day before I found out my cancer was back). I don’t ever take offense to the comment, I’m truly grateful because who wants to look sick? Part of my thought process though is that none of us look sick but most of us are. The Facebook and Instagram pictures are great but don’t show sadness, depression, arguments, adversity, bullying, cruelty, or any of the things normal people struggle with every single day. REAL. LIFE. All of us are living, breathing novels with incredible stories and beautiful covers but we don’t see each others’ ripped and tear-stained pages, highlights, the worn out corners, etc…none of us really look sick.

Last thought for today…contrary to social media and what’s most highlighted on the news, people are really great. I am so blown away by the beauty and kindness and generosity of people. In fact, during this time it’s people and my interactions that have been magical and have given me a sense of wonder. I believe we all want the same thing, to know we’re loved and to know we matter. If we can give that much to another person the return is crazy. Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, img_7380while loving someone deeply gives you courage. ~Lao Tzu  Courage and strength, all of us need both. I read this quote from an unknown author and I really loved it, ‘Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried; but actually you’ve been planted.’ HOW AWESOME IS THAT? Planted for rebirth, planted for new, planted for breakthrough. I love it.

Today I wear NYX Butter Gloss in Red Velvet. I own several colors of this gloss for a few reasons; moisturizing, great color, cheap. If you’re afraid to dive in and wear a bold red lip color you can start with this. This gloss gives just enough color without being scary and it feels great too. I chose this color because it’s red and I do love a good Red Velvet cake! Cheers!

Scanxiety

17 Jan

For the past few nights I haven’t been sleeping that well. I’ve also been waking up in the middle of the night from nightmares; nothing specific and not really monster/death dreams, but you know the ones, when you’re late for something important but your feet are like lead and can’t move or no matter how fast you’re packing it can never get done? Yup, I wake up anxious, sweating, and not being able to catch my breath. There’s a term in the cancer world that’s been thrown around a lot but I can’t ever remember feeling it (although I’m positive I probably have felt it)…scanxiety. It. is. Real. So real in fact, that it was written about in Time Magazine in 2011 and mentioned again on medscape.com last February (just a couple places among the many). Author Bruce Feiler refers to his scans as his ‘regular date with digital destiny’ to show whether his lung nodules had grown. He goes on to say, ‘Scans are like revolving doors, emotional roulette wheels that spin us around a few days and spit us out the other side.’ He’s right, my dreams and lack of sleep are from the emotional roulette of my upcoming scans only to end with some result which ‘starts the calendar again’ til the next one when you have metastatic disease. It is so strange because during my normal day I’m very conscious it’s time again and don’t feel super anxious about it, then night hits and the need to sleep hits, then…enough about that, by the end of the week I’ll be all done 🙂

In my quest for chasing joy this year I have started something different in my daily journaling life. I have started writing the absolute best part or parts about my day along with at least three things I’m grateful for. When I say the best part, I mean every single detail of why it was the best part of the day including full description of event(s), who I was with, what it was about, how it made me feel, etc. After reading back a week of events it did not fail to put a smile on my face. I would recommend this practice to everyone. One thing I am so grateful for and has been a part of some of my best events are friends. A beautiful thing this cancer life has opened my eyes to are the great people and great friends I am surrounded by; people who have stuck with me through not just cancer but divorce, raising teens, changing jobs, moving, etc. Friends who have not ceased to believe the best. I have met some of the greatest people and I don’t believe in coincidence. Friends are God’s special blessing and a really great friend is a soothing balm to the soul. If you remain heart and hand open and can be a good friend to those God has placed in your life you can still see the beauty of people and have hope despite this crazy world.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.’ ~H.Nouwen

I am unbelievably grateful to all those who I have crossed paths with for a lifetime or if even for a moment. We are all connected. Today I wear Fresh Sugar Lip treatment in sugar Berry. these are really pigmented lip balms that are super moisturizing. I chose this because it’s winter in Michigan and this helps keep lips moisturized and the color is perfect. Cheers!

Church

18 May

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I have been going to church my entire life. My parents did not exactly make church optional. This was not a bad thing really, I didn’t know any different and my parents didn’t make church look like a chore, it was a place they enjoyed going to. I grew up taking Sunday school classes, singing in the choir, working in the nursery, and really having community while learning about God. Although as a teen it wasn’t great fun and maybe I rolled my eyes those early Sunday mornings but we never missed. I have to say when I went away to college church was not on my mind but eventually I was drawn back. I missed the stability and the community and honestly the peace I felt listening to God’s Word so again in my 20’s I became a regular attender and volunteer.

