A Thing Called Hope

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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?

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.

Waiting and Darkness

waiting-and-darknessI don’t do well with waiting, y’all. Seriously.

I like to plan and have a purpose. Good days have always been those that are productive, filled with work and chores, the completion of tasks that always seem to pile up around us. Busy-ness has been my specialty, and I love the feeling of accomplishment.

But what do you do when your plans are smashed and purpose is well…unknown? When all of the things that you’ve worked so hard to accomplish disappear, leaving you with simply waiting?

If you’re me, you probably get depressed, angry even. As Julie Manning describes the feeling in her upcoming book, My Heart: Every Beat Surrendered to Our Unchanging God,

“The fear and darkness would consume me, sometimes just for a few hours in a given day and other times for multiple days at a time.”

These past couple of weeks have been such a time for me. I’ve hidden myself in novels, passing the days in stories of fictional characters, fantasizing about things that can never be.

I quit doing everything I should. My Bible lay unopened and prayers were simply angry cries. And of course, there have been many pity parties, attended only by me and my cats. As Manning goes on to say,

“The soul longs to trust Jesus with every fiber of its being, and yet the human heart is fragile and untrusting.”

When all you have is the waiting, do you still trust God? When the future is unknown and there is nothing left to do, what then? When we are truly faced with our own mortality, when it becomes more than an abstraction, how do we live each day?

I wish I could provide some easy answers, something akin to those positive memes that fill my Facebook stream. But unfortunately life and the human heart aren’t always that simple. Sometimes life is a gray unknown with no exit in sight.

At this point in my cancer treatment, I’m just tired. This isn’t even close to the life I imagined for myself. But some part of me is still grateful.

Today’s a new day. God is still God. And perhaps there will be more than the waiting.

Weathering the Storms of Life

donutsFriday was one of those not-so-great days I’ve had lately, one of those days where I find out too much from the doctors. Retreating to bed sounded like the best course of action as we drove home from the hospital. The cold swept over us and through us, chilling everything in our lives.

We had already prepared for a coming ice storm, but there is no preparing for the emotional ups and downs of cancer treatment. And unexpected news from a doctor can mean some serious downs.

Ice began gathering on streets and trees last night, creating havoc in our city. But here at home, there was a different sort of chaos, that of reviewing the day’s events and wondering about what lay ahead. Sirens wailed all around us.

How to find peace in a time like this? Craig Groeschel says in his upcoming book, Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life:

“When life gets tough, and we know it will, how we respond can either build our faith and draw us closer to Christ or weaken our intimacy with him as we slide in the wrong direction.”

Surprisingly, as the sirens began to quiet, I heard a knock at our door. Two visitors for me. We discussed grace and strength during hard times. And we agreed that we had been blessed, even as the night grew colder and darker. I hugged them as they hurried out into the storm.

And today more predictions of ice. As the rain began to fall this afternoon, I asked my husband about a treat for the coming morning. So we bundled ourselves up quickly and drove to our favorite donut shop. We each picked three donuts, all new flavors to us. Something sweet for our Sunday morning.

Learning to trust God in the midst of a storm can be a lifelong process, but hopefully there is growth over time. And occasionally weathering the storms of life can also mean a big box of donuts. Because the darkest days sometimes need a little bit of extra sweetness.

God’s Presence Is with You

gods-presence-regularYesterday was an extra, extra bad day for me.

It has been several months since I began my cancer treatment, with my first major surgery in December. And soon radiation begins.

Friday brought two appointments, both with my oncologists. I had been dreading this day as we would discuss the staging of the cancer as well as prognosis. And nervous? You betcha.

My anxiety had reached new heights, and I found myself crouched on the bathroom floor, sick and crying. I felt alone, so alone at that moment.

It can be difficult to believe that God is with us during these storms of life. So very, very hard sometimes.

I’m trying to hold on to the hope, though, that is stated by Craig Groeschel in his upcoming book, Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life:

“God’s presence is with you, no matter how alone you may feel.”

I don’t have any more wiser words for you than that.

If you do feel alone right now and the storm seems never ending, please know that you’re not alone. There are lots of us in the storm, right there with you. And there isĀ  God, our shelter.

 

 

 

The Obsolete Woman

obsoleteAs I’ve grown older and reached middle age, some days I creep about, fully expecting someone to leap out of a dark corner, pointing their finger at me and yelling, “Obsolete!”

My particular skill set and education really are from a previous age, that time when our culture lay its emphasis on the power of the written word and the influence of authors. With the rise of Twitter, memes, and pithy quotes, I’ve watched as the necessity of masterful storytelling has faded even as the ability to manipulate and create multimedia–whether images, videos, gifs, or whatever–has taken precedence.

Also, much of my work history has been in libraries. Go figure.

I’ve attempted to roll with the course of culture and have learned how to create websites and fashion my own images. And, for awhile, I even gained income by working online. Lacking in education as far as these new skills were concerned, I pursued my own knowledge through research and trial–with lots and lots of error thrown in for good measure.

There is still that feeling of being obsolete, of having only “spindly limbs and a dream.” Such an apt description of me, even now.

When I found myself in the Cancer Center of Kansas yet again in July of last year, I was confused and upset. I was supposed to be done with all of this, wasn’t I? I had been a survivor for twelve years, and here I was again with a brand new breast cancer and a diagnosis of Cowden Syndrome. Spindly limbs indeed.

Looking in the mirror, I see a thinner, weakened woman who looks a bit like an old man. Sparse hair, large glasses, and no breasts just complete the image. All I need now are plaid shorts, black crew socks, and sandals.

Definitely obsolete as far as being “sexy” is concerned. I can’t remember now where I heard this, but in one movie–most likely a Lifetime movie–the middle-aged woman talks about being “invisible” to men. That certainly seems to be true in my own experience. No longer feminine…no longer working…and not yet at the “crone” stage of womanhood, although I seem to be reaching that at a far younger age than I ever expected due to the effects of cancer treatment.

“Past my prime” and unemployed, I seem to fit the description of “obsolete” more and more these days.

Our culture would echo that of The Chancellor, declaring, “You’re a bug…an ugly misformed little creature who has no purpose here, no meaning.” In the episode, refusing to be defined by the State and its culture, Romney Wordsworth responds, “I am a human being!”

And that, ultimately, is where his strength lies. The character of Wordsworth, filled with faith, refuses to be humiliated and denigrated. His trust remains with God and the power of the written word, even until the last.

In his upcoming book, Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life, Craig Groeschel says that God made us to “trust him to redeem your pain with his power.” No matter what has happened–or is happening–in my life, God can bring something good out of all of it.

My future is honestly up in the air right now. But there’s still hope. Groeschel goes on to say,

“Your story is not over….You have more chapters to write, more victories to win, more friends to meet, more of a difference to make, more of God’s goodness to experience. Even though you may not like the plot so far, with God’s help, you can transform your story into one you’re not ashamed to share. You can start something new.”

I’m trying to hang my hat on that hope for the moment.

As with the character of Wordsworth, I can declare that I won’t be defined by the “State” or our culture. Responding to a seemingly impossible situation with knowledge and faith, I can perhaps live to tell my own tale. And oddly, just like Wordsworth, I’ll bring my seemingly useless skills to our current technology and media to do so.

And I won’t forget that it was Wordsworth’s reaction to his impending death that makes the most impact in the end. His faith helps him to respond with strength and peace, as opposed to The Chancellor’s desperate appeal for escape from his untimely demise.