grateful amazement

finding wonder…everywhere.

Beloved is the Truth

2016 was definitely One Of Those Years for me.
Maybe it was One Of Those Years for you, too?
You know, the kind of year when your score on The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale puts you in the *very high risk of becoming ill in the near future* category.
//gulp//
The most hopeful thing I found to hang onto during the last six months of last year was that 2017 HAD TO BE BETTER.
The only way I could envision things going was UP…because…well…honestly…they couldn’t get much worse.
Could they?

So, on December 31, I made a poster with *2016* on it and then burned it to ash at the stroke of midnight…as the year turned, it burned.
It was a symbolic, fiery, and final end to one of the most difficult years of my life:
Separation after 27 years of marriage.
Unexpected, unplanned news from one of my four girlies.
Shocking, traumatic loss when my dad died suddenly and without warning – when we’d only just begun to reconcile our rocky relationship.
An unresolved health issue that took its toll both physically and emotionally.
And all of that happened in the last 180 days of 2016.

If I’m honest, 2017 hasn’t had quite the stellar start I’d hoped, but (so far) it has been less *stress-y*…for the most part. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when the calendar page turned, but it probably had something to do with glitter, sprinkles, sparkles, and buckets of confetti…and probably all kinds of time for frequent and deep soul rest. The kind of rest that would restore and refresh and redeem…and allow me to reclaim the life I’d thought I was supposed to be living.

You know how Scripture says that the Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26)? Well, I’m thinking He did some big fill-in-my-blanks praying in my deep need for that kind of rest because way early in 2017, I got an email about Bonnie Gray’s brand-spankin’ new book, Whispers of Rest. And I’m telling you what – if the words on those pages aren’t a direct answer to the soul-cry-level prayers the Spirit said on my behalf, I don’t know what would be.

IMG_9393

Bonnie had me – and my heart – at Hello.

‘Life has gotten noisy. My heart feels frayed.
Like a child planting a seed and forgetting where she placed it, I wonder if anything beautiful and tender can break through the soil of my heart again. I try to pray, but sometimes it’s hard to find the words.’

And then I highlighted almost. every. word. in the Introduction:

‘I struggled to sleep and felt a weariness I couldn’t shake. My heart felt restless and, tossed by a sea of critical voices, paralyzed by overanalyzing and second-guessing myself.
I lost my spark. I lost the spring in my step and the song in my heart. Peace and joy were missing. I was surviving and competent, but deep in my soul I felt tired and uninspired. I knew life was supposed to be beautiful because God loved me, but I didn’t feel like life was beautiful, even though I was thankful for everything God had done in my life.
Losing my joy made me feel ashamed, until God’s whispers of rest loved me back to life. God wasn’t ashamed of my need. God understood my longing for beauty, peace, and intimacy – and He understands your heart, too.’

Truly, even simply reading those first words – before the book actually starts – had me wondering if somehow Bonnie had snuck into my world, peeked into my soul and then recorded what she found there.

As I progressed through Part One: Being the Beloved, I found myself highlighting even more – and hoping against hope that it was possible for me to fully embrace my true identity as one named Beloved, and delighted in, by my Maker.
After the events of late-2016, I felt rubbed raw, wounded, and wrecked…feeling beloved would take a major shift in perspective.
Because, let’s be honest – when the list of Hard Things that happen to you is long and heart-rending, *victim* is what you can end up feeling way more than *beloved*.
Or is that just me?

Friend, here’s the truth each of us has to choose to face: *Victim* is easy…almost a default setting that the enemy of our souls wants us to live from.
To stay in.
If we’re stuck in *victim*, there’s not much chance we’ll be able to embrace being anyone’s *beloved*…not even God’s.
*Beloved* takes some intentionality…some purpose.
Especially when things feel hard.
Betrayal. Change. Loss.

But, friend, Beloved is the truth.
Your truth.
And mine.
No matter what last year looked like.
No matter what this year is shaping up to be.
And if, like me, you need a soul-full guide on your journey to embrace that identity, please gift yourself a copy of Whispers of Rest.
It’s a forty-day journey towards hope and healing.
Like Bonnie says, ‘A lot can happen in forty days. A new rhythm. A new heart. It’s about finding your spark again. To be the Beloved. Just as you are.’

It’s a journey toward rest that’s shaking my world.
It’s a journey that’s changing me.
Restoring. Refreshing. Redeeming. Reclaiming.
I’m guessing it’s a journey your soul needs, too.

WOR just as you are.png

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RELAX :: a blog series :: four

relax adjust

{Every Tuesday this month, we’re meeting here to pull apart the word RELAX. To lean into it. To learn ways we can practice it in a very real way. And what better time than the hectic holidays to get some rubber-meets-the-road experience with it?! I’m glad you’re here…it’s so much better to work through things like this in the company of kindreds like you. It’s week four already…hard to believe, isn’t it?}

So.
The last three weeks have found us engaged in the practices of RELEASing, EMBRACing, and LAUGHing.
How are you doing?
Feeling more RELAXed yet?
(Is that a loaded question this week of Christmas?)

