sacred

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“For the biblical way is not so much to present us with a moral code and tell us, “Live up to this,” nor is it to set out a system of doctrine and say, “Think like this and you will live well.”  The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, “Live into this.  This is what it looks like to be human; this is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.”  We do violence to the biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it” -Eugene Peterson


 

Where do you begin with something you’re not sure when exactly, or where, it even began to grow?  The more I step forward, the further back in myself I recognize beginnings wanting to grow, questions wanting to be asked.  I’ve been facing a lot of questions about God, church and, as a people, our relationships with both of these.  I’ve been wrestling with what I’ve been taught and what my heart and eyes have become opened to.  In attempting to answer questions, I have ten more in place of each original.  But I am welcoming it.  I feel more awake in this universe and on this earth and alive in communion with God than before.  As I have thought this over, I believe this active wrestling match began somewhere in the four to five years ago when J was going through treatment.  I experienced God and my relationship with God in a way I never had before.  J’s diagnosis and treatment, by leaps and bounds, has been the most life  shattering and painful event I had, and have, yet to experience.  As the years have moved on since J’s treatment I have experienced a tremendous amount of change, growth, and awakening in my personal life.  It hasn’t been and continues to not be easy.

When one walks through such suffering, as I did with J, we really have just a few basic choices about how we will move forward.  Because we have to keep moving forward; that is just the laws of the world we live in.  We can’t halt time, to give ourselves a way out of what we face.  So our choices really are:  am I going to feel this suffering; am I going to create the space in myself to feel this pain, to let it move through me, so that I can move through this period of suffering in my life?  Or am I going to fight the suffering?  Am I going to resist the pain and not give it space?  Will I, in essence, instead of creating space for this pain to pass, will I attempt to stuff it into a compartment, where I don’t have to deal with it so directly?  Yet in doing so, I will continue to carry the pain and suffering with myself, instead of letting it pass through and move on.  And pain doesn’t move through us without leaving scars.  Just as a rushing river carves its path over time into rock and landscape by wearing away at the edges, so we are shaped from suffering we have experienced.  But it doesn’t have to be jagged, sharp edges like rocks demolished by explosion.  It can leave softened and smooth edges, like the polished stones pulled from the edges of a riverbed.  This carving and wearing away exposes what was beneath the surface.

That period of suffering and pain grew me.  It woke me up.  Not immediately.  But with gentle timeliness.  To stand back and look at the length of J’s fight with cancer as a whole, I would not say that I was consumed with anxiety.  There were many times when I agonized decisions we had to make regarding J’s care.  None of the moments of pain were in any way easy, but I see that in feeling the pain and allowing God space to be in my pain with me, by not asking Him to remove my pain but allowing Him inside of my suffering, all of this pain has indeed passed through me and it is how I am able to now live each day not consumed with worry of J’s health.  There are moments of pause, anxiety and concern, but not a consuming.  All of this is to say: this painful, suffering period in my life wore away my rocky surface that was resistant to change.  The parts that were afraid to ask the questions and believe something different.  That were afraid to be uncomfortable by stepping out into the unknown.  It is in these moments of being unsure that we are able to see new things, or see old things a new way.

I have been awakening to who I believe God truly is, how he wants to interact with us and have us live with and interact with him and each other.  And in all of this growth and change it’s been difficult to find a comfortable place to rest within church walls.  In awakening, I find myself so excited about the new things I am experiencing and seeing, the old things don’t look or feel the same anymore and it can be challenging to find how to fit all of the puzzle pieces together.  Amidst all of this has been a growing dis-rest inside of me for how things are growing and changing within the church, our church.  How do I preserve the tradition of going to church and being in church community that I cherish and reconcile church to all of the new parts of God I have discovered?   I have found myself in a completely different place than I have been before.  I find myself in a place where I don’t know the path I should, or want, to take.  Change of this magnitude isn’t comfortable.

We have been attending the same church for twelve years.  It has always been much larger than any church I have previously attended.  Also in the past four to five years, this church has been expanding, growing, and changing.  Some have been timely, wonderful changes.  And some of the changes feel wrought with growing pains; they do not look like what I am searching for.  All of them are done with the best of intention and heart, but I have come to realize that, perhaps, the direction the church is growing and the direction that I am growing are not really the same direction.  And I have been coming to realize recently that it is okay, and that it is okay that it’s okay with me that we be growing in different directions.