I recently read another blog which said ‘the church is a beautiful and broken place..it can heal and restore and it can hurt and turn away.’ The author also says regarding current hot button issues, ‘…it’s a lot harder to just swallow what scripture says when there’s a face on the other side.’ Good stuff. So, last weekend I had a bit of an epiphany while sitting in church. The topic was ‘Where’s God when bad things happen?’ a loaded question which they unpacked beautifully. I have to say I have had a few not so fun things happen in my life in recent years and I did turn to my church and the people there for love, support, advice, etc. and have felt both loved and restored but also hurt. Awhile back I felt completely supported after months of asking questions and seeking prayer during an extremely tough time but after a single conversation about me with someone else who could speak more ‘bible-language’ the tune changed from supported to maybe more questioned and judged. It was hurt compounding hurt and I felt myself become guarded, distrustful, and distant. It became increasingly difficult to go to services and engage and to even look some people in the eye. The institution I had relied on my entire life, poured into, and loved did not feel like home anymore and I could feel my heart harden a little. Was the church really a SAFE place for ALL the broken; broken hearted, broken families, troubled kids, abused, blended families, those with more complicated life stories? Are those just empty words and invitations that can turn on a dime when a truly difficult situation happens? Is a person more religious and believable if they have more bible verses memorized? All questions running through my mind.2012-07-08 16.33.59

So what happened last Sunday? I let it all go. Forgiveness. I looked at everyone around me and even the pastor speaking at the pulpit and realized the church is just a bunch of broken people gathered in a building doing the best they can while seeking God. We’re all human, we all make judgement calls and sometimes they’re not always right (and that includes pastors because they’re human too).One thing I know for sure, that question, ‘Where’s God when bad things happen?’ He is right there with you. Whatever I felt toward ‘the church’ through the difficult times with cancer or family issues I never doubted that God was right there holding my hand and that He had a plan. Last Sunday despite the questions in my mind and heart, I realized the church and its imperfections were just part of my journey to continue drawing closer to God. People always say they feel judged or not accepted or maybe that they don’t have a place or feel welcomed but should that be the burden of the church or the person or maybe both? The true burden lies with us, the people professing to be Christians. We are the church. Why does someone feel judged, because we judge. Why does someone feel left out, because we place ourselves in our cliques or comfort zones and stay there. Last Sunday I felt my shoulders relax a little and as they closed out with a song near and dear to me, the song I heard in my head before fully waking up after my first cancer surgery, the words rang true for me, ‘It is well with my soul.’

‘The kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God~D. Campbell’

Today I wear my old standby Dior Addict Lip Glow. I ALWAYS have this in my purse. It is like a lipbalm but it brings out the natural berry of your lips. It is the only lip thing I buy consistently. I chose it today because of the topic and what this product does. Glow brings out the natural color of your lips and adds a hint of berry, being a Christian we glow from the Holy Spirit inside us. Let’s work harder to be a little nicer to each other showing less judgement and more mercy and grace. Cheers!

 

Prince and the past

25 Apr

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Last week the musical icon Prince passed away. The minute I heard the news I didn’t believe it at first then as the news was confirmed by numerous sources I couldn’t help but feel a strange sense of loss and sadness; the kind that leaves a pit in your stomach. I label it strange because I didn’t know him personally and I don’t generally idolize people but news of his death was utterly shocking to me. As the days passed and the countless hours of Prince music streamed on the radio (and my iPod), I realized the reason for my feelings of such great loss was because Prince’s music was such a huge part of my life in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. Each song I listened to evoked several memories; from the parties in the ‘D’ family’s basement where we had dance-offs, to my college roommate writing one of her first papers on how the movie Purple Rain impacted her life(true story-I had to proof read it for her). Prince’s music reminded me of some of the best times of my youth and also brought back memories of who I was, who I wanted to be, my adventures, my hopes and dreams during that time.

It’s been over 30 years since Purple Rain, since watching the music video of When Doves Cry, from desperately wanting a Raspberry Beret, am I the girl I wanted to be? Life has a way of tossing you around a bit, so no. I had mixed emotions thinking about all that’s transpired between then and now but I told myself it was all ok. I have had a crazy beautiful and blessed life so far with some heartache stuffed in between but that’s what life is. We all have dreams and expectations when we’re young and there are so many choices we have to make that literally takes our life one way or the other. My 15 year old was telling me about her plan for the future, what she wanted to achieve and how she saw her life turning out; when she’d get married, how many kids she’d have, where she would work, live, etc… expectations. She has always been a stubborn, strong willed and determined little being so as I listened to her ‘plan’ of how her life was going to turn out I worried a little. I told her Audreyshe had amazing goals but there was currently no room for space or curve. I told her it was great to have a vision of what her life was supposed to look like in the future but she should absolutely leave room for the unplanned things. The things that make life move and bend, that force you to make decisions, to make hard turns and to maybe change the course you had originally planned but make you who you are truly created to be.

How do we combat the disappointments of some of our own expectations of ourselves and how our life was supposed to be? Gratititude. It’s almost impossible to be grateful for the blessings in your life and be depressed about them at the same time. GK Chesterton says ‘…gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder‘. More wonder, more gratitude, less expectation. Life is short. ‘We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life’~Prince

Today I wear Buxom Lip Polish in Jane which is a deep purple color Sephora describes as huckleberry jam. I’ve always loved these Buxom glosses because they have just enough color to not overwhelm, they’re moisturizing, and they make your lips tingle (and I guess has a plumping effect on lips which clearly I don’t need but if you’re a little older like me it does fill in those lip lines). I chose this color because duh, it’s purple. Prince…thanks for the memories

 

 

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