Living in the Dark

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 

If I say “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light becomes night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:7-12

My grandma was one of the great women in my life. I loved staying at her house. 

Once I got older, there was a spare room in the back of my grandparents house that I would sleep in. That room was pitch black at night. I remember holding my hand up in front of my face and I couldn’t even see it. I strained my eyes to catch even a glimpse of the outline of my hand but I couldn’t see it. 

Life can feel like that sometimes, straining in the dark to see something, to see anything. This past year has felt that way.  It has been hard to even find the outline of the things that have been familiar in my life. In that dark, spare bedroom my hand still existed even though I couldn’t see it in front of me. And still there are many things that still exist in front of me today, even though I haven’t been able to see them lately. 

Up until now I would fight the darkness. I would hustle as much as I could to get out of it and back into the light. It hasn’t been that easy this time around. So, I am learning how to settle in. 

You see, I believe the common denominator in many of us is we walk through dark times ashamed and alone. We think we have to hide it, pretend we are okay when we are not. Survive it so we can get back to life again. I recently read this quote from Ann Voskamp and it resonated with me: “Not one thing in life is more important than figuring out how to live in the face of unspoken pain.”

How do we learn to live in the dark? How do we learn to live in the face of unspoken pain?

I believe it could be about flipping a switch. Instead of striving to get out as quickly as we can, we embrace it. The darkness isn’t permanent, it is temporary and it has something to teach us.

God is in the darkness. 

You just have to look closely. Just because you can’t see his hand doesn’t mean his hand is not there. God is everywhere which means he is in the darkness with you and He is in the darkness with me. 

We are familiar with this rhythm in creation. The sun sets and darkness falls. The sun rises, bringing the light of a new day. But, we resist this rhythm in our lives, always wanting to live in the daylight.

Does God only exist during the day, then? Is he only real when the sun is up and we can see clearly. No. God exists at night too. God exists in the dark. 

But, somehow we are led to believe that God only exists in the good and he can’t be a part of the bad or the hard. Why would a good God do that? 

“Who knows why God allows heartbreak but the answer must be important enough because God allows His heart to break too.” AV

I’ve been reading about the life of David in the Bible. He wrote Psalm 139 and had every reason to write something like that. His story is filled with disappointment, betrayal, unfairness but yet he knew that when he had no one else to turn to, God was there. He had proven himself to be there for David time and time again and David trusted in him. 

There was nothing that could separate him from God. Because of that trust, the darkness felt like light. It didn’t mean David was not in the dark, it meant that the very presence of God made the darkness livable for him. He surrendered to the dark. The darkness could have been the place where his greatness was born. Maybe the reason that he is mentioned in the age old Scriptures is because he learned how to exist in the dark, with God. 

While we wait in the dark, God can build something new. It’s a time of surrender. Wounds and heartache can produce surrender but surrender is a choice.

Surrender is about acceptance. It’s about openness and awareness. It’s realizing that each experience can be a lesson, an opportunity, a place to create something new. A space to be made new. It’s an acceptance that pain is a part of life. At some point in our life we have to face darkness. Will we sit in the darkness to allow that darkness to become the catalyst for change, for growth, for new beginnings? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m learning to live in the dark and in that place, I am finding hope because I have found God there.

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photocred:@mollyvandeman

Bruises

Bruises hurt to be touched. They exist in all of us. Ignored or festered, we get to decide what to do with them. Sometimes we have to guard them and protect them. Sometimes we need to feel them because without acknowledgement they won’t heal.

The question is when? When do we dive in to understand what hurts and why. I’m not sure if that is up to us or if the bruises let us know when they can actually be felt, understood and allowed to heal.  

The one year anniversary of my diagnosis has come and gone. It crept up on me like the wave that I didn’t expect, crashing on the shore and sweeping me away with it. I couldn’t stop it, I didn’t understand it, but I felt overwhelmed by it.

