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Tag Archives: people

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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Blessings and Battles

7 Jan

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Rick Warren says that he used to think that the Christian life was a succession of battles and blessings but now he thinks of life as being on two tracks. At any given time there are usually blessings, but also battles to face (from bibleinoneyear.org).

There’s a lot of grief to process when you have cancer. I honestly don’t remember the feelings I had when I had cancer the first, second, or third times…I guess it’s like giving birth; you don’t really remember the pain until it’s happening again. All I can speak to is now and now my cancer is Stage 4. Ever since I declared joy as my word for 2018 I’ve been processing and working through all of the grief and sadness I’m feeling, mostly if not all, revolving around lost time. This past week I grieved my voice again. I have not over the years post cancer really thought too much about the fact that my voice was altered from a paralyzed vocal cord after my first cancer surgery, but the fact that I no longer do something I was able to do so well and was so passionate about for most of my life is sad; church, weddings, radio jingles, guest appearances, and even a Broadway stage one time…gone. Imagine something you feel was your special gift, your love and your passion, but you really can’t do it anymore, it’s a little heartbreaking. Then there’s the years of trying to please different people that in the end could never be pleased, the years of trying to be something for someone while giving up pieces of yourself, time wasted. Then there’s all this time looking at my life wondering if there was/is more I could do for my kids, my social circles, for humanity in general. I grieve and I fear that I have wasted so much time. I guess I’m a little angry too because I feel like I’m always battling my body. Maybe it’s normal. ‘Grief does not change you,… It reveals you.~ John Greenannabeach

I read what Rick Warren said about life being a series of battles and blessings, or I should say blessings with battles interspersed, and it really resonated with me. I also met with an incredibly wise woman who told me to be gentle with myself and to sit and think about all of the blessings that have come along despite the trials. I do know that my past has made me stronger and wiser and cancer has given me hyper-awareness of time and being intentional with time and relationships. I am still sad about lost time but it’s ok because we bend and grow through our experiences. I am a ‘feeler’ according to Myers-Briggs personality type and with cancer, my ‘feeler’ personality is magnified. Hurt is doubled, pain is doubled, but so is joy and happiness. When one of my kids says something hurtful it’s hard to bounce back because my hurt is magnified, I know my daughter is graduating soon and leaving for college and I think in normal circumstances I’d be sad, but now that sadness is magnified. It’s so strange. Blessings? Too many to count but with any health issue the battle part is always in your face. This week I shed a lot of tears but I still found that joy. I decided grief and tears are ok.

‘There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love’~Washington Irving

‘Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.’~Leo Tolstoy

Today I wear Urban Decay Vice lipstick in Backdoor which is a really cool metallic brown. There are a ton of colors and finishes available in this lipstick line and most are pretty moisturizing. I chose this color because I felt like I needed a little sparkle! Cheers!

Stable

1 Nov

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Stable. Last week was a good week, a really good week. I had a little birthday celebration almost every night of the week with friends and family, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and at the very end of the week I got my results for my follow up CT scan (3 months post getting the news of the return of cancer). The reports said a lot of things and yes, the cancer is still there but the bottom line is there was very little growth of the tumors and all is stable; best case scenario.

It’s been such a weird and emotional time and when I got the news it took awhile to process…literally a couple days. I didn’t even tell anyone for about an hour after I found out and I can’t decipher why exactly. It’s a strange place to be, knowing you still have cancer and sad about it, yet happy that it’s not growing or spreading too quickly. We define ourselves by many things and many cancer patients are defined as fighter or survivor and speak of times before cancer and after cancer. I don’t like any of those cancer terms that much right now because as someone who’s had cancer before I always feel like I’m fighting but the enemy is myself, my body, my biology. I’m also in the space between ‘before and after cancer’ and because it’s slow growing, I could be in this space a long time and not need any type of intervention so business as usual. I am not a survivor, I am surviving. If you watch the show ‘Stranger Things’ it’s kind of like being in upside down world right now.