I’m going to be honest with you.
When I woke up this morning, I felt anything but RELAXed.
Some biggish things on my To Do List got carried over from yesterday. The things that were placed on today’s List are things I’d rather not do. And, to illustrate the point of just how far behind the 8-ball I am, let me confess here and now that my Christmas tree doesn’t have a single decoration on it. If it wouldn’t have come pre-lit, it would be a giant, dark, looming visual of my dismal scatteredness as the holidays approach.
I’m not a Grinch…I’m just a little out a balance.

And that’s why I’m grateful we’re here, looking at the A in RELAX.
Because, right now, I really, really need to practice ADJUSTing.
Maybe you do, too?

Let’s get at it…

After we’ve LAUGHed, we have to have the courage to ADJUST the things in our power that can be ADJUSTed.
If you’re anything like me, your first question is probably ‘Okay, but what are some of those things?’
Here’s my best multi-point answer…

We can ADJUST our suppositions.
Our expectations.
We really need to RELEASE them because, when we do, we make room for grace. For ourselves and for others.
Honestly, aside from practicing these pieces of RELAXing, practicing letting go of expectations has been one of the most liberating choices I’ve ever made.
I don’t know what that looks like for you, but you do.
Let. Them. Go.
And see if you don’t experience a new sense of RELAXation.

Next, we can ADJUST our schedules.
Make sure to leave some flexibility in your line items, because margin allows room for the unexpected.
And we all know that The Unexpected isn’t really all that unexpected after all, is it?
I mean, maybe the particulars of the wrenches that get thrown into our schedules vary wildly, but the fact that there are wrenches isn’t a big surprise, right?
Even the word margin magically breathes hope into my frazzled edges this morning.
And here’s a big paradigm-shifting bit of brilliance from Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com that can become an ADJUSTment mantra: ‘Choose to do less and savor life more. Busyness does not equal Godliness.’

Here’s the next area we can ADJUST — our surroundings.
We all know that clutter breeds stress and chaos.
And those things are definitely antiRELAXing.
Think about this…what is your home’s mission?
Does its condition match that mission?
One of the best books I’ve ever read on home, decor, and ADJUSTing how I approach those things is The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith.

Another key thing that brings us benefits from ADJUSTing is our stance.
Our opinion.
Oh, man. I could on for days about this one.
I’m thinking that neither you nor I have time for that today.
So let me just say this…
Not everything needs to be black and white.
Gripping our assumptions and judgements so tightly that they almost choke out is pretty much the direct opposite of RELAXing.
And it’s exhausting.
How do I know this?
Let’s just say that if there was a support group for people who are too opinionated, my weary family would have dragged me, kicking and screaming, to every meeting.
I’m happy to say I’m a recovering My Opinion is the Only Opinion addict, and I’ve found that ADJUSTing all those Black and Whites has made a lot more room for grace in my life.

Finally, let’s ADJUST our sight.
Our perspective.
Glennon Doyle Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior, introduced me to a great term that has helped me ADJUST the way I see things. She reminds us to put on our perspectacles.
You know.
Those glasses that help us see the bright side of things, people, situations that might normally cause us to clench, contract, and convict.
When ADJUST our perspectacles, we see things with new eyes, in new ways, and we can RELAX.
For real and for true.
Try it.

When I look at Scripture (as I often do, to make sure that when God says He’s ‘been there, done that’, He really has, so then I can just RELAX about whatever has my undies in a bunch) I find that there is a pretty long list of those who have gone before me who’ve been called to ADJUST…Moses had to ADJUST to so. many. things. – being raised in a culture that wasn’t his own, being called by God to confront Pharaoh at age 80, leading Israel through the wilderness for 40 years. And more. Jonah was given a choice of ADJUSTing or being digested by a whale. Paul not only ADJUSTed his name. He ADJUSTed his entire way of life in order to walk in the calling placed on his life.
I don’t pretend to say that any of these Bible greats ADJUSTed so they could RELAX, just so we’re clear.
I just think it’s awesome to look back and see that the practice of ADJUSTing is as old as time.
There’s a certain comfort in that, don’t you think?

Now, back to that out-of-control list of mine…
I’m going to sit down with a fresh piece of paper and ADJUST it, keeping in mind the need to RELEASE expectations, find some margin in my schedule, tidy my desk, allow for other’s thoughts and feelings, and put on my perspectacles.
And then I’m going to RELAX.
And allow myself to have a Merry Christmas.

Friend, that’s my wish for you, too.
RELEASE, EMBRACE, LAUGH, and ADJUST so you can RELAX and enjoy these precious days with your precious people.
And we’ll meet back here next week to look at the X

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RELAX :: a blog series :: three

relax laugh

{Every Tuesday this month, we’re meeting here to pull apart the word RELAX. To lean into it. To learn ways we can practice it in a very real way. And what better time than the hectic holidays to get some rubber-meets-the-road experience with it?! I’m glad you’re here…it’s so much better to work through things like this in the company of kindreds like you. Ready for this third week? It’s a fun one. I promise.}

Let’s get really real with each other here for a minute, okay?
The first two letters of RELAX – the RELEASE and the EMBRACE – have the propensity to be pretty heavy. To feel a bit challenging. To stretch us in ways that leave us feeling a bit stiff and sore in the soul.
Or is that just me?

If it’s not just me, feeling all kinds of achy and arthritic after spending the last two weeks RELEASing and EMBRACing, and you’re ready for something a little lighter…a little more fun to lean into…you’re going to love what the L in RELAX stands for.