The grief took me back in time. I felt the emotions of a year ago fresh again. The unthinkable happened to me. My body betrayed me, believing I had done everything in my power to prevent breast cancer had betrayed me.

The second time is harder than the first. I can’t bring back what has been lost. I have to build something new.

This is the hard part of feeling, of sorting, of learning to control my thoughts that want to run wild with fear. It is an uncomfortable feeling; understanding and seeing.  Relearning how to exist post cancer. Asking myself the hard questions. I keep walking, keep dealing, keep working towards healing.

Sometimes that’s the most important work of our lives, rebuilding when something has been shattered. I think sometimes we ignore the rebuilding part.

Maybe it’s because it can be the hardest part. It takes the most patience with ourselves and the most understanding of ourselves. When it’s time to rebuild it forces us to deal with the bruises.  

Maybe there are things about me and things about God that I will only understand if I keep believing when I don’t see. Isn’t that faith anyway, believing when you cannot see? Is he important enough? Do I choose to believe he is there instead of relying on my feelings to decide that? How short sided of me to only believe God is good when I feel good.

I am acutely aware that I am not promised tomorrow. Fighting cancer twice does that.

Allow me to be the friend in your life that encourages you to let those bruises be felt. You have it in you to be brave, to encounter them and begin the process of healing. We don’t have to limp for the rest of our lives. 

So, what do you do when you don’t feel God?  When you know he is there because he said he would be, but all the ways you have felt him before come up short and empty.

The question must be asked, If I don’t feel him, what do I believe about him? God has not ceased to exist. His generosity towards us has not changed. Our pain is the entry point for his grace and healing over our lives. He tells us in Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

What hurts? Why? What do you believe about those hurts, those devastations? What is true about them? What is not true about them?

We could stay busy and distracted, never allowing the bruises to be felt. But, if we do that, all the tenderness in us will be kept under wraps. What a cheated way to live, unable to truly connect with others and most importantly unable to connect with God.

A protected bruise can be healed, a shattered heart can be restored. If it feels like it can’t happen, it can. We just have to pass through the pain first and then be patient with the process.

We have to feel the bruises and know what they are before we can heal from them. 

 Cancer treatment is something you survive. It feels like it takes and it takes until there is nothing left to take. Stripped of control, of my health and my identity, I couldn’t see much beyond the grief of what felt lost, even though it was saving my life. I wanted to and I tried, but I couldn’t see through it. Not yet.


But like the sun dissipates the fog, the warmth of God’s grace over my life is dissipating the loss. It started with the bruises, feeling the bruises. How I rebuild from here matters. It matters for me, it matters for the people in my life that I love. It matters.

I can’t do it on my own. I’m trusting in a God who loves me, who has been here with me every step of the way. He will do it with me. This is my promise. 

“So do not fear. For I am with you. I will strengthen you and help you.” Isaiah 41:10

photo cred: ktconing

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Julie

Julie and her granddaughter Lily’s authored book

I believe self sufficiency is a stealer.

It’s a stealer of connection, of trust, of surrender, of freedom. When we can problem solve every scenario for ourselves we block our ability to trust others, to include others in our challenges. Most importantly, we block our ability to include God in our life. Self sufficiency allows us to place ourselves in a position we should never be in, a selfish and limiting one that lets us be addicted to control. It makes us believe we have full control over our outcomes, our circumstances when we really don’t.

If you want to allow others into your life, you cannot feed self sufficiency. If you want God to be a part of your life, you cannot feed self sufficiency.  If you want to practice facing difficult things with resiliency, you cannot feed self sufficiency.

We have created the illusion that the faster and more effective we are in solving our own problems, the more effective we are as a human being. 
When cancer becomes a part of your life, there is no place for self sufficiency. I cannot treat my cancer, I have no idea how to do that. There is no way for me to be self sufficient right now. I want to live and I am dependent on my medical team to help me accomplish that. I listen to what they recommend and I do it, as uncomfortable as it can be sometimes. The motivation is strong, I want to be here and I can’t do that by myself.