We cannot change the cards we’re dealt, just how we play the hand.’~Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of the living. We are never so wise as when we live in the moment.’~Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

I guess I’ll play my hand and live in the moment. The greatest gift over the past few months has been the realization that not too much in my day really matters except how I interact with people; being crazy busy with sport schedules..eh, being a chauffeur to teens…eh, having a hectic work schedule…eh, and all the little annoyances no one can control, who cares. In fact, it was in the chaos and loudness of a bunch of teens in the house that I had my first happy crying breakdown this weekend. Something that’s typically annoying made me cry with joy because I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I may have that chance to watch these annoying teens grow into adults. How awesome is that? How awesome life is; more time to laugh and cry, more time to hug, and more time to just be. Enjoy your loved ones and laugh in the chaos because there’s not much you can control.img_7271-1

Today I wear Nars Satin Finish Lipstick in Gipsy which is a warm berry. I like Nars lipsticks because they have a ton of great colors to choose from. The satin formulation is the most moisturizing which I like better. I chose this color because warm berry  colors look great on pretty much everyone and I love the name. Although it’s spelled differently I feel like I’m a little gypsy at heart. I don’t get attached to homes or towns and I love wandering and seeing new things. Cheers!

Fine

1 Sep

survivor

When we fake fine, we fake our way out of authentic relationship with God, others, and ourselves. If we don’t allow painful emotions to surface, then we are setting expectations for ourselves that even God cannot meet.’~Esther Fleece, from the book No More Faking Fine

I started college intending to have a career in musical theater (but ended with a science degree). I have been a sales representative for over 25 years. I am a people pleaser~someone who ‘adjusts’ myself and my needs to make sure others are ok,comfortable, happy, etc. Here’s the bottom line…I am REALLY good at faking fine. Think about it, as a sales rep I get to practice everyday; smile, be nice, be considerate to customers, even when they don’t reciprocate you leave graciously and prepare yourself to come back in a week or 2. Well guess what? Maybe it’s because I’m inching toward 50 but more likely because I have cancer again, I’m done. Let’s not get crazy, I’m still going to do my job and I’m still going to smile and be nice but I am done with faking fine. Remember last week when I talked about living in the in between? How do you truly live in the in between unless you are authentic? How can you be authentic if you’re faking fine?

I have not been fine. I had some hard moments last week which I’m sure won’t be my last. I have cancer cells that have decided to go rogue and creep to other parts of my body outside of my neck where they started. Thyroid cancer deemed the easy cancer (because of course any title followed by the word cancer can be ‘easy’…NOT) has not been and continues to not be easy for me. I am in the elite group of thyroid cancer, literally <5%, that gets to fight for her life. Your mind can do funny things and last week I struggled to ‘maintain’ until about Friday when I could not maintain anymore. Like I said I am a sales rep so I’m used to maintaining no matter what in that arena, then my house is chaos because of teens, school starting, sports, and again, teens…as moms we’re used to maintaining the ship or holding down the fort. It was in the quiet and the in between times that I was swallowed in my thoughts; the drive between customers, the early mornings in prayer, the late evenings awake after everyone was asleep, I grieved my diagnosis. By Friday the sadness came out of the shadow of privacy and showed itself. I cried in the open just sitting on my couch with my husband watching nothing in particular on tv.  Afterwards I felt great. After a week of having to fake fine for my job and to maintain the busy household it was a great release and I realized that it was ok to tell people I was not fine. The process of being authentic with each other involves having real conversations and we have to be ready to hear ‘crappy’ when you ask someone ‘how are you today?’.

This week has been better. I stumbled upon a small Facebook support group of people with the same diagnosis and it’s been extremely helpful and hopeful. I genuinely feel more hopeful knowing I am not the only one with this type of disease and because of that I can honestly say there were exponentially less sad moments this week. I just watched Collateral Beauty with Will Smith and one of the opening lines says something like, ‘We’re here to connect…three things connect every single human being…love, time, and death. We long for love, we wish we had more time and we fear death.’ As a Christian I don’t necessarily fear death but as a human I’d like to time it right (after kids graduate college, get married, have families, etc) but of course we can’t. The blessing cancer has given me has been the reminder to slow down, soak in every moment, and brush off the negative because who cares, haters gonna hate 🙂 Does it take cancer or devastation like in Houston to focus on love, time, and death? Hope not

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. ~Steve Jobs

Today I wear Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Nighthawk .This lipstick comes in different formulations and a ton of different colors. I prefer the satin finish because it’s the most moisturizing. I chose this color because it’s almost fall and I’m into red lips. This one has a base of brown so it’s not too offensive for daytime. Cheers!

 

 

 

Mom Wars?