Once you’ve RELEASEd the things that are heavy and no longer serving you, and you’ve EMBRACEd all that’s going on around and inside of you, it’s time to LAUGH.

LAUGH at yourself.
LAUGH at whatever situation you find yourself in.
LAUGH to keep from crying on those days when that’s all that’s left.

LAUGHter.
Seems sort of easy on the face of it, right?
Or maybe a bit simplistic?
I hear you.
But, friend, this is where I want to take your face gently in my hands, get real close, and whisper that it’s often in the middle of the mess that the humor is hiding.

Get quiet for a minute.
And let that sink in..
Sit with it.
Hold hands with it like a long-lost friend, if it’s been too many days since you’ve let anything tickle your funny bone.

It’s true…
LAUGHter is a big part of RELAXing.
And it’s so worth it.
Even if we sometimes have to hunt for it.

I found myself doing some Humor Hunting of my own during the my year-long chemo regimen five years ago.
And I found it in DVR’d episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Jimmy doesn’t do it for you?
That’s okay.
There’s lots of funny television to choose from, whether you watch network, cable, satellite, or a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu.
On the computer, you can head to YouTube and Facebook. (There are lots of cats videos on both, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
On your smartphone, you can use an app like Vine.
If you’re into Real Life (*wink), try your good friends.
What’s better than LAUGHing till you cry with sweet kindreds?

Wherever you search, make sure you find a reason to LAUGH as many times a day as possible.
Because there are Actual Physical Benefits that LAUGHter brings.
Physiological aspects that make LAUGHing a huge part of RELAXing.

According to MayoClinic.com, LAUGHter’s short-term benefits include:
     +Stimulation of many organs…LAUGHing enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air; stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles; and increases the endorphins released by your brain.
     +Activation and relief of the stress response…LAUGHter fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a good, relaxed feeling.
     +Tension soothing…When you LAUGH, your circulation is stimulated and your muscles RELAX, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

There are long-term effects of LAUGHter, too:
     +Improvement of the immune system…Positive thoughts (the kind that prompt LAUGHter) actually release neuropeptides that help you fight stress and, potentially, more serious illnesses. Unlike negative thoughts, which manifest into chemical reactions that can affect the body by bringing more stress in and decreasing immunity.
     +Pain relief…LAUGHing eases pain by causing your body to produce its own natural painkillers. It breaks the pain-spasm cycle that is common to some muscle disorders.
     +Increase in personal satisfaction…LAUGHter makes it easier to cope with difficult situations, and helps you foster connection with others.
     +Mood improvement…LAUGHing lessens depression and anxiety and makes you feel happier.

Yeah, maybe all these scientific reasons for LAUGHing don’t have you rolling on the floor, grabbing your sides, tears streaming down your face.
Me either, honestly.
But it seems that knowing all the good LAUGHter does can help us look for it when things feel heavy or dark or even hopeless.
Besides, I bet all my left-brain friends reading this just eat that stuff up, don’t you? *wink
I can sum all that science up – and even twist a phrase in the process – LAUGH. It does your body good.

One of my favorite authors, Holley Gerth, says, LAUGHter is our soul’s way of saying ‘I surrender to being human.’’ Isn’t that an awesome, lightness-of-being way to frame a good chuckle or guffaw?
I sure think so.

Last but definitely not least, I found the word LAUGH 38 times in the NIV version of the Bible.
You guys, it’s even in the book of Job a few times.
And, if you think you have a long list of good reasons not to LAUGH, I’d encourage you to compare your list with his. (**Spoiler alert: His list beats yours every time.**)

So this week, dear ones, as you continue to practice the RELEASE and EMBRACE parts of RELAXing, carve out some serious time to LAUGH.

LAUGH until your stomach hurts.
LAUGH until you pee your pants.
Then, once you’ve changed into something a little drier, see if you’re not just a little more RELAXed.

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Fear Makes You Flaky

There are a few things in this life that I know for sure.
The number of things I have yet to figure out far outweigh them, if I’m honest.
So, when I stumble onto something that I can put in the ‘I Know This’ column, I get pretty excited.
Don’t you?

Here’s one of those things…
(and I’m none too proud that it’s taken me this long to get clear on it)

Fear makes you flaky.

Flaky, so we’re clear, is defined this way:
~forming or tending to form flakes, or thin, crisp fragments
~tending to peel off or break easily into flakes
~tending to break apart into small, thin, flat pieces

I don’t know about you, but those very literal definitions resonate with me.

When I let fear dictate my decisions (like not attending a party because I’m sure I’ll look a fool or not going to church because the ‘Let’s take a minute and shake hands and greet one another’ time makes me certain I’ll faint or not saying hello to an acquaintance when I’m out and about because I’m sure-beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt that I’ll say something stupid), I end up in thin, crisp fragments, breaking easily, and finding myself in a pile of small, thin. flat pieces.

Admitting these specific fears always garners me quizzical raised eyebrows from most of the dear souls I get brave enough to share them with.
In response, I hear such things as. ‘But you’re so good at small talk.’ ‘You seem so confident.’ ‘I would have never guessed you were scared.’

The truth is that I suffer from bouts of profuse Flop Sweat in most social situations.
I can even fog up my glasses and feel sweat rolling down my back while on a ‘normal’, ‘simple’ phone call.
It’s the weirdest thing.
And I’m doing everything I know to do to get a handle on it.