The truth is, we don’t have as much control as we think we do and there is peace in accepting that. It isn’t raising the white flag and giving up. It’s holding your hands out and receiving in.

This became so clear to me on a cool, fall day that I spent with my friend Julie.

Every conversation, every moment feels precious. Julie has been given a timeline.

She doesn’t have the luxury of planning ahead. Breast cancer has visited her again and this time the doctors are shaking their head, experimenting with treatment in hopes to buy her as much time as they can. Unexpected, unwanted plans for her life. Dreams unrealized, hopes unmet, she lives in a space where she has little control. Julie, as long as I have known her, has been an energetic, capable, life giving woman. She cannot fix her circumstance but she can fix her focus and that is what she is doing. 


“I’m focused on my legacy. I want my kids and my grandkids to know that I love them. I want them to have good memories with me. Most of all, I want to point them to Jesus. I believe in getting the best care, but ultimately God’s in charge of what happens. I’m walking by faith. I want the reliance I have on God to be seen. It’s all about my relationship with God.”  

“Decide what is important,” she told me, “and don’t worry about the little things. Don’t worry what people will think of you. It is all about your relationship with God.”  


“We don’t have control. You can have all the spreadsheets in the world with your plans on them and one conversation happens and it all goes out the window.” She said as she described the plans she and her husband Doug had for their life that are no longer in their grasp. 
Julie knows that the greatest gift anyone could ever receive is knowing God. Knowing His peace, His calm, His comfort.  Let Julie be an example to us all, and as life unfolds in front of us may we open our hands and hearts to what it brings. When it brings us something we do not want or understand, may we resist the urge to be self sufficient but instead open ourselves to receive all that is around us. 

“I want as much time as I can with my family. I believe God chose me to work a miracle. Really, I do. Ultimately, I am not afraid whenever the end comes and I’m looking forward to meeting Jesus in heaven. I want to point people to Him at the end, whenever that is.”
Julie Chitwood September 2020

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Open my eyes

Living in the unexpected can be hard, but also good. It lets you see things differently than you would have before. The last 2 months have been hard. It’s the in between part where I don’t know where I fit. Am I still a cancer patient? How do I enter into “normal” life again when I feel so different than I was before? 

 The last two months have forced me to ask myself hard questions so I can better understand what is happening on the inside of me.  

When I went for my last chemotherapy treatment, my oncologist said “now that we are through this phase the next year will be about survivorship.” I had no idea what she was really talking about then. That word in itself holds so much meaning for me now. There is a piece of it that is very practical for my medical care plan, but the word itself. 

Survivorship. It represents the battles I have fought, the pain I have suffered, the losses I have experienced. I have been fighting hard for something, and that something is my life.

All those things make me a survivor. There are battle scars from that. I can’t snap my fingers and have life be what it was before and there is no fast forward button for any of this. 

In the book of Mark chapter 10 in the Bible there is a story of a man named Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who was used to existing on the side of the road. He heard Jesus and a crowd pass by as Jesus was on his way out of Jericho. He cried out “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” He didn’t just meekly ask for a life changing experience from Jesus. He persisted and wouldn’t give up asking and believed it could be done. Everyone around him shushed him. They had no value for this man.  Most likely he had been ignored for years there on the side of the road. His blindness crippling his life. 

Jesus stops and says “Call him”. Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, probably one of the few things he owned, and jumped up. Someone had noticed him and it was Jesus, the one he had been waiting for. Jesus begins the conversation by asking “What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asks, he doesn’t tell. Bartimaeus responded with confidence “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go”, says Jesus, “your faith has healed you. Immediately he received his sight and began to follow Jesus along the road.  No longer was he sitting while everyone else passed by him. He was now on a journey himself, because he could see. 

 In one of my counseling sessions a few years ago, my counselor kindly asked, “What do you want Katie?” I couldn’t answer her question.  I had become so distracted by everyone else around me and pleasing them, that I had lost myself, my agency. I think I had also fallen into a trap of believing that being acutely aware of what I wanted meant I might be selfish. I realized that day the value of understanding myself.

