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Tag Archives: inspiration

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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Blah

13 Sep
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photo cred: Leanna Vite Photography

 

It’s been awhile since I last posted and like everything else, the less you do something the further away you get from it. So many things I’ve wanted to write about have entered my brain and have exited just as quickly before hitting the page. Since my last post my daughter left for college and I’ve been feeling a little off. It’s so strange but I have to say again, there’s something about a girl. She was my sit on the couch and watch America’s Got Talent girl, my shopping partner (even though neither of us likes to shop too much), my Barnes and Noble girl, my foodie/loved to eat out girl, etc. I’m adjusting and so is she. Something not talked about too often is the sibling(s) left behind. The day we dropped her off I asked my youngest son how he felt now that his two blood siblings are gone and he replied, ‘lonely’. Yes, he has the fairly new addition of 2 step sisters but he grew up most of his life with just the other two. So, just when you’re thinking they annoy each other and want to stay away from each other and this may be a welcome change in home atmosphere you realize maybe the opposite is true for the sibling left behind. Sigh.

I’ve taken quite a bit of time during my 3 week writing hiatus to process my thoughts and feelings after saying good bye to my daughter and the change in home dynamics. It’s been bittersweet. I’ve finally been able to finish a couple books that have really got me thinking and grappling with different things faith related that I will write about soon and I’ve been doing decent on my commitment to take 5-10 minutes sitting in silence and meditating; focusing on a bible verse or a positive empowering quote. I have to admit, 10 minutes of focusing and not letting my mind wander is HARD STUFF!! All this and unfortunately I still have cancer on my mind (and in my lungs). It’s so weird but as long as my cancer is stable I am just viewing it as a chronic disease for now and forging ahead with my days. I watched a great clip of an interview with Karen Walrond who is a Leadership Consultant. Every morning she asks herself 3 powerful questions: 1) ‘How can I feel connected today?’ Meaning what one action today can connect me better with a friend, my kids, my spouse, etc. 2) ‘How can I feel healthy during the day?’ Drink more water, go to the gym, say no to the potato chips, etc. and 3) ‘How can I feel purposeful today?‘ Read the bible, clean out the closet, read another chapter, write a blog, etc. Just one action you can take during your day to answer each question, super powerful. I’ve been trying this and honestly on the days I have done this exercise my attitude at the end of the day is so much better. Try it and maybe write down your answers and look at them several times that day as a reminder.

I guess I’ve been feeling kinda blah since my daughter left. Yes I miss her but I think it has more to do with the changes and pace of life. My youngest will have his drivers license soon and when that happens I know I’ll see him less. Is it strange to already miss him before he’s actually gone? Bonus: the sun is always behind the clouds pushing it’s way through and img_1949because I’m a person of faith I know the Son is always there carrying me through. In my melancholy state earlier I ran through a list in my head everything I miss whether it be from cancer or just the normal progression of life; I miss all my kids being under one roof, I miss having younger kids who didn’t talk back, I miss singing-a lot right now (for a long time it was my passion and how I was most comfortable expressing myself but cancer took away function in a vocal cord), I miss playing the piano well (hard to do with a left hand I can barely feel because of nerve damage from radiation and surgery), I miss being able to do physical activity without trouble breathing, I miss the blind optimism of living forever (although still optimistic I have lots of time left, cancer just took away the forever part in the previous phrase), I miss eating whatever I want and not gaining weight, sometimes I miss silence yet sometimes I miss chaos. Told you it’s a weird time for me. I know I’m blessed. I have an amazing family and loving husband, awesome friends, I’m generally healthy, I have a great job, and a dream that is closing in on becoming reality…but sometimes…just trying to stay real here. Thanks for journeying with me 🙂

Today I wear Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Chai which is a Mauve Brown. These lipsticks are soft and moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s a great color for fall and I because I also love chai tea lattes and it’s called Chai. Cheers!