30 Mar

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I grew up with a working mom. She was a great mom who worked hard as a social worker in Detroit. I have lots of great memories as a kid and never felt deprived of mom time. I didn’t grow up with alot and both my parents had to work but one thing I knew without a doubt is that I could depend on my mom (and dad), even to this day. They made sure to never miss a concert, a play, a teacher conference, a field trip, etc, they were and have been consistently there for me and now their grandkids. A few days ago a friend of mine posted something on social media which made me sad. She was at a sporting event far away from home supporting her child but sitting in the stands she felt ignored, irrelevant, and judged as a mom.

When I was a young mom I remember the mom battle was between working mom and stay at home mom(SAHM) and there seemed to be lots of articles and commentaries on the subject. I would drop my kids off at preschool while dressed in a suit and remember feeling judged by some of the SAHM’s. Whether it was in my head because of guilt (mommy guilt is a whole different topic to discuss!) or whether it was because I wasn’t invited to some of the play dates/coffee dates so I didn’t know them as well, it was hard to ‘rise above’. Now (and maybe this is more relevant because of my kids’ age), it seems we are judged, compared to, or criticized by how much we do for our kids; lessons, private coaching, travel sports, $$$$$, etc. Here’s one thing I do know, we are all doing the best we can and we really just need to support each other. No one knows the depths of our circumstances or what happens in our homes. We are a bunch of imperfect people trying to raise perfect kids…ha, no such thing, don’t you remember your teen/young adult years? We cannot control who they like, what their interests are, and for the most part we have no control over the decisions they make after a certain point(trust me, I have a son who is almost 20 in college and I would LOVE to control some of his decisions). Go ahead and be alpha, tiger, or helicopter mom but don’t look down at the ones who choose not to or who simply don’t want to mother any of those ways or simply those who don’t have the energy.

Being a mom is one of the if not THE hardest job in the world. I would venture to say that when we hold that baby in our arms for the first time we are not looking at them with tears in our eyes saying, ‘I hope you rebel one day’ or ‘I hope you do drugs’. No, we want our kids to succeed and be kind and conscientious adults, we want them to love others and to be confident in who they are, and as a parent I think we ultimately want them to know that no matter what, we love and support them, and that we are their biggest fans. This mom says it best, ‘Let’s make a deal. Stop the mom-judging. It’s tiring. … My soul needs rest and sometimes a friendly glance from another mom in the trenches who can totally relate on any other given day. Knowing you are not alone is such a gift to a mother’s spirit. Our choices may look different on how we feed, clothe and discipline our children, but our love for them and for others should outshine all of it. At the end of the day, all kids really need is love. Let’s focus on that.’~Laura Coffey.  So to the moms who have felt ignored or who may have felt judged by me, I apologize. I’m still an introvert so sometimes all I can manage is eye to eye contact and a smile and generally introverts are not going to be the first to start conversation. Feel free though to engage me in conversation and I will of course talk! Moms, let’s hold each other up and give each other encouragement. We don’t need to all be best friends but let’s make sure we don’t judge each other because we’re all doing our best. ‘If you judge people, you have no time to love them.’~Mother Teresa.

Today I wear Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment with Sunscreen in Berry. I have this tinted balm in a couple different colors. They are super buttery and loaded with color. I chose this color because it gives a serious pop of berry and I am so ready for spring!! Cheers!

This Is Us

26 Jan

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I love this show and clearly millions of Americans love this show as well. I admit that I shed a tear or two or a hundred with every single episode. Why is this series so popular? I have my guesses; people have called it ‘real’,’emotional’,’accurate to life’. All those things are true but I think the main reason it’s popular is it validates us as imperfect human beings; it shows us that we are all human and our choices, good and bad, are a product of the experiences of our past and our current environment. Every person is wired differently and experiences things a little differently; three kids (triplets), raised by the same parents in the same home become three very different adults. Every single person on this show has a story, a ‘why’ they are the way they are and it opens ours eyes and makes us emotional because we can relate. We make mistakes, we make good and bad choices but it all comes from our story and just adds to our journey.