Understanding what is going on with me isn’t being selfish. Being aware of these things is a kindness to me and those around me. It stops me from guessing and stops them from guessing with me. 

Maybe I’ve been going through life blind; mostly blind to myself. If I were asked what I want Jesus to do for me, I would agree with Bartimaeus and say, open my eyes so that I can see. Let me see everything you placed inside of me and around me. Let me honor you by nurturing those things and expressing them just as you planned. I want to see everything, everything I’m missing. Don’t let me walk through life blind, sitting on the side of the road. I don’t want to choose not to see because it’s too painful.

Jesus says to you and to me. “What do you want me to do for you?” This isn’t about a new car, new job or a better status. It’s about the real you, the things that matter, the person that you are becoming. The way you operate in the world. In what way can Jesus open our blind eyes to see?

This may require us to look straight into our brokenness and into the darker places of who we are. It may require a willingness to stop ignoring them, to stop being blind to them and actually have the courage to pass through them. This process is called transformation.

Without transformation we stay the same. The perceptions that have helped us before are no longer helpful for what is in front of us. We have to shed those old beliefs and ways of thinking that allow us to protect ourselves, that relentlessly cover up the sacred person that we are. It can be one of the scariest things we do. Allowing who we really are to be visible for others to see and accept or reject. 

I don’t have just  one chance to call out for Jesus by the side of the road as he passes by. He is a heartbeat and a prayer away. This phase of my cancer journey is filled with more questions than answers right now. I like to have answers, I like to have a plan because it makes me feel secure. Neither exist for me today.  I could force those things, but I don’t want to. The process of transformation is too valuable to me. I want to heal and that healing comes from seeing. Open my eyes so that I can see.

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Later I will understand

When you are fighting for your life, nothing feels the same. I want it to feel the same, but it doesn’t. I keep looking for the woman I used to be and I can’t find her. Broken open and raw – a new version of me is forming.

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
John 13:7
 
These are the words of Jesus. They were meant for Peter but they jumped off the page and spoke directly to me.

I know the story of Peter. At the time of this conversation with Jesus, he couldn’t have predicted what was in front of him. He was at the Last Supper and Jesus was washing his feet. Peter was hours away from losing the one person he had given everything up for. Hours away from denying 3 times the one person who had changed his life forever. Hours away from tragedy.

As he denied Jesus and then lost him to an unthinkable death, he may not have recognized himself any longer. He may have felt lost without Jesus. How was this terrible ending possible?

 Sometimes we think tragedy is the end. But, I’m starting to believe it can be a beginning.

Jesus knew what Peter did not. Just as Jesus knew his death was not the end and he would return, he also knew Peter’s denial was not his end. Peter would become a spokesperson and stand up for who Jesus was and what Jesus did like no one else. It wasn’t an ending, it was actually a beginning.

In the middle of the tragedy Peter would not know he was weeks away from a defining moment recorded in Acts 2. Little did he know what Jesus knew. Peter would change the world.
 
Sometimes I feel lost with this cancer diagnosis not knowing exactly how to push forward with my life. I look at Peter and when all seemed lost, something new was born. Maybe something new will be born for me. Maybe something will be born for you.

I think the relief is in the acceptance of what life is now, not looking back to how it used to be. It’s trusting that in time I will realize this was a beginning and not an end.

I can’t rely on things I did before to bring comfort. They don’t work anymore. I am not Peter, but I am a person that God loves. I believe in God’s ability to recover what feels lost to me. To make this time in my life a springboard for something new.
He can do that.
 
I do not realize now what He is doing, but later I will understand.

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Tiny Pieces


“You must be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces. For nothing on the itinerary will happen as you expect.”
-Annie Porter Johnson

When I found this quote, I hung onto it for comfort. I can relate. Nothing has turned out as I expected in more ways than one. How do I reconcile that? When life takes turns and twists that you didn’t plan for and you don’t really want. 