Chaos

23 Aug

 

img_3915I ended up in the emergency room yesterday, all is fine. Over the past few days I’ve been having periods of time when I can’t catch my breath to the point of getting dizzy. Yesterday I happened to be speaking to a customer/friend for my job at a local hospital and I told her about my breathing issues. I also said that I thought I may be having panic attacks because of all the things on my mind and she recommended I just go to the ER to rule out anything really serious since I do have cancer in my lungs. OK. Two hours and a CT scan later I got the ‘all clear’. The nurse basically said that besides the cancer I’m a picture of health. Good and bad. Good that it wasn’t anything serious, bad that I guess I’m right, I must be having panic attacks. Also bad that the multiple cancerous lung nodules are still there (for some reason with every CT I kind of expect the nodules to have miraculously disappeared-that’s called hope people).

What am I panicky about? I went through a mental list of all the things happening in my life at this moment because I didn’t think I was stressed about anything. After thinking about work and it’s challenges, kids leaving for college, kids still at home, new kids driving, new school year, new dreams taking shape, a half finished book I’m writing, finances (kids+college=$$$), etc…I guess there are lots of things on my mind, oh and I still have cancer.  Not all my stress is about bad stuff but the body can’t differentiate between good/excited stress and bad stress, it’s all the same. With all the moving parts and noise in my life it seems I live in chaos and there’s been one thing I KNOW I have given up over the last week or two and that’s stillness. I have been in such a rush every day that I haven’t sat down with God to read and chat in the morning. I haven’t really made the time to go to the gym (not stillness but good for me time) and until my head hits the pillow at night I don’t think my mind stops because I have not allowed it to. My bad. Plus I’m an introvert and quiet, alone, and stillness is a necessity for me to recharge.img_3722

I decided two things yesterday; not to miss my 5-10 minutes in the morning chatting with God and saying thank you for my blessings, and to finally jump in on the meditation bandwagon. I downloaded the Calm app (calm sounded like something I needed), and tried a free meditation in the parking lot while at work that was mainly 10 minutes of inhaling and exhaling. Through the breathing I said little prayers and within about 8 min I felt my body relax and just about fall asleep. Well ok, I pretty much fell asleep at the back of this parking lot for a few minutes, but when I opened my eyes there was a man standing about a foot away outside of my car; harmless, he was looking for his car and his back was to me but still…there went my calm. I should probably meditate at home.

We’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, and our nights off — our holy days, as some would have it; our bosses, our email, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night. More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk.~Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness

It’s so easy to forget to stop. We get pushed so much to ‘be all’ and ‘do all’ and ‘achieve’ that sometimes it’s easy to get caught up or feel like we might be missing something. I admit that after my last CT scan and finding out that I was still stable for a year, I pushed cancer aside and jumped right back in to ‘doing’ and forgot the ‘being’; being aware, being still. This scare was a call back.

When everything is moving and shifting, the only way to counteract chaos is stillness. When things feel extraordinary, strive for ordinary. When the surface is wavy, dive deeper for quieter waters.~Kristin Armstrong

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photo courtesy of Leanna Vite Photographu

Today my life is not really any less chaotic and I don’t foresee that part dramatically changing any time soon but I’ve been breathing a little easier. My husband showed me a video today called Why Your Life Is Not A Journey (you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/176370337?ref=em-share). It basically talks about how we are always striving for the next thing like there’s some great finale when really the whole point of ‘dancing is the dance.’ In other words, the whole point of life is the living (at least that’s what I got out of it).

Today I wear Too Faced Throw Back Lipstick in Marcia, Marcia, Marcia which is bubble gum pink with glitter, there are several fun colors to choose from! These are actually moisturizing but I only chose this for fun and for the name. Marcia was always so chill while Jan kept striving. Inhale. Exhale. Cheers!

