A Thing Called Hope

DaringtoHope_meme_02

Between the pain and the chaos of divorce, hope has been a difficult thing sometimes. I think I have it in hand, but if flies away, leaving me alone. It flutters just out of reach on those hard days.

That is when I remember all of the loss of the past year, all of the endings. So much that it feels like my life will break in two.

Indeed it has, with part of my heart going with my husband. I truly understand now the meaning of “one flesh” and the heartbreak that divorce leaves behind. There will always be that emptiness in my life, one that can’t be filled with activities or fun.

Am I still entirely me? I don’t know.

But I know that I must continue, must keep moving forward with my life. Hope is still here, and it is time for some beginnings. Something good.

As Katie Davis Majors says in Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful,

“Dreams die and seasons end and terrible, unspeakable things happen that don’t make much sense, but God is not done with us yet. He uses the bending and the breaking and the dying to prepare the harvest, to prepare more for us. We reach high to the Son and He comes down and pulls us closer.”

Today I reached high. I was baptized, fully immersed and washed clean. A new beginning after so many, many endings.

I am ready for some good. I still have hope.

 

In the Middle of the Mess

Middle of the Mess

I had hoped that the end of my cancer treatment would bring renewal into my life, that of both my life and my marriage. Instead the opposite is true. My life continues to fall apart, bit by bit.

When dreams are crushed and suffering is long, it can be tempting to wonder “why” all of this is happening. Too, it is very easy to lash out at my soon-to-be-ex husband, pushing my hurt and anger onto him in that moment. But it doesn’t make things better.

The hurt and anger and heartbreak and anguish don’t go away by unleashing my inner “mean girl.” Instead it only starts the cycle of crazy once again.

As Erwin McManus says in The Last Arrow,

“Sometimes your geography doesn’t change at all, but the journey is still long and hard….Having the courage to live a life of honor and integrity may be the greatest battle you will ever face.”

Divorce is hard. There is nothing good or positive or normal about this situation. Add into that still recovering from my latest surgery and cancer treatment…life just seems impossible at this point.

And living a life of faith and honor? Each day I pray for the strength to make it through just that next moment, the courage to face my challenges, and an extra measure of love to extend to others. All too often I fail. But I get up and brush myself off, pray a bit more, and try again.

Life is just really, really hard at the moment. Could you please pray for me that I am able to live a life of faith, honor, and integrity, even in the middle of this mess?

Breaking Apart

Breaking Apart

It seems like joy continues to race ahead of me, taunting me with its presence in the lives of others. Finishing my cancer treatment was supposed to be a happy time, one of celebrations and new beginnings.

And yet…now a divorce.

The pain of this breaking–both physical and emotional pain–is indescribable. Having prayed and pleaded and discussed and loved, I only have emptiness. The man who once shared my bed and my life is leaving, looking forward to a life without those responsibilities.

I don’t know if I can love again. Perhaps I have missed that chance at happiness, that chance at having a forever partner.

Looking around at what was our home, I remember all of those dreams that we had and wonder what lies ahead. I now face what remains of my middle age alone. The prospect of that loneliness stretching on forever saddens me.

Although some apparently have divorce parties nowadays, I see nothing to celebrate. Marriage is a lifelong commitment–a covenant–and the breaking of our vows will only lead to heartbreak.

It is overwhelming. Somehow, though, I must move forward.

Mother’s Day and Breast Cancer

Source: Mother’s Day and Breast Cancer

Mother's day cancer

My mother died in 1999 after a recurrence of breast cancer.

With little information at the time–no internet, only the beginnings of patient rights–we didn’t recognize the signs of a recurrence until it was too late. Her behavior began to change over time, showing signs of recklessness and forgetfulness. And then she suddenly had trouble walking, having collapsed at home.

Doctors in the ER informed my father that a scan revealed tumors along her spine. She was released home with pain medication, but little else to do as far as next steps. Her extreme reaction to chemotherapy in 1992 precluded any more chemo treatment for the recurrence, and so we were left with pain management and the awareness that her time with us would be limited.

After a call from my father, I drove home from college. She died the next morning on our couch.

Since then, I have regularly avoided going out on Mother’s Day, and that now includes social media as well. People say that the pain and loss of losing your mother–or any other family member, for that matter–lessens over time, but I believe it is more your learning to live with the loss.

And now this year, I have breast cancer yet again. The same cancer that killed my mother so long ago.

I am finding this day to be more difficult than I expected. My flat chest, many medications, and constant pain only serve to remind me of my mother in the most horrible way, that of a shared illness and possible death. And the celebrations that litter my Facebook stream only enhance that awareness.

My mother was loving but a rather complicated woman in that she had a misdiagnosed mental illness. If she had lived longer, she might have been able to receive the treatment that she needed. I know that she did the best she could considering her struggles, and I will honor her for that.