One of those ways is to acknowledge the truth that Fear Makes You Flaky.
And who, in their right mind, wants to be flaky?

Let’s dig a little deeper for a minute…
One of the definitions of ‘flaky’ at Urbandictionary.com is this:
~An unreliable person. A procrastinator. A careless or lazy person. Dishonest and doesn’t keep to their word. They’ll tell you they’re going to do one thing, and never do it. They’ll tell you that they’ll meet you somewhere, and show up an hour late or don’t show up at all.
(Just so we’re clear, I know that Urbandictionary.com is like the Wikipedia of words…with definitions provided by regular, everyday people…)

When I look at that particular definition, I see all kinds of things I don’t want to be.
But things that I know I’ve been.
And still am, some days.
Things I want to be done being.

And then I wonder, How?
How do I stop being so worried about how I’ll come off so that I can be focused on the PEOPLE around me?
How do I stop letting the voices in my head that tell me they’re sure no one likes me to crowd out the voices of the ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS telling me their stories?
How do I stop letting fear call the shots?

I think the answers to those questions lie in Simple Things…
Get to know – really know – what God says about me.
Embrace – really embrace – who He says I am.
Rest – really rest – in His love.

For so many years, I’ve known those answers.
Known them in my head.
I’ve just had the hardest time integrating them into my life, my heart, my being.
It’s a process, though, I’m sure.
And, like all processes, there will be steps forward and steps back.
Hopefully the forward motion exceeds the backward over time.

As I’m stumbling toward practicing those answers, there are a few practical things I’ve thought of that may just help…
~Show up, no matter how much Flop Sweat is happening.
~Ask good questions, then listen. Really listen.
~Get out of my head, where the Fear lives.
~Accept that not everyone is going to like me.
~Trust the unfolding of any given situation.
~Relax about having to ‘perform.’
~Know that others may be feeling just as nervous.
~Focus attention on the people around me.

I’d like to tell you that I can instantly recall all of those things in the heat of a social situation.
And that they always make a dent in the Fear.
But I’d be lying.

I can tell you, though, that I have hope in this, despite the quaking of my knees…
As I re-record with Truth the tapes that have played loudly in my head for most of my life, I believe the fear will dissipate.

And, in time, I’ll be less flaky.

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July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day TwentyTwo

I was laying in bed the other morning, trying to get my mind around the fact that it has really and truly been FIVE YEARS since they found the cancer that changed everything.

Yes.
Cancer changed everything.
My day-to-day.
My vocabulary.
My body.
My family.
My emotions.
My address.
My faith.
My friendships.
My views.
My dreams.
My goals.
My marriage.

Big anniversaries are weird like that, aren’t they?
When you’re in the middle of time passing, it feels a bit like walking in setting concrete.
But when you find yourself standing on the eve of a Big Anniversary, you can’t fathom how the days and years could have ended up in the rear view mirror so darn quickly.

Because things change.
All those things I listed – and then some.
They change.

Whether it’s an anniversary of a gain or one of a loss, the Change part of the equation is a given.
Especially when Big Things happen.
And we change with them.

For better or for worse?
That depends on whether we embrace the changes or run from them.
It’s both great AND terrible that we get to choose.
I pray we have the courage to choose well.
xo

~~~~~

August 13, 2013 (from my CaringBridge journal)
These days and weeks of ‘anniversaries’ ~ from the finding of cancer on July 23, 2010 to the start of chemo on November 8, 2010, and all the accompanying testing, surgeries, office visits, etc, in between ~ are proving to be quite emotionally unpredictable and roller-coaster-y for me.

Even three years later.

I guess grieving is like this.

But, boy, is it uncomfortable.

And strangely familiar.

Three years ago today, I underwent the stereotactic biopsy that confirmed the cancer that has changed the course of my life. It was the oddest, scariest, weirdest, MOST PAINFUL experience I’d had.

And, today, three years later, I am struggling.

With emotions I cannot seem to name.

Feelings I cannot seem to tame.

You’d think, after three years, that I wouldn’t be surprised. That I wouldn’t be taken off guard. That I’d be accustomed to the fact that grieving is unpredictable. That I’d at least have words, names, and strategies when emotions and feelings and memories like these pop up.

You’d think, maybe, that I’d be ‘over it’ ‘by now’.

You’d think.

But not so much.

Grieving is an odd, yet very common, thing. I’m learning more about it. And I am fascinated by the emotional and physiological effects it causes.

Grieving, in my experience, is a fluid thing. Sometimes, it’s like a flood, rising and spilling into places that are normally dry. Sometimes, it evaporates like the drips that end up on my stainless steel sink when no one wipes them up, leaving a telltale ring. Sometimes, it’s more of a gentle rain, soaking in slowly and {almost} refreshing. Sometimes, it rushes in like a tidal wave, knocking the very breath from your lungs and forcing you to squeeze shut your eyes.

Today, if I’m honest, it’s somewhere between a flood and a tidal wave.

I don’t remember if last August 13 had the same feel.

And I cannot predict next August 13.

In the interest of self-care amidst today’s grieving, I am allowing and acknowledging the feelings, even if I can’t name them. I am writing here. I will write – or draw – in my journal. I will let my body and my mind rest. If the tears fall, I will let them. I will not attach judgement to them. I will know that all is well.

And tomorrow, I will attend the funeral of a cancer friend who was so young, so full of life, so determined to beat this thing when last I saw her that my mind cannot seem to grasp the fact that she is gone Home. There is a grieving around that, too. And a gratitude for the short time that I knew her.

Gratitude and grieving.

Big, heavy things.

Even three years later.

We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad.
~John Green

**If you think of it, please pray for the family and friends of my friend who is with Jesus now. She left behind a husband and a very young son and many, many people who loved her and who are now just beginning this journey of grieving. Thank you!

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July 20101 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day TwentyOne

Places of Expansion.

I’ve experienced them in the physical (carrying four BIG babies and going from mastectomied-chest to reconstructed chest), in the emotional (meeting and loving a new baby every two years and parenting four girls through elementary, middle, and high school), and in the spiritual (working to forgive myself and others and learning to find God in things like a difficult marriage and cancer).

When I think about it, I have to admit not all of those expansions were super-comfortable to go through…even when the end results (babies, boobies, graduations, anniversaries, etc) were ultimately positive.
And redemptive.

Growing pains.

I remember the summer between my sixth grade and seventh grade years.
I grew SEVEN INCHES in those three months.
And, let me tell you, those pains in my bones were crazy-awful.
I can still remember them.
Almost like it was yesterday.
But I’m glad I went through them.
They are the reason I’m 5’11” today.
And even though it hurt, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I like being tall.

So here’s what I’ve come to…
I’m not sure we can get to Places of Expansion without going through Growing Pains.
Whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, though, when we can lean into the pain, there’s a good chance we’ll come out on the other side stretched, sculpted, shaped in ways that honor the incredible, miraculous genius with which we were created.

Doesn’t that sound wonderfully expansive?