Tiny pieces, my hopes and my plans for this time in my life are laying on the floor in tiny pieces that I can’t put back together. I am in a place I didn’t think was possible. I did the surgeries, lived a healthy lifestyle and took all the steps to avoid breast cancer. It still happened despite my efforts. I am not in control. 

Here is where I find my peace. I believe in God. I believe He is good and I believe He loves me and I trust that. That trust was born during my first battle with cancer when I was wrestling with my own mortality. That’s when He became very real to me. Believing in Him has made my life complete, even in difficult times, I am complete. So, I made a choice early on after I was diagnosed for the second time with cancer to not focus on the why. Mostly because I can only use my imagination to make guesses about that and I can’t see any benefit to spending time on something I will never have the answer to. What I can focus on is how I am going to get through cancer treatment. I have complete control over that. It is hard, but I believe how we do hard things matter. 

I have been focusing on this verse in the Bible that talks about God’s role in my life.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.” Psalm 138:7a,8

 We search and we look for outward miracles. We pray for them and hope for them and that’s okay. How often do we search for and pray for the inner miracles? The ones that change the course of our lives, the ones that help us trust more, the ones that teach us how to truly love and care for the people in our lives. The inner miracles that leave us more humble and more effective.

Let the tiny pieces stay on the floor so the miracles can happen.

 I love people and love investing in them, I love leading them and I love friendship.  For some reason  there can be a small voice in my head telling me that I am not enough. Through this experience I have been surrounded by people who have lifted me up, cheered me on and helped me every step of the way through this battle. This process has shown me that I am loved back and I am enough.
For me, that is a miracle. Feeling love and care from others has been a healing balm, it’s a salve to the soul. There are not enough words to describe the endless texts, cards, meals, gifts and time people have given my family and I.
For the last 30 days of my chemotherapy treatment a different friend/family came to our home every night with a sign cheering me on, helping us countdown the days to my last treatment with words of encouragement. Their daily visits lifted my tired heart and body while I waited for the end to come.  And, it did come and I survived chemotherapy for the second time in my life. It was the thing I needed that I didn’t know I needed. 

My mom always used to say “people are more important than things.” She repeated that phrase to me time and time again while she was raising me. I’ve always believed that to be true, but I believe it to the depths of my being after this experience.  It’s the people you have in your life that help define who you are, not the things. And because of that, I am rich in this life.

“Hope is like stars – unseen in the sunshine of prosperity and only discovered during a night of adversity” -Charles H. Sprurgeon

The people in my life have been my hope in the dark. 
I sit still with my old plan in pieces and I wait in expectation for God to fulfill His purpose for me. Being still can be hard when we ache to move. Moving feels like we are doing something, accomplishing something. Staying still can feel like shame because it may seem like we aren’t doing anything. When in fact, we may be doing some of the most important work of our lives. Staying still can be the place where hope blooms and where light is shed in the dark.
Leave the pieces on the floor and let the miracles begin. 

Select the link below to view the 30 day countdown video
https://youtu.be/2WdhYH1gHNk

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It’s Okay to Cry

As I got into my friend’s car, I could feel the tears coming. We hadn’t even said a word yet, but I could feel it. It’s a new thing for me these days, not really knowing when I will cry.  I think it’s because I feel loss right now. They say when you are fighting cancer you go through the stages of grief and I feel myself doing that. 

My friend listened as I talked and cried on our way to my appointment.  I kept saying “I don’t know why I’m crying.” At one point, she said “Does it really matter?” And I realized it really didn’t matter. I didn’t need to analyze it, I just needed to let it happen.  We talked about my family and how complicated it feels having cancer this time.  The first time, I wasn’t married, I wasn’t a mom. It was just me that I had to worry about each day.  It is so different having cancer for the second time with a family. I really don’t know how to do this sometimes.  How do I manage how I am feeling and coping? How do I share it with my husband and my kids?  