Another Goodbye

8 Aug

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I just came home from a week long family vacation at a lake in northern Michigan. It was a beautiful and relaxing time spent with extended family just a few hours from home. The last morning we were there I walked out of our camper toward the lake and saw my daughter sitting alone on the bench at the end of the dock and I burst into img_3600tears. It’s August and in about 20 days I will say goodbye to my daughter who is taking the next step in life and moving away to go to college. Oh my heart. A few years back I said goodbye to my oldest boy as he left for college. Although I cried when I dropped him off I was mostly excited for him to start his next phase of life. There’s something about a daughter. I was telling a friend that with boys, they are struggling to find their place and their manhood throughout high school so when it’s time for them to go to college or just move on into adulthood, you as a parent are ready. I know I was ready to let him go, not in a

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Now 2 off to college

bad way, it was just different. He was ready to be a man, but my baby girl? Different. I’m so excited for her next adventure yet my heart hurts a little as I prepare to let her go. I listened to a podcast today that reminded me that your child’s goodbye is hardly ever permanent, it’s just another part of yours and their story you weren’t ready to write.

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence’~ Denis Waitley

As I looked at her at the end of the dock I thought about all the goodbye’s we have shared over the years. I could almost feel img_3628her hand leaving mine as I remembered dropping her off at preschool, then kindergarten, then the week long summer camps in elementary. Then there were the really big and scary goodbyes as she learned to drive and drove away alone for the first time, and in her case the mission trips; the scary goodbyes as she left for Kenya and Haiti. Raising kids is a long series of goodbyes and as they learn how to adult we learn how to let go. So hard. Add me having cancer? I. Can’t. Even.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.’~Elizabeth Stone

I can’t talk about the goodbyes without img_3777speaking about all the amazing and fantastic times before, after, and around the good-byes. I vividly remember the day she was born, her first hello to the world. I have loved watching her grow into the smart and driven young woman she has become and I am truly excited to see her fly. For now I continue to prepare myself to have my house as a place she visits instead of a place she lives and to leave another piece of my heart somewhere else.

If you would have your child to walk honorable through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from her path, but teach her to walk firmly over them-not insist on leading her by the hand but let her learn to go alone.’ Anne Bronte (changed from son to child and him to her)

Today I wear Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment in Sugar Bloom which is a deep shimmery pink. I have this lip treatment in a few colors and they are great for summer. They are moisturizing, have a lot of color and are sun protective with SPF 15. I chose this color today really for the name ‘bloom’. It’s time for my daughter to bloom. Cheers!

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

Trusting

8 Jul

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.’ Prov 3:5-6

What does that really mean? Another version says ,’…do not depend on your own understanding,’ while another puts it this way, ‘Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure everything out on on your own.’

This verse has been one of my life mantras since getting cancer the first time in 2008. It’s a bible verse I’ve heard most of my life and it was one of the first I memorized years ago but like everything else, I had my own definition of what it meant to trust God. What I found is that it is so easy to say the words but when adversity happens and the words have to be put to the test, well, that’s a different story. In other words, it is so easy to trust God with YOUR plan of how things should be but what about God’s plan, what if His plans are different? Not so easy to trust, huh? After getting cancer the first time I had faith that God was in control. When it came back the 2nd and 3rd time I still had the faith but then I had to exercise my trust muscle and make it stronger. I discovered that faith is a noun, a belief in a higher power without proof or evidence, while trust is a verb. Trusting God means releasing all our anxieties, fears, plans, and NOT trying to figure things out on our own; releasing control BECAUSE we have faith in God. It means taking that death grip we have on our lives, our futures, our kids, our careers and opening that fist to let in some air and release fear and control even if it’s just a little.