I struggle through this process.  Growing up, we attended church most Sundays.  We were taught in the traditional, Western Christian way of living and thinking.  Thinking outside of this mold feels exhilarating and scary at the same time.  But it has challenged me, and I welcome that.  In my struggling, I have become open to trying something different.  I have attended a couple short services at a small, local Episcopalian church.  (I think it may be the first time I have set foot in an Episcopalian church.)  It is an evening, candle-lit service where there is no message, just a few readings and hymns sung by a choir in the balcony behind where the people sit.  The moment I walked in I fell in love.  There were wooden pews, like I grew up with.  The light was soft and atmosphere hushed.  But more than all of this beautiful quietness and stillness was the palpable sacredness that hung in the air.  It was like stepping into God.  The people sitting in those pews were holding God in this holy place in a way that I have not experienced for a long time.  It almost brought tears to my eyes for the beauty of it.  This is something of what I have been missing in my church.  The sacred space we make for God in our lives.  A carving out of our time and our selves to sit in quietness, to sit in stillness, to still in the presence of God, yet in community together as well.  Creating and dwelling in a sacred space together.

Sacred is defined as: connected with God; regarded with great respect and reverence.  For me, the way church has grown to feel like a large production has forced the reverent sacredness out.  The simple ways to connect to God feel complicated and just too big, too full of noise.  All of the bigness, all of the attempts to appeal to the masses and catch people with relevancy has like a vacuum chamber, sucked the sacredness out connecting with God.  There is no way to talk about God and not have it be relevant, not have it be current, not have it be modern.  God is in every single thing.  We cannot look around us and not be seeing a part of Him.  We don’t need to attract people to God.  He is already in us.  We just need to be awoken to that.  We need to wake up to God all around us.

The latin roots of sacred are: sacer meaning holy, sacrer meaning to crown;  in middle English it is: sacre meaning to consecrate.  I have been missing in my community of church this crowning of holiness.  Where the space we create in all being together feels consecrated.  Where in our wrestling of issues openly, in our asking of the difficult and hard questions, in our seeing things in a new way and differently from each other, we usher in the sacredness of God.  How can that exist and not be holy?


“It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you be appealing to your religious convictions.” -Rob Bell


What Bell says here blows open the doors of Western Christianity and challenges us to “live into this” like Eugene Peterson said in the first quote of this post.  The Bible is not so much a set of rules for us to follow, as it is a book of examples of ways people have tried, some successfully and some unsuccessfully to “live into this.”  It is the history of God’s people discovering Him, trying their best to follow Him.  It is God meeting humans in the places right where they are at and leading them into something better with Himself.  Into a sacred, holy relationship with Him where religious convictions aren’t needed.  But a sacred space, created within our lives, to let God be alive and working within us, this is what I need.  This is where I am journeying.  This is the direction I walk.  Into the sacred.

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Word.

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New year.  New year’s resolutions.  The trendy thing to do currently, instead of a resolution, is to pick a word for the upcoming year.  One word that represents and signifies something you want to work on.  Something you want to embody or become more of.  Something you feel you are lacking and want to integrate into your life.  Maybe this won’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me personally, but I often tend to want to buck the system and do my own thing.  If a trendy word is the new “new year’s resolution” then I don’t want anything to do with that.  No trendy “words” for me.  To be truthful I had a couple internal eye rolls when people around me were talking about it.  Heart check: rude.  I really don’t know why I felt this way about it, but after mulling it around for a while I realized that what my friends and people around me were talking about was inspiring them to be better people in a much simpler way.  This was their daily memo, if you will, to remember to work toward embodying this word.  If this one little word could be something that is focused on, instead of a notion that because it’s a new year suddenly I really am going to eat better and lose weight or whatever these new years resolutions are that rarely get followed through on (because, honestly, if you want to make a big change like that the new year rolling around isn’t going to make that choice more successful, dedication will make that choice successful), this word would serve as a simple reminder to each day, invite whatever meaning is behind your word, into each moment.