That’s the thing I think I realized that day in my friend’s car as we were talking.

Maybe I don’t need to help them through it. Maybe I just need to let them walk beside me through it. 

She asked me, “do your kids see your cry?” Good question, because I was shielding them from that.  She reminded me of how difficult life can be sometimes and this is an opportunity for my kids to see what it looks like to walk through something hard. There are days that you need to cry. There will be days that they will need to cry in life.

 As we arrived at the cancer clinic, I think the nurse I had was an angel assigned to me from God.  She looked me in the eye when I sat down in the chair for my infusion, and she simply asked “how are you feeling today, Katie?” You can imagine what happened next. I was tired physically and emotionally. She listened and comforted me.  At the end of my appointment she had some words of wisdom. She talked about walking beside many women battling cancer and some of her own struggles.  She brought up going through hard things with your kids.  And she asked “do your kids ever see you cry?” Whoa, I was getting the message that day.  She said almost the exact same things my friend said on the way to my appointment.  Okay, God I am listening. 

I believe very often that’s how God works.  He cares about the details of our lives and if we will listen, he will guide us and direct us through people he places in our path. I was so thankful that day for the parenting nugget I now had. And, it all started because I cried first. I was vulnerable and open to hear. 

That’s the place I find myself in a lot these days. Vulnerable and open to hear, open to learn, open to see. 

What matters most? What in front of me is truly important? Who in front of me is truly important? What are some of my hang ups? 

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in the book of Psalms, written by King David.

Psalm 25:4-5  “Show me your ways, O Lord teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.” God is personal with us and will teach us if we let him. That’s amazing to me. He cares enough to simply provide the wisdom I needed for that moment in that day. That was not an accident.  My hope doesn’t have to be in myself or my circumstances. It can be in him…all day and every day.

I changed my approach with my kids after that day. Soon after, I let the tears fall in front of them.  It was amazing to see them surround me, open up with me and encourage me in one conversation.  I felt really proud of my kids, because they handled it just fine and I believe it made us closer through that open, real moment we shared about getting through cancer treatment together. Because that is what we are doing, getting through this together. 

Being a parent is wonderful and complicated at the same time. I find myself having to pivot, learn and adjust a lot when I’m not fighting cancer. Now, that I am in the midst of the battle, my parenting has taken a new twist.  It’s more about sharing time together, learning how to walk through hard times together, learning how to work more as a unit to get through the day. It’s allowing areas of our life to be developed and to grow.  I see us becoming stronger. I’m seeing new qualities in my kids through this that I love and am so proud of.

It’s okay to cry. 

Crying gets you where you need to be sometimes. Friends get you where you need to be sometimes. God keeps you where you need to be sometimes.

Staying Home

Never did I ever imagine this scenario.  Chemotherapy accompanied by a worldwide pandemic.  I’m sure I asked the questions everyone asked themselves, what does this mean for me? As we learned more it became clear, I would be staying home for a while. My body is using everything it has to allow the chemotherapy to do its job. The feelings of navigating cancer treatment and the COVID-19 threat are intimidating.  Here I am juggling both, learning from both. I think staying home is saving my life in more ways than one. It’s interesting what happens when you are forced to totally stop. This is something I believe we all now understand together.

Has there ever been a time in history when we have aligned ourselves to collectively accomplish a goal?  The goal – don’t get sick, protect your loved ones, protect strangers, protect. Life has stopped so we can protect.  Do we all feel what staying home is actually doing for us?  It’s uniting us. This pandemic is causing us to step outside the box to think differently, to act differently.  Its impact is global as it brings all walks of life, all races together to do what we can to overcome.

For once we understand one another, we are each making choices to protect one another. We are staying home together. We are realizing our capacity when faced with a new and extremely challenging situation.  People who would normally polarize and separate from one another are working together.  All for one purpose; to preserve life.