But I cannot join in on the celebration of this holiday, especially this year. I loved my mother despite everything, and the pain of her loss is still too great even after all these years.

If this is the first Mother’s Day that you face alone, please know that my heart and prayers are with you.

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Having cancer wasn’t part of my plans. And having cancer a second time?

Fuhgeddaboudit.

Indeed, cancer is like a thief who arrives suddenly, stealing all of the things you hold dear. He then decides to stick around, drinking coffee with you each morning and lying beside you at night. If a bit of goodness comes your way, he’s always ready to snatch it away.

Eventually, as the months have passed, I can’t even recognize myself in the mirror. Body and soul, I have changed.

But there is that grasping onto the past, all of those dreams and plans that I had. Having lost control of my body and life, I want my old self back. That self who could walk without pain. That person who could easily work ten hours per day. Someone who could spend hours reading and then suddenly get the urge to write.

Now things have changed. I have changed.

Reading Wonderlife by Mike Foster, I find a quote to ponder:

“God can’t change who we’re becoming until we let go of who we were.” –Bob Goff

That’s my challenge at this point. Accept how my life has changed–how I have changed–and mourn for what I have lost. And then move forward.

 

 

 

The Little Things

little-thingsHonestly, I’ve been struggling this past month or so.

It often seems like the days just drift by, with those around me bustling to work and fulfilling goals and stressing about life in general. Outside of it all, I watch them hustle and wish that I were still part of all of that stress.

Weird, huh? But it’s true.

When you’re in the midst of regular life, it is all a bit overwhelming, and a break is welcomed. When a serious illness–or other calamity–holds you down, however, things change. The regular falls away, leaving little but the illness.

Days are filled with doctors’ appointments, worrying about scan results, dealing with side effects of treatment, etc. Life becomes simply about trying to maintain a failing body. And that can be disheartening.

So I’ve been trying to count three good things that happen each day. Perhaps it’s that my husband and I were able to go for a walk today. Or I saw the first robin of the season. Little things.

In Katie Ganshert‘s upcoming novel, Life After, one of the characters, Anna, states:

“I guess that’s what life is, though, isn’t it? A whole bunch of little moments that don’t seem significant or life-altering at the time, but when you look back…They become the most profoundly beautiful things.”

Maybe that’s my lesson to be learned and lived out for right now.

If I had my druthers, this cancer would have never happened. I would still have a job and wouldn’t be scarred and wrecked physically. My days would be all about the hustle and bustle of regular life.

Really, really honest, though…If that were the case, I probably would miss the little things because I would be distracted by all the rest.

Cancer takes away pretty much everything when it comes into your life. With all of that empty space and time left behind, however, there’s the opportunity to see those blessings in each day and cherish the little moments that make up our lives. Because one of these days, I may be able to look back and smile.

What We Bring to the Table

what-we-bring-to-the-tableRecently we had a couple of friends over for dinner. In the past, I might have made something special for their visit. Pecan Sandies or even homemade ice cream. But this time? I baked a pie fresh from the freezer.

The pie was good, if a little crumbly, but a part of me felt a bit bad about it. Sure, I’m going through cancer treatment, but still…

I suppose the question in the uppermost part of my life at the moment is what do I bring to the table?

Until recently, I could have answered that question easily. I worked and cleaned and blogged. I was a wife and mother of fur babies. I had a place and a purpose.

Now most of that part of my identity has fallen away. Cancer has taken my job and my sexuality. And even doing the most simple things, such as paying a bill or fixing dinner, can be quite an accomplishment. Blogging too has been more sporadic as the pain from the treatments has increased.

As the prognosis for my cancer has become worse and worse, I have struggled with my faith more and more. The comfort that is so often spoken about among Christians seemed far away. And with each loss, I wondered why all of this was happening.

Reading the upcoming book from Katie Ganshert, Life After, I could so relate to Autumn’s crisis of faith depicted in the book. Looking back on the traumatic event that had changed her life, she asked questions similar to mine. At one point, though, she thinks,

“Maybe comfort wasn’t to be found in the why.

Maybe comfort was to be found in the who.

A God who wept.”

I suppose I realized that night as we ate the crumbly pie that my life has changed dramatically and that I may never be able to do things I once accomplished with ease.

But perhaps I still have something to bring to the table, even if it’s a frozen pie. And blog posts that come less often but are maybe just a bit more meaningful. Days that aren’t centered around a work schedule, but about communicating with family.

In the novel, Autumn goes on to conclude,

“Maybe it was time to stop trying to make the puzzle pieces fit. Maybe it was time to let go of the why and remember the Who.”

I may never understand the why of all of this, but I’ve got to move on, keep trying to bring something to the table, even if it’s not what I would have wanted. Letting go of the why is what I need.

That and some time to remember the God who cares and comforts, the God who understands our struggles.