If your word is intention, each moment you could invite intention in and ask yourself – “What is my intention in this action, this decision, and is it what I really want?  Is it my best intention?”  If your word is present, each moment you could invite the present in and check yourself, “Am I being present in this moment?  And I fully here?  Am I living right now or am I living somewhere else, the past or future?”  Maybe I was rolling my eyes as a internal defense because I had no word.  Not that I don’t have things I want to work on, things I want to improve, because believe me there is a long list of those.  But I couldn’t put all of them into one word.  I couldn’t reconcile them all together.  And it perhaps made me feel inadequate, because this is one of my internal struggles anyhow.  Inadequacy.  Never quite being enough.  So I worked through my feelings toward this “word” business and I didn’t think it was so meh anymore.  But I still didn’t have one.  And that was okay, I have so many words rolling around in my head and heart that maybe picking just one wasn’t for me.

And then, I sat down at my desk to write and publish a blog post.  It’s long been a desire of mine to be more a consistent blogger.  I have hopes that it will help establish some routine of writing and a greater dedication to writing in my life.  So, and yes, I do see the irony here, what better time to begin a routine of publishing, at least monthly, than in January.  Pretty little beginning of the year that it is.  This smells a lot like a resolution, I know.  Consider it a coincidence.  And the fact that I like things clean and in order.  Starting in January will give me a nice solid twelve posts for 2018.  So I sat down to write, not having a clear idea of what I was even going to write about.  Writers block.  Except, I said to myself, you need to be a consistent writer to have writers block.  I was lacking inspiration.  I found this quote in my notes and it jumped out at me.  Inspiration!  But for what I exactly, I found out once I started writing.


“It’s hard to know what’s  right in this life… We do what we can, but what we really need is mercy.”  -Cyra, Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth


I thought I would write about having mercy on ourselves.  And each other.  It’s hard to know what’s right.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do things right.  To be successful.  If we make a mistake or fail, to only make it once, because that should be enough.  Some mistakes should only take once, but some we make over and over.  If we can give ourselves mercy in the moments that follow, we can remind ourselves that next time we can catch ourselves before we’ve gone all the way.  Mercy is not a free ticket for the hurtful things we do or say, the mistakes we make; it is forgiveness for ourselves and those we share life with.  It is letting go of a hurt, a wrong, a shame without requiring a penance be paid.  Sometimes the natural consequences of a failure are penance enough.  Sometimes we don’t see a lot of natural consequence when others are involved and we are the one being hurt or disappointed but that’s where mercy steps in.  We don’t need to be the deliverer of justice: we might just need to hand out a little mercy and change some one’s life.  Have you ever been on the receiving end of great mercy?  It is such a humbling, loving experience.  It surpasses many great things that we can give to each other because it requires nothing in return.  Mercy is really purely love, given to ourselves or to each other, free of any obligations.  It is a great love that says, “I forgive you, I love you and I don’t need for you to suffer because I have been hurt.”  Mercy doesn’t need penance.  Mercy says, “we do what we can.  We try our best, knowing that we can’t always know what is right.  And when you stumble, I have already forgiven you your failure.”

So I did write about having mercy and what I think that looks like for me.  But in writing the first few paragraphs of this post and working through my aversion to a “word for the year,” it became clear to me, that above all the other words rolling around inside of me, mercy is the quiet one, the one that whispered, the one I want to hear the most.  Mercy for myself, when I don’t feel quite enough, when I hurt someone I love, when I fail.  And mercy for those around me when they don’t live up to my expectations.  Because those expectations, you know, those are mine.  Not theirs.  And mercy for those I love when I get hurt, when I am disappointed, when someone fails me.  So I guess 2018, you get a word. Mercy.

Becoming Her

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Church has been a steady part of my life since as far back as I can remember.  I grew up attending church most Sundays the majority of the time.  We would miss church if we were gone, but when we were home, my memories are of church on Sunday mornings.  After I married, D and I continued to go most Sundays and the tradition continued.  Through that many years, there is always hills and valleys but I have kept church attendance as a more constant than not presence in my life.  These past months, church has been hard.  It’s been hard before; church is made up of imperfect people trying to do their best and things will not always be how you would choose them to be; this time though it’s been more than that.  It’s been unsettled.  In it’s entirety church hasn’t felt right.  Yet, this experience has been so much more than just some feelings.  I have been waking up, seeing God in this whole new light and church as I’ve known it doesn’t look the same after opening my eyes.  I’ve struggled through many different feelings and questions that have accompanied this awakening.  I fought against not attending church, but would sit in my seat, completely detached from what was happening around me because of the internal struggle I was having.  I stepped back for a little bit and allowed myself a break from church.  I’ve prayed for God to release me if where I’ve been going to church isn’t where I should be, if it isn’t a healthy fit.