This is the ultimate opportunity to usher in a better way of being and a better way of doing for each and every one of us.

Are we brave and bold enough to change our behavior when we aren’t staying home any longer, when 24/7 opens up to us again? My prayer is we don’t go back to how it used to be. We can get stuck wishing everything to be the same. 

I don’t think we should wish for the same, I think we should wish for better.

 Better families, better citizens, better friends, better co-workers.  Just better by being more innovative and creative in our approach to life.  What we are fighting against is scary but it will be over.  When it’s over, then what? I hope our ‘then what’ is a more thoughtful, more intentional approach to each and every day.

I have thought about all the families that are affected and I want you to know my heart beats for you. It beats for you because what you are doing and what you are building is more important than most things in life.  My hope for you is that you feel the sacredness of what you are building and you resolve to fight for your family. Fight for time together, meals together, games together, projects together, just being together more.  

Parents, when we are at the end of this and so many other things are calling for your attention, fight for your family.

I hope we have more awareness of continuing this attitude of unity. I hope it helps us see time as a valuable resource and give our time to things that are worthy of it, not wasteful of it.

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Taking the Stairs

I had never wanted to skip the elevator and take the stairs more in my life. I needed to move. I could not endure pushing the button, standing still to wait, or the awkward elevator ride with strangers. Everything inside wanted to scream “No, this is not happening to me for the 2nd time.” I couldn’t take the elevator that day.
I was leaving an appointment, a conversation with a doctor about cancer.

I have cancer.
Again. For the 2nd time in my life. Cancer 2.0.
“How could this happen?” I kept tearfully asking the doctor. Each time she found a new way to explain it. But, I wasn’t really asking for an explanation, it just seemed truly unbelievable to me with all the steps (I mean hard, difficult right steps to prevent this very moment from ever happening in my life) to hear the words “you have cancer”. Somehow, it happened. I couldn’t prevent it. I did not have the control I had wanted to have and that felt scary. My life would not be my own for a little while. I knew this well.
How do I even do this? When life is sweet with a beautiful family, and so much to hope for ahead. How do I do this?

Sometimes we can’t take the elevator and we have to take the stairs. In life.

The stairs maybe aren’t our first choice. Stairs are more work and it’s hard. I’m taking the stairs in life right now. Could you possibly be doing the same? The stairs don’t have to be cancer for you.
Hopelessness, depression, anxiety, loss of a loved one, financial difficulty, a lost marriage, a sick child or parent, relational pain, loneliness – It is hard not to be fearful when we lose control.

The truth is, what we always control is our response. Our response is the only thing we can own sometimes. It’s the something we can do something about.

Even in the pain of it all, could we start to see some good? Could the stairs actually make us better?

Maybe the stairs will make us more brave, more loving, more strong, more authentic, more determined, more empathetic? Could they help us notice some things we’ve been missing before? Could the stairs work out some things inside us, for the better?

And for the fear, we are not alone. We have a God who created us and loves us. He brings order to chaos and purpose to the pain.
I believe he never intended for us to do life on earth without him. Never. It’s too hard.
Are you weary from the stairs?
“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”
Psalm 34:18. This verse from the Bible has been true in my life. He is close when I am broken-hearted. He walks the stairs with me when I invite him to do so. He is a gentleman. He does not force himself on us. We choose him and he is there.

I found myself taking the stairs every time for every visit after that. It somehow felt like I was working something out on my way up and letting something go on my way down. The stairs became my friend.

Maybe these stairs of cancer are doing some needed work.

Forcing me to slow down. Giving me more time with my husband, my kids, my friends and my family. Even in the pain I’m starting to see some good. I could not at first, but I remembered, I have spent years training myself to see gratitude, always look for the good in the hard stuff. It’s time to use that. It helps. I have 82 more days on the stairs. We will see where they lead me. I’m pretty sure I’m moving up and a better version of me is forming. That’s the fight; that’s the win.

A perspective on life, family and fighting cancer for the second time

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