Anyway, I’ve been a little uninspired lately, partly being too busy partly emotionally drained from navigating teen parenting. Like my last blog said, parenting teens is soooo hard. I decided to look back at my story because sometimes we forget. The benefit of being fullsizerendera lifetime diary/journal keeper is that you can go back in time and discover what you were like. I recently pulled out and read my journals from age 16-19 and it was great because it really helped me understand where my daughter was coming from and allowed me to give her more grace and not take things personally. Reading my thoughts made me laugh, made me angry, and made me reflective of my life since then and I learned a couple things. Reading it brought me back and stirred up those same old feelings. I thought I was so smart and ‘adult’ and an expert at life (at 18) yet made some immature comments and decisions. I struggled with identity, wanting to be liked, be part of the ‘in’ crowd, and thinking no one understood me. Yup, confirmation I was in fact a teenager! Decades later reading my journals gave me clarity about who I was and why I made different decisions and mistakes and some of what I wrote made me want to shake the young me and scream at her but I guess that’s all part of our story right? It’s what makes living a life. There was also something I found beautiful, hope. I was so hopeful back then. I looked forward to the future with excitement and I believed the best of so many people. I was more carefree and surprisingly I was grateful. At the end of my entries I would write what I was thankful for, some of them dumb like ‘did 100 sit ups today’ or ‘took a long walk.’I take it back, those are not dumb because many days now I don’t have time for a long walk and I probably would throw up if I did 100 sit ups…or can I even do 100 sit ups?

Here are my lessons from me:

  • Stand back a little and let teens go through things as they transform into adults (a little more grace)
  • Be grateful even for the minutia of life because you may not be able to experience the same in the future
  • Be hopeful and look to the future with excitement (this perspective always makes the days better)
  •  Don’t forget other people have a story too

The show This Is Us is great but no show is as good and as complex as real life and no writer is better at writing your story than you. Today I wear Julie Hewitt lipstick in Jules. I was introduced to this lipstick by another blogger and it’s great. It feels like a balm and has ‘more than sheer’ color…not too heavy but just enough. I chose this color because it’s an easy everyday red/berry and because the owner made it for herself and pretty much named it after herself too. Her story. We have one life, one story to create, this is us. Cheers!

Goodbye 2016

31 Dec
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Me and my cousin Michael

It is the last day of 2016 and there are so many things swirling in my head I’m not sure what to write. It’s been a year of deaths of so many icons from my youth; David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Mrs. Brady~Florence Henderson, and more recently Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher. I don’t idolize them but holy cow, the memories of the music and shows they bring up. It’s sad and nostalgic but it’s also a reminder for me of aging and mortality…I’m getting older. A little over a week ago my cousin passed away after having a heart attack, he was 46. He was mostly raised by my grandma in the Philippines but came to the US as a teen. He stayed with us through his Junior High years then ended up moving to California to be closer to his mom. Michael struggled with depression and we kept in contact on and off through the years. His adult life was a struggle but I think he finally felt complete when his daughter was born; his was a struggle of identity and belonging, and depression and maybe his heart attack was really a broken heart. Over the past week my cousins and I have been in more contact with each other than I can ever remember thanks to technology and Facebook messenger. We didn’t all grow up together because we are all over the place; Philippines, Australia, California, Minnesota, Kentucky and me in Michigan. We along with our parents (the aunts and uncles) and Michael’s best friend have united in this tragedy and are helping cover expenses and arrangements for my aunt. Holidays are generally a time of family gatherings and I don’t really know what that’s like strangely until now. Outside of the friends that have surrounded my family I did not grow up with my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc so this connection of us around the globe has been kind of bittersweet for me.

I read a quote today ‘It takes the darkness to see the stars.’ Reflecting on 2016 and in my life so far it’s been so true for me. I’m so grateful for my friends and family who always shine in my dark times and during this dark time of Michael’s death I see our family as the stars in the darkness coming together to help in however way we can. There are always stars, sometimes we just can’t see them. A good blogger friend of mine, Elizabeth, wrote a piece about New Year and not having resolutions but instead having a word/thememyintent/mantra…choosing a path. We must’ve been on the same wavelength because for Christmas I bought a little bracelet for myself with a word on it as a reminder; I chose STRONG. I chose strong instead of strength because strength feels like something I hope to have whereas I wanted that reminder to myself that shoot, after all I’ve been through, I’m already strong. What is your word? What will be your theme? What is your hope for 2017?

Today I wear Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick in Mercy which is a deep berry. I chose it because Kat is pretty strong and bad ass and also for the name (the color si pretty kickin too). We all could probably exercise a little more kindness, grace and mercy in 2017. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! CHEERS!!

 

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