~~~~~

February 2, 2013
‘My Cups Runneth Over’
{Ok, so I cracked myself up when I thought of the perfect title for this update. I mean, for real.}

In all the Not-So-Clear PET Scan / Questionable Ultrasound / Necessary Follow-Up CT Scan Business of the past several weeks, the Reconstruction Process and all its hilarity and travails kind of took a backseat here in my Journal the last few months. Understandably so, if I must say. From my vantage point, anyway.

But, now that the Happy News Phone Call is a brilliant, shiny, magnificent part of my history, it’s time to get back to the FrankenBooby Saga, don’t you think? There must be some Inquiring Minds among you, right? *For those squeamish souls who would rather not read on, suffice it to say that all is proceeding well in the reVamping of my Chestal Area. Don’t worry. It won’t hurt my feelings a bit if you choose to stop reading. Just know that you will miss out on some pretty funny-as-long-as-they’re-happening-to-someone-else happenings I’m going to share in the next paragraphs. *wink

Over the past few months, I’ve had weekly get-togethers with Cyndy (the plastic surgeon’s nurse practitioner), gi-normous needles, huge saline-filled syringes, ‘stud-finders’, and really attractive (note the sarcasm here) hospital-ish gowns that ‘open in the front.’ (For the record, in my case, that’s not much better than the ones that ‘open in the back’…I am not a fan of meeting myself coming OR going in those darn things!) After each appointment, I have had to pop some ibuprofen to manage the bit of discomfort that apparently comes with the territory when one is sprouting new TaTas. And I have alternately felt like one of those laboratory mice used to grow human ears (on their backs! Really! Google it!) and a pubescent girl in fast forward. Oh, and a Barbie Doll. (I’ll get into that in just a second…) My arms, having not had a chest to contend with these last 2 years, are slowly becoming accustomed to these ‘growths’ that can sometimes get in the way. It really is quite an experience.

This week, I got to see the plastic surgeon as it was time for him to assess how many more fills I would need before getting to the Holding Pattern stage of this whole deal. (That stage lasts 2-4 months, so that the skin and pectoral muscles that are being stretched by the expanders have time to achieve their stretchiest stretch.) Cyndy thought he’d say three more would be needed, but he surprised us both and set the Number of Fills Remaining at two. Cyndy got to use the ‘stud-finder’ before I left the office that day to administer the second-to-last one. Next week will be my final meeting with those gi-normous syringes. I have to say that I am going to miss chatting with Cyndy, but I will NOT miss those Weapons of Mass Inflation!

Here are some fascinating things related to all this Getting A Matched Set stuff:

~The expanders themselves are made of a silicone shell.They are 550cc expanders.
~I currently have 700cc in each expander. *This is where feeling like a Barbie Doll comes in. Would that I could claim her more shapely figure, her cute wardrobe, her seemingly endless list of successful careers, her fab homes, cars, motor coaches…alas, it is her hard plastic chest that I find myself possessing. I guess when you over-fill expanders, they get kinda solid. Youch.
~I will spend almost four months with a total of 750cc’s in each of these 550cc expanders. My surgery date is set for June 6, just after Dina’s graduation and a special trip to South Dakota with my mom’s side of the family.
~It is super odd to get ‘charlie horses’ near one’s sternum from the stretching of areas that maybe weren’t originally designed to be stretched like so much Silly Putty.
~I am starting to understand the brave souls who’ve walked this Reconstruction Path before me who told me that it can get pretty uncomfortable. Let’s just say that trying to get comfortable while sleeping with a couple mini boulders perched on one’s chest isn’t the dreamiest challenge.
~I’m told the implants themselves are worlds apart from the expanders as far as comfort, feeling more natural, etc. I sure hope that’s the case!

