A New Year

new-yearA new year will soon be upon us.

To be honest, I’m hesitant to say, “Happy New Year!” It doesn’t seem appropriate at the moment. Celebrating during cancer? Perhaps some may wish to yell “Carpe Diem” tonight, but I’m sitting on the couch with one of my kittens and thinking about what lies ahead.

Doctor’s appointments, scans, surgeries, exams, treatment, pills, and possibly more. That is what the new year will certainly bring for me.

For some of us, our only New Year’s resolution is to survive the coming year. That’s about the only resolution on my list, but I suppose I’m hoping for more than that.

I’m hoping for new opportunities, new ways to reach others, new ways to give, and new ways to grow. Vague wishes and dreams, but they are there.

Can I be sure and say, “Yes, 2017 will bring me wonderful and exciting things!” No, I can’t. I suppose I’m more realist than otherwise, and I’ve been on the cancer merry-go-round before. Depending on the results of treatment, this could become an even more long and dragged out affair, lasting through the year and beyond.

Unlike my first experience with cancer, this may be more than a detour. This may be a new road. And I’m pretty certain that this new road will continue, just like those seemingly endless highways here in the Midwest.

I can’t go back. I can’t get my old body back. I don’t even know if I can find the exit back to my original path, back to my old life. That old me and my life–with all of its normalcy and quietude–are gone.

So no, I may not be celebrating tonight. But I’ll most likely wake up tomorrow and struggle onward. It can be challenging to accept a new path–especially one full of doctors and uncertainty–but maybe there will be some good in all of this. Something that can make all of this worthwhile.

Wishing you and your families a safe and meaningful night.

Cancer-land During the Holidays

cancer-landTo say that my thoughts have been elsewhere lately would be accurate. Generally, they can be found wandering through Cancer-land, exploring what can seem like the never-ending terrain of scans, surgeries, treatments, and results. When one valley has been thoroughly tread upon, there is yet another rocky hill looming ahead.

Someone told me after I finished my last chemotherapy treatment, “You should be happy now! Surely you can see the light at the end of the tunnel!” No, unfortunately I’m still on that train, eating lunch in the dining car. 

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised by what others say. It is the rare person who understands cancer and its effect on your life, and it is a true friend who will stay with you through the ups and downs of treatment. Especially in this season of merriment and celebration.

Indeed, looking out the window last night, I was surprised to see Christmas lights glittering on houses throughout our neighborhood. Oh yeah, it is the holidays, isn’t it?

When your life is formed around doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and treatments, you can often forget that others are going about with the normal things of life, shopping for Christmas presents and attending parties. Unfortunately, regular folks forget that some of us are having surgery and getting treatment over the holidays. And that others are grieving the loss of loved ones to cancer.

“Merry” can be far, far away for many during this season.

Walking through Cancer-land right now, I’m learning to take it moment to moment. Merry I may not be. Even “thankful” can all too often be a memory. But as Joni Eareckson Tada states in “No Higher Calling: A Christian Response to Suffering” in the Beyond Suffering Bible:

“Take life in bite-sized, manageable chunks. Start giving thanks to God for small things….I learned that following the Bible–even saying the right thing with a hopeful spirit–was a way of placing myself under the shower of God’s mercy.”

I’m trying to take things moment to moment. Yesterday I was thankful for a visit from a friend. This morning I was thankful for a hot cup of coffee and some time in Second Life. And for kitties who bring lots of fun to my days.

I’m doing my best to follow Tada’s advice to say thanks for these little things with a little bit of hope. Saying thanks in the kitchen and living room and even the bathroom, because cancer affects all of your life and all of your body. And sometimes even just being able to drink a cup of coffee without pain is cause for being thankful.

Cancer-land is a place where many of us find ourselves during the holiday season. Some of us may not be merry or feel very much like celebrating. Perhaps, though, that being willing to say thanks for the small things in life while trudging up hills that seem way too tall is enough for the moment.

Turning on the Light

turning-on-the-lightFor the past several weeks, my reading has tended toward fiction, generally lighter fare selected from Kindle’s seemingly endless supply. Truly I love my Kindle for that reason. What bookworm wouldn’t?

Although an occasional escape into fiction-land can be a positive thing, when it is continual it is probably not so good. As for me, I’ve most likely been on the not-so-healthy side for a bit. Exchanging my storyline for a fictional character’s seemed the best choice at the time.