Release hasn’t come.  And I’m good with that.  But balance has.  This summer, in the middle of taking a break, attempting to figure this church thing out and whether or not being there was moving me forward, one particular Saturday I felt early on in the day that we should go to church.  I filed it away in my thoughts and semi-planned that I would take the kids later and go to the Saturday evening service.  As the day went on I began to feel like I really, in fact, did not want to go.  But the kids and I went anyhow.  Walking in and finding my seat, I was asking myself, “why are you even doing this?”  Yet, while the worship band was playing something happened during a song that made me realize – this is why I came to church today.  For this one song that evoked this moment and for what God was trying to show me in it.  He just needed me to be still for a while to be able to see it.

While I stood with my eyes closed singing, and then just listening to the music I saw this woman, dressed like Diana for battle.  (Yes, Wonder Woman Diana, and no I hadn’t watched to the new Wonder Woman movie yet so I feel quite certain I wasn’t being influenced by flights of fantasy brought on by a current viewing.)  She was purely strength and power.  Then I saw her standing on a battlefield, some type of army behind her, ready to face what was in front of her, without any doubt that she would prevail.  This opposition was spiritual, it was not her fellow mankind.  As the music rose around me in the church sanctuary, the opposition began to move forward and as she raised up her hands in front of her, palms facing forward, arms extended it was as if an invisible wall of power was brought up and the opposition could move no further.  This power wasn’t hers, it was God through her.  It was just a few moments that I stood, seeing this in my mind’s eye.  And when it was over, I realized that I saw myself in her.  I had this burning feeling that I have to become this woman.  She is who I’m meant to be.

Since this experience, I’ve thought through it numerous times.  I’ve looked at it from different angles to further interpret it.  I’ve attempted to fully understand it. I can’t and I don’t.  But I’m okay with that.  I will not deny the searing feeling I had inside myself that this is who I am meant to be.  I won’t ignore it.  I won’t write it off.  I choose to embrace it.  What does embracing it look like?  I don’t have a clear picture of that.  What I do have is the ability to take steps forward.  To listen to my heart and what it, what God are speaking to me.  Most of these things don’t look like the picture I have been taught to paint.  It looks like a fresh beginning, where God reveals my story and I don’t worry about what anyone else has told me it should look like.  I envision some parts to look like a battlefield because I will have to fight for them.  Some are barren because there are seasons of drought.  Some look like a jungle, exploding with growth and an abundance of life.  Some parts will be as snow gently falling, peacefully covering what has come to a close with stark, white, pure beauty.  Some are as joyous and warm as the sun on a fresh spring day.  It looks mostly like freedom.

It has been said that you begin to find yourself in your thirties.  I think it has something to do with moving past the twenties where you have been looking to find and secure your place in the world, not realizing that you have yet to find your true self.  I caught a glimpse,  I have the beginnings of an idea about what this girl might look like.  She realizes her validation, her identity is not in what others may think about her but who God tells her she is and who she desires to be.  She is strength.  She is truth and honesty.  She is full of empathy and kindness and a safe place to fall.  She is love.  I am working on becoming her.

Mother’s Day

“I thought I could love my children enough to push out all their insecurities.  In my heart I was hoping that the surety of my love would be enough for them to know how much they are valued.”  I told my friend this a couple months ago when I called her, crying and at my end because of a hurtful exchange between my son and I.  I was shocked and deeply hurt by what he said to me but I also was stopped short enough to really think hard about what was happening and why I was reacting the way I was.  In essence, what he said made me feel like he thought that I valued him less than my other children, less than my husband or myself.  His self-talk over the years has clued me in to pain that he carries, yet this felt like a big blow.  After talking through it with my friend and giving myself time, I spoke with H about it and we were able to understand where each other was coming from more.  But the exchange has stayed with me.

When I was able to put that hurt into those words I realized how desperately I want for my children not to struggle with insecurities like I have.  How in the deep of my heart there is this mama bear that fiercely wants to pave the way for them and see them through this life journey – see them walking confidently, with joy and courage and excitement for what is to come.  But all of that happening isn’t dependent on how much I love them.  It will come more from how I love them.  How I allow them the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.  To try things, to feel pain, to learn how to come back stronger from that pain.  To figure how who they are.  To feel validation in their struggles and in their insecurities.  To feel validated in every emotion they experience.