So you see, my cups really DO runneth over! Presently 150cc’s over, to be exact. And, all joking aside, I am grateful to be in this place. This Place of Expansion. There are deep metaphors that rumble about when I put it like that. Someday, I will explore them here.

For now, I’m going to find the bottle of ibuprofen and warm up my heat pack. The ‘Girls’ are getting a little achy.

Life finds its purpose and fulfillment in the expansion of happiness. ~Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

…thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. ~Psalm 23:5b

(Pictured are the Gi-Normous Syringes, Stud-Finder, and Purple Marker.)
(from my CaringBridge journal)

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July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day Twenty

Before I wrote this piece in my CaringBridge journal, I always thought that if I had peace in the middle of something, I’d be calm, cool, collected, even comfortable. And when I didn’t experience those feelings, I worried that I wasn’t doing that Trusting Thing right enough. Like if I really trusted that all was truly being worked out for my good, it would be evident in my ability to be relaxed. Chill. Breathing deep and sitting pretty.

For me, believing that actually added to the pressure I felt.
Which turned out to always be the opposite of peace.
And it compounded the strain caused by whatever thing brought the original upset.

I wonder if maybe you can relate.

Let’s be real…sometimes the upsets are big…scary…horrible…soul-shaking.
They rattle our cages and shake our foundations.
Peace can be pretty hard to find in that kind of tremor.

From the time God offered me the image of a butterfly as an example of what peace could look like, I’ve been able to be kind to myself during the times when calming jangling nerves and quieting turbulent thoughts seems all but impossible. I’ve been able to remind myself that sometimes peace – that desire to trust in the unfolding and just be – will look a bit fluttery. I’ve been able to lean in and accept the flitting as peace like a butterfly.

I hope you’ll find peace like a butterfly today, too, friend.

~~~~~

January 21, 2013
{A quick update here – to serve as kind of a Memory Aid for me, later, when all of this has been relegated to the fuzzy and distant past.}

I have butterflies today.

Not the kind I’d expect. Not where I’d expect them to be. And not at all related to conscious worry. (Although, there could be a smidge of worry deep down…just sayin’.)

I’ve spent much of the day, flitting from one thing to the next, not quite able to focus or complete any task, thought, or sentence even. And it was about 2 o’clock when I think I kind of realized what was going on…

I have butterflies today.

The kind that cause your brain to flit and flutter from one thought, idea, plan to the next, not in any order, not with any sense of purpose, not landing any place for more than the tiniest of moments.

Distracted. Unfocused. Fragmented.

And I think it’s because of the CT scan that is scheduled for tomorrow. (*An abdominal scan has been added to the chest one originally ordered to check that reactive lymph node due to a pain I’ve had in my right side for the last month or so.) The Six Week Wait has actually gone by rather quickly and January 22 is about to arrive.

Tomorrow could be another Line of Demarcation. Or it could just be another day.

But not really.

Not just another day.

Because, if nothing shows up (indicating that All is Well), it can’t just be another day.

It will be a Day to Celebrate.

And if something does show up, it will be a Line of Demarcation.

But, if that happens, it will also be a day to remember the importance of hanging onto the words God whispered to me in that changing room over two years ago…They are going to find something, but you are going to be ok.

Hanging onto those words can make even a Day of Demarcation a Day to Celebrate, if you allow yourself think of it in terms of faith, hope, expectancy.

I don’t know if butterflies accomplish anything each time they land on something. I don’t know if they are really as jumpy as they appear. I don’t know if they realize how beautifully crazy they look in their flighty-ness.

Maybe, in spite of all their flitting and fluttering, they are peaceful. Doing what they do. What comes naturally to them.

In that sense, I can be peaceful today, too. Peaceful like a butterfly.

Doing what I do.

What comes naturally to me.

And, today, that looks like a whole lot of flitting and fluttering.

I was walking as best I could in the light of previous revelation. ~Neil T Anderson

Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine. ~Jeffrey Glassberg

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July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day Nineteen

Waiting.

Who chooses that particular state of being on purpose?
Doesn’t it mostly feel foisted upon us when we feel least adequate to handle it with any kind of grace?
Isn’t it sorta maddening to find ourselves at the whim of some mysterious, unseen calendar?

But sometimes, no matter how we try to plan it, construct it, reason it, organize it, life is all about that Hurry Up And Wait thing.

And then there are other times when another message comes through loud and clear.
One that can be just as disconcerting as Holding-Pattern Waiting.
One that can be just as frightening, frustrating, and fatiguing as Just-Stay-Right-Here Waiting.
One that can be just as rock-in-your-shoe irritating as Don’t-Look-For-the-Map Waiting.

That other message?
It’s the one that tells you the wait is over.
That now is the time to act.
To move.
To risk.

It’s when that message is on repeat in my life that I engage in conversations with God that look an awful lot like this…
‘Um. I’m sure You don’t mean NOW. Right?!’
‘Yeah. About that. I think You have me confused with someone who is ready.’
‘Sorry. What was that? You want me to do something? But what? And how?’
‘Okay, but not until You make it clear that I have figured out the next step.’

Can you relate?

Here are a few things (in no particular order) I’m finding about being moved out of the Waiting into the Doing…
#1 – I don’t have to have all the answers right away.
#2 – Trusting the unfolding is especially important.
#3 – I’m going to get some of the Doing wrong.
#4 – There is no guarantee of success. Only guarantees of growth.
#5 – I have to let go of my fear about what other people will think.
#6 – The moving forward will not always be smooth. Or pretty.
#7 – I need to allow time for rest, even in the Doing.
#8 – Telling myself to breathe deep goes a long way in managing stress.
#9 – I can always ask for help.
#10 – There will be community built along the way.

We’ll all face periods of Waiting mixed with spaces of time when Doing is priority.
And we all have the incredibly power-filled choice to decide how we will show up in those times.
So, whether you’re in the Waiting or the Doing right now, take a big, deep breath and choose well.
I’m cheering you on.