But today, during our holiday of Thanksgiving, I picked up a book about brokenness. Turning the pages of Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way, I felt I was reading the words of someone who understands what it’s like to want to escape, to trade my own dramatic tension for someone else’s.

Listening to the noise of a football game and sipping some water, I read a description of my past several weeks:

“I wonder if all the bad brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting–forgetting God is enough, forgetting what He gives is good enough, forgetting there’s always more than enough and that we can live into an intimate communion. Forgetting is kin to fear.”

I understand the forgetting and the rush of fear all too well these days. Why is it that we can’t seem to do what we ought to do? Why do we eat unhealthy foods and forget to exercise? Or, why do we run from God into books and music and any other distractions the world might offer?

I don’t have an answer for these or any other questions really. Reading further in Voskamp’s book, I found this push toward a healthier view:

“The way you always find the light in the dark is to make your hand reach out.”

I thought of my groping in the darkness of fear even as I had given up reading scripture and praying. Isn’t this how life can be, though? We continually fall and then search for ways to get back up, grasp for what will make us stronger and less likely to fall. Whether it is good or bad is our choice. But we keep going, somehow.

Ah, but it is the living that can sometimes trip us up. And how we live–whether in fear or otherwise–can possibly shine the light for others.

Voskamp’s words in the very first chapter made me wonder about my own life right now:

“Not one thing in your life is more important than figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain.”

Yes. How do we live with all the pain we carry around day after day? And when life throws you down in the mud–whether it is a divorce, job loss, illness, or a multitude of other problems–how do we continue to live? Will it be with fear and bitterness? Or thanksgiving?

I admit I’m not the role model for the perfect cancer patient. I’m angry far too often and have thrown myself numerous pity parties. Honestly, it’s amazing that anyone puts up with me right now. (Maybe that’s why I hang out with cats a lot nowadays.)

But, perhaps being real about my emotions and struggles while going through cancer treatment might just show another that they’re not the only one feeling this way. That there will be days–weeks even–when you feel you can’t go on.

But the days pass, and occasionally we find a little bit of light somewhere, like in a book. A bit of hope that someone has left for others who are still groping around in the dark.

Nothing has changed in my life since yesterday. I still have cancer and still face more surgery and more treatment. But I’m going to pick myself up today and start doing some of those things I should have been doing all along. Reading scripture, praying… I know I’ll fall at some point, but I’ll look for a speck of hope while I’m down on the ground.

If you’re struggling today, please know you’re not alone. There are a lot of us down here in the dust, trying to stand again.

Writing a Life…

Writing a LifeSometimes, blogging (or writing in general) can be a bit discouraging.

I write…and nothing.

And then I look around on the internet, and it seems like everyone else is succeeding at this writing thing.

Have you ever felt this way?

Honestly, I’ve wondered lately if I should continue my efforts. I felt that surely this was a confirmation that I am most assuredly not a writer, that I should just get back to my regular work.

This morning, though, I got a bit of encouragement in my mailbox, and I realized that although notoriety may not come from my efforts, my only responsibility is to stay faithful, serving God and others.

That loud and clamoring voice in my mind said in response, however, “Maybe this really isn’t what you’re meant to do, though? Perhaps you are just a bad writer.”

I listened to it, for awhile.

Logging in to check another blog this evening, I was surprised by several responses to a post.

Shocked even. People are reading what I write?

One person commented, “Me too!” She had had similar experiences to what I had described in the post and seemed to feel a sort of validation of her own experiences after reading my blog.

Wow.

Holley Gerth writes in her upcoming book, You’re Already Amazing LifeGrowth Guide: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be

“We are closest to and most like Jesus when we are fully being who he created us to be.”

If one person reads and is encouraged by my writing, then that’s enough.

Popularity doesn’t matter, but being faithful to God does. And maybe that’s all I need to be concerned about at the moment.

 

Small Changes

Small ChangesThe other night I was bored. Really bored.

This doesn’t happen often as I typically have something that I should be doing. However, with the current flux in my work hours, I was left feeling depressed and shiftless.

Both my real life and virtual kitties were napping, so I turned on Netflix and began browsing through the most recent movies. Nothing new caught my fancy, but then I saw one movie that my husband and I had enjoyed quite awhile ago. With that in mind, I clicked on it to begin watching.

