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.

 

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.

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.

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 is  God, our shelter.