~~~~~

December 30, 2012 (from my CaringBridge journal)
The last several days, if I’m honest, I feel like I’ve been held together with spit and feathers. In other words, tears have flooded my eyes frequently, my cheeks have been marked with many a tear track, my nose is a little red and raw from all the snot-blowing, and there have been some sleepless snippets of nighttime spent silently trying to quiet some not-so-comforting thoughts.

I tend not to be a cry-er. And I feel like I do at least a passable job of remembering to turn things over to God and not entertain too much worry at any given time. (Even if that means repeated turning over. *wink)

So this Spit and Feathers thing feels super uncomfortable to me. And I wonder if it’s just part and parcel of this thing we are all faced with from time to time: Waiting.

Here’s a sampling of what I’m learning, in the Waiting:

In the Waiting, I’m learning that it’s best just to let the tears come. (As long as I’m not in line at the store or somewhere else public. *gasp!) Stan is not scared away by them (at least not any more than any other man *wink, again) And the girls can learn that tears are not something to be embarrassed about, from their place on the sidelines. Plus, if I stuff the tears and keep them inside, they only serve to intensify that Coming-Apart-At-The-Seams feeling.

In the Waiting, I’m learning that it’s ok to cry out to God, asking for comfort. Life isn’t safe. And He never promised it would be. But He did promise to never leave or forsake me. Or you. And just because the sleepless snippets of nighttime are silent doesn’t mean God is.

In the Waiting, I’m learning that Spit and Feathers holding me together are enough for now. Because now isn’t forever. It’s just now. And, even though it’s not always comfortable, it is what it is. For now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crazy about waiting. And not just for tests and test results. I’m just not that good with it in any circumstance. It takes patience. And grace. And trust. And faith. And some level of creativity to occupy myself – to busy my mind and hands – so that worry doesn’t creep in and take over.

Patience. Grace. Trust. Faith. Creativity. All things I work on. All things I’d like to say I’ve mastered. Ultimately, all things I desperately need more of.

As 2012 comes to a close and the New Year peeks – bright, shiny, and full-of-promise – around the corner, I’m hanging on to as many of God’s promises as I can get my hands (and heart) around. Mostly the one about hope and a future (Jer 29:10-12 and Prov 23:18). And the one about all things working together for good (Rom 8:28). But He’s lead me to a lot more in the last couple days, too. Good stuff.

Happy, happy New Year to you and all of yours. As it arrives and unfolds, may you find in each day gifts and blessings and promises kept from the One who loves you, holds you, guides you, and sustains you. In the Waiting, and otherwise. *smile

If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine. ~ Morris West

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July 2010 – July 2015 :: A Cancer Survivor’s Retrospective :: Day Eighteen

Soul spirals.
Those times when, despite your best, bravest efforts, you feel your heart and spirit being dragged down a whirling vortex of worries, a funnel cloud of frustrations, a tumult of troubles.
Ever have a day like that?
I’m here to tell you I can totally relate.
I can find myself tumbling at the slightest click of a trigger.
To make matters worse, I am a champion Kitchen Sink-er, too.
You know, when the thing that has your spirit gray and soggy follows you around like the little cloud Winnie the Pooh’s pal Eeyore drags with him…and then you think of EVERY OTHER REASON YOU SHOULD BE FEELING BAD…so you proceed to catalog and inventory EVERY LITTLE THING till you get to the Kitchen Sink…and you figure it CAN’T GET MUCH WORSE so you toss that Sink in there, too.
Isn’t that just thow we do?
(Tell me I’m not alone in this.)

What do you and I need most on days like that?
How do we stop the spiral?

Perspective.
It really is all about how we see those things that threaten to leave our souls tossed and turned and twisted, if you ask me.
One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, combines a couple words to paint a great word picture that illustrates the way we see is often more important that what we see…
Perspective + Spectacles = Perspectacles
Isn’t that awesome?

So there’s some hope for us Kitchen Sink Spiralers, right?
It’s as simple – and as hard – as this…
We can choose which perspectacles to wear on any given day.