The movie was Constantine.

I was not a Christian when we first saw the movie. My tastes in entertainment often tended toward the darker side, to be honest. Back then, this movie was perfect for me.

But now? When I attempted to watch it during my night of boredom, I was a bit disgusted. It no longer held any interest for me, and I quickly turned it off, preferring instead to read before going to bed.

Part of the change in my tastes could, of course, be due to the years that have passed since the movie was originally released. But I also think it could be a result of my faith and the different perspective on the content found in this and similar entertainment that it provides.

I hadn’t really noticed the growth, but it was there, small changes over time.

As Ellie’s father says in the movie Contact,  “Small moves, Ellie, small moves.”

 

Continuing On Despite It All

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Photo by wenx on Morguefile.com

This year seems to have been one of loss and struggling through the mess and the aftermath. There have been many things over the past several months, some shocking and others mundane, but all full of letting go, cleaning up, and moving on.

This has been a year of …

  • Major loss of hours at work.
  • Loss of friends.
  • Breakdown of a relationship.
  • Breaking down of cars, appliances, plumbing, etc.
  • Disappearance and (possible) death of a cat we fed and cared for.

Some problems, of course, came with easy–if not inexpensive–fixes. However, others left only questions.

I have prayed, seeking guidance and answers from God. So far, no answers have come.

What do we do when life continues in the muddle of brokenness and unfulfilled desires and questions and worries and pain?

Today I baked cinnamon cookies.

It was a small little goal that was easily finished on a busy day. Cleaning up the stray crumbs after bringing the first batch out of the oven, I thought about the blessings that remained even after everything.

There’s only one question now.

What will I do if my prayers aren’t answered and the miracles don’t come?

Reading Kaitlyn Bouchillon’s upcoming book, Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between, I am encountering some confirmation of my feelings at this moment:

“He may answer our questions, but even if not we have the Answer above all answers. And the truth is, even when we don’t have all the answers we so long for, we don’t actually need to know the future. We just need to trust the One who authors it into being.”

Yes.

Sometimes it takes a bunch of heartache and pain and worry that just continues and continues and continues to bring you to your knees.

And if the answers don’t come? Or the changes we desire? Or the blessings and miracles and dreams?

Can we still praise God and say that Jesus is enough?

Drinking some afternoon coffee and eating one of my homemade cookies, I can finally smile a little and say, “Yes.” I will trust Him and praise Him, even in the middle of my mess and even if those answers never come.

 

 

 

Being Daring (for the Small of Heart)

Photo by MichaelKirsh on Morguefile.com
Photo by MichaelKirsh on Morguefile.com

Awhile back, I was at one of the lowest points in my life.  Previous to this, I had taken my self image from my career and so couldn’t imagine what I would be otherwise.

When I injured my back, though, I had to take time off from work. Taking painkillers and lying alone in my apartment, I wondered if things would ever return to normal. The pain was excruciating, and my source of identity was gone. I spent my time having my own pity party and worrying about the bills that relentlessly piled up on my coffee table.

Through treatment and very light exercise, my condition gradually improved, but this was no consolation at the time. It honestly seemed I had nothing to lose as I was still unable to work.

Having healed enough to go out for short trips, I decided to go to the grocery store. Normally this particular store would play the typical muzak, but that night they were playing something a bit different. Walking down the baking aisle, I heard the beginning of “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

I was not a fan of 1960’s music, but I just couldn’t help but move (just a bit) and lip sync (only a tiny bit). Normally a shy and introverted person, I had been stripped of all my caring by that point and so just had some fun right there with the flour and baking soda.

Flash forward several years, and a similar thing happened this summer. Personal issues had taken me down, beaten me over the head, and left me to dry. I was overwhelmed and wondering what would come next.

Now a Christian, I turned to Jesus rather than an old song. I prayed and read His Word. I took His promises on faith because I really had nothing left. And I healed. Just like David, I could finally dance. This time not in the middle of a grocery store, but in my everyday-working-cooking-cleaning-baking life.

If only I could have been that daring and that willing to believe without such significant pain. But some of us are pretty darned stubborn and need a push into oblivion.

If I can encourage you right now, though, I would say be daring right now. Trust God and dance even on a Monday.

Lucan quote with link