My daughter left for Haiti last week on a mission trip and right now, Haiti is a bit unsettled. I have had some communication with her and all seems to be ok. What part of that can I control? Nothing that I know of so I have to exercise my trust muscle knowing God is in control and trusting Him as well as the powers that be that they are working onIMG_2574 a plan to get them home. I have metastatic cancer which generally means we (Stage 4 cancer fighters) do all we can to get more time. In my 4th battle with cancer I am doing all I can in my control and I am trusting a big God that He knows what He is doing whether it’s a cure, staying stable awhile, or not. Not my plan, His. Pray. Release. Pray. Breathe. Pray. Peace that passes understanding. I cannot function in fear because there’s too much in this world to be afraid of. Everyone goes through adversity, there are always times to practice trusting but we have to be willing. Yes I want Audrey home but I also know she is doing something she loves and feels called to do and this ‘event’ will not stop her from serving in the future. Yes I want to be cancer free but trusting God does not mean life is perfect because again, that would be our plan, to me it means that I trust He knows, I trust He hears my prayers and knows the aches of my heart, and I trust He knows my fears and anxieties. With that I have some peace and I know it’s come from so much practice having to trust. Tomorrow I may feel a little differently because we’re always being stretched but for now, I’ll keep praying and I’ll take today. img_7238

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corrie Ten Boom

No lipstick today, just a PSA…Don’t forget SPF on your lips because they can burn too!

 

Amazing and Awful

27 Jun

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‘Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.’~L.R. Knost

Isn’t that the truth? Last Friday I took my daughter to her college orientation. Leaving her at the dorm the night before was awful (for me) and as I sat there in the silence of my hotel room I got teary-eyed thinking about all of my time with her leading up to this point. The orientation itself went well and it was pretty great seeing her be independent, meeting people, socializing, asking questions, I was so proud of the person she has become and is becoming. We ended the day by driving to northern Michigan to spend a few days at the lake; awful to amazing in less than 24 hours with some ordinary time to relax and exhale in between.

Last week I had my 3 month CT scan and as much as this has become a routine for me I was still anxious. I mean, I guess there are some things to be anxious about. I have formed a love/hate relationship with this because as much as I want to know if my cancer is stable, growing, (or gone), I also don’t want to know. I got the results over patient portal a few days ago and met with my doctor today. Right now ALL NECK AND

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They made me wear this today because I’m coughing

LUNG NODULES ARE STILL STABLE!!  Whew! So, awful last week, amazing today, and really awful (having cancer) and amazing (having stable disease) at the same time. There’s my current struggle. How do I act, process, make decisions and have lots of amazing moments but still have the awful undercurrent of cancer all.the.time.? Do I ignore it? Do I pretend I don’t have cancer and go about my merry way? Having cancer is not in my face all the time but it’s always looking at me through my rear view mirror, you know what I mean? It’s just always there so when prepping for my daughters prom, graduation, college orientation, it’s joyful and exciting but then in my ‘rear view mirror’ I’m reminded cancer follows and I start hoping I’m around for my son to do the same in a few years. Right now I’m 60/40; 60% looking forward , 40% distracted by cancer but I want to get to 90/10. How awesome would it be to have cancer thoughts only pop up 10% of the time. How awesome would it be to not have longer term visions and decisions be tinged with ‘but wait, I have cancer’; thoughts of retirement, grandkids, travel, etc. intertwined with I have cancer that’s really waiting to party in my body. It’s weird. I know I can’t ignore it or control it and I also know I don’t want it to consume me and influence every decision I make. Hmmmm . I was reading about courage again and read, ‘Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.’~unknown

Here’s the good news. I don’t feel broken yet so maybe I’m brave. Maybe I have courage. My doctor told me today that since I’ve been consistently stable for the past year, we are going to stretch my CT scans to 6 months unless something changes in how I feel. I don’t want to hold my breath for 6 months. Maybe I’m feeling funky because it’s scan week. All I know is I want to live this ‘..heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.’ I’ll take the awful, ordinary, mundane, and routine and be more intentional seeking out the amazing!

Today I wear Chantecaille Lip Chic lipstick in Nocturne. I LOVE these lipsticks. They have great color and are super moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s a bright berry which is perfect for summer or when your allergies make you look blah and you want just one pop of color! Cheers!

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