(On a side note, realizing that the perspectacles that others wear may not filter things exactly the same way ours do can go a long way in promoting understanding and grace in our relationships, don’t you think?)

~~~~~

December 13, 2012 (from my CaringBridge Journal)
I’d like to say I have definitive, positive, clear, concise info to share here regarding the results of the Right Pit Ultrasound I had on Tuesday. I’d like to say that, but I can’t. At least, not yet.

Dr Reynolds’ nurse called Tuesday afternoon with the news that the radiologist’s report concluded there is a ‘hyper-avid lymph node that is reactive and possibly structurally suspicious’ and, instead of having a repeat ultrasound in 3 months, I’m slotted to have a chest CT scan in 6 weeks. My understanding at this point is that they think it’s likely nothing (and quite possibly due to the trauma from the mastectomy/expander placement and the angry histamine reaction I had to that bovine bit) but are uncertain enough that it warrants closer follow-up than originally planned.

It’s pretty much an inconclusive conclusion and that means more unknowns.

And, honestly, it’s taken me these two days to process the emotions that began cascading after I hung up from the nurse’s call. All the resiliency, all the positivity, all the faith, all the belief, all the stamina, all the hope — I felt like it was all draining out of me and pooling in a mud-colored puddle that quickly became ankle-deep and threatened to solidify like so much quick-set cement. It didn’t feel fair that #1 – the damn PET scan WASN’T CLEAR and #2 – the frickin’ follow-up ultrasound only CREATED MORE UNKNOWNS. (Pardon my blue language.)

As I felt my heart start its spiral downward, it was like the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz, minus the famous music…all the ‘reasons’ I had to throw the Biggest Pity Party In History whizzed past my mind’s eye: I had been diagnosed with cancer, I am still waiting for all the different systems in my body that went wonky from the 52 weeks of chemo to come back online, I had to leave a job I really liked, money is tighter than it would be if I still brought home a paycheck, my creativity had disappeared in the years of battling health issues, my girls have missed out on so many of the Fun Mom things I used to do but haven’t been able to for so long, the empty walls of my house that mock me because I haven’t allotted energy to hang things, the dirty toilets (and showers and tubs and counters and mirrors and floors and appliances, etc..) that scream ‘FAILURE!’ at me when the day ends and I have spent my energy for the day on something other than cleaning, the broken relationships and betrayals that have become mile markers along the way and the worry that I’ll never figure out the ins-and-outs of healthy interaction, the fears of never finding my new self and/or a new normal in all of this…sheesh, I think I even spotted the kitchen sink in the milieu!

Please, tell me I’m not alone in this. That we all spiral, with everything but the kitchen sink swirling pathetically around our heads and hearts. That sometimes the trigger is a phone call, lack of sleep, snotty kids, or even just low blood sugar. It sure would be good to know I’m not alone. Because I sure felt a tad crazy in the middle of it.

And then, this morning, I woke up super early in a darkened bedroom with the yummy Gerard Butler yelling something like ‘This is Sparta!’ over and over again as part of a dance remix (no, it wasn’t a waking nightmare…just the alarm sound on my phone *smile) and I realized that the darkness inside my heart had lifted a little. in His mercy, God showed me that each of those Poor Me’s had an answer, and those answers made up my very own Yellow Brick Road…yes, I’d been diagnosed with cancer AND THANK GOD THEY CAUGHT IT EARLY! I do have some wonky systems after all that chemo AND THAT CHEMO SAVED MY LIFE! I miss my job AND SOMEDAY, WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT, I’LL FIND ANOTHER FULFILLING VOCATION! Money is tight AND WE STILL HAVE ALL WE NEED AND A GOD WHO IS FAITHFUL IN PROVISION! I feel stifled creatively AND ALL I HAVE TO DO IS ONE LITTLE THING EACH DAY TO NURTURE IT BACK TO VIBRANCY! My girls have missed out on some things AND I STILL HAVE THAT FUN MOM-NESS AT MY CORE, READY TO BLESS THEM! The walls are empty AND I CAN ASK MY HELPFUL HUBBY TO HANG A FEW THINGS AT A TIME WITH ME! I do hear ‘Failure!’ when I look around at the grime and dust bunnies AND I CAN MASTER THE ‘LICK AND A PROMISE’ METHOD UNTIL I HAVE BUILT UP STAMINA TO CLEAN LIKE I MEAN IT! The pain of the broken relationships and betrayals is real AND I CAN KEEP TURNING THE HURT OVER TO THE ONE WHO INTIMATELY KNOWS THAT PAIN! I do worry about being able to figure out healthy interaction AND I CAN PRAY FOR DISCERNMENT AND TRUST GOD WITH THE UNFOLDING! Finding and defining my new self and this new normal is overwhelming AND I CAN ACCEPT THAT I DON’T HAVE TO GET IT ALL RIGHT ALL THE TIME – IT’S A PROCESS! And as far as that darn kitchen sink, I CAN DO MY BEST TO LEAVE IT RIGHT WHERE IT IS – IN THE KITCHEN! *wink

I am so thankful to have found this Yellow Brick Road! Especially in light of the fact that the unknowns surrounding the hyper-avid node can sometimes feel an awful lot like walking through a forest of Talking Trees or being carried away by the Wicked Witch of the West’s Flying Monkeys.

My chest CT is scheduled for January 22. I am going to pray for the strength and hope to get through these next few weeks with an abundance of faith and joy and that sweet peace that passes understanding. I’ll pray the same for you in the midst of your holidays, too, ok?

All you have to do is know where you’re going. The answers will come to you of their own accord. ~Earl Nightingale

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