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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.