My friend reminded me to remember that our kids are not an extension of us.  They are their own separate person with their own set of experiences, emotions, and their own way of processing.  Their own view.  Their own response.  Some of this is shaped by us as parents but some of this is who they are.  I have to honor them as individuals.  I cannot control how they choose to respond and I have to stop letting their chosen response decide how I will respond and how I will move forward.  I am me.  I want the freedom to be me.  I need to be loved as me.  All my messy parts and all the together parts.  They need to be loved as they are, right where they are as well.

I want them to grow to be strong humans with a strong sense and confidence in who they are.  Controlling or attempting to control their response is not honoring of that goal.  I want them to know who they are, to love who they are, to be strong in who they are.   I can help them to get there by validating them in their emotions.  To be honest in my struggles.  To let them see my humanness, my short-comings, my quirks, my struggles and how I work to overcome and work toward change.  I need to meet them in their humanness, in their short-comings, in their quirks, in their struggles with love and mercy.  It is all I need in the face of mine.  When I have been loved, without stipulation, in the face of my short-comings, when I have been shown mercy in my failing, when I have been validated in the heat of my strong emotions, it is then that I have felt able and strong enough to be the real, true me.  To confidently stride into this world, knowing that I am enough just as I am.

Mama’s, be encouraged today.  When we are our open, honest, real, messy, true selves, when we allow ourselves that freedom, our children will benefit ten-fold by having that example set before them and the freedom from us to be that themselves.

 

Go Do It

The best thing you can do now is to finish what you started…and not let those good intentions grow stale.  Your heart’s been in the right place all along.  You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go do it.  

2 Corinthians 8:10,11

I love how direct Paul is in these verses.  I am finding I need that.  He’s not saying: Hey, you made a goal, you got started, take your time, you’ll get there.  Don’t push yourself.  No he’s saying: Don’t give up!  The best thing to do is keep on pushing – don’t let yourself down by procrastinating to the point where your goal feels old and stale, not worth it.  Your heart is in the right place by setting this intention – you can do it, so DO IT.

I have definite things in my life that I want to get better.  Things I want to work on, things I am working on.  It can be so easy for each day to pass by and not have been intentional about taking any steps forward in my goals.  Different goals have different things they require of us.  I have some physical goals I want to achieve: they require me to put in practice, physical effort.  I have some personal goals I want to work harder toward, things I feel God has given me to do.  This will take self-motivation, self-control to decide to spend my time on these things and not something else.  I have family things I want to be better – communication and understanding of each other, grace for each other.  This takes a different, almost harder, type of effort.  It’s emotional.  It requires me to look at myself hard – what do I need to change about myself so that I can be a better model to my kids of what I am hoping for?  It takes biting of the tongue.  It takes my time, invested in each kid, in my husband.  It may take things we have never tried before, things that feel uncomfortable.  It may take more than I think I have to give but I have to at least try.  I have to go do it.

Sometimes the things I want or even something God has placed on my heart may seem so insurmountable that instead of tackling it, I stand still, thinking about how am I ever going to get to that place, the end place?  The achievement place.  It’s really this though: mostly I cannot get anywhere without just beginning, go do it.  Somethings will have that end place and some will just keep growing; there isn’t an ending.  It’s the journey that will count more than ever reaching a conclusion.  That journey can seem so daunting when we concentrate on what we think the ending should be.  Or how perilous we think our travels might be.  But God tell us, “I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.  I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.” Isaiah 41:13

God is always here, ready to support us through each new challenge we tackle, and he places people in our lives to help us too.  Don’t try to do this thing alone.  A psalmist cried out, “Why pretend things are just fine with us?… Get up and come to our rescue.  If you love us so much, Help us!” Psalm 44:24,26  Be honest, be open; don’t hide your goals and keep them to yourself.  Don’t doubt what you are setting out to do, cry out to God for help and then open your eyes and see: who and what are the provisions that God has placed before you to help you.  He won’t have dropped them in your lap necessarily, he won’t start the thing for you, but he has provided a way and he has provided help.  You, me, us; we have to take the steps forward.  And we have to be stubbornly persistent with it.  Goals are achieved by implementing change.  Change comes by moving forward.  So go do it.

Facing Great Pain

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One of the hurts I have felt most acutely in my heart is the pain of feeling like I am failing as a parent.  Tremendously.  Those times when I am trying so hard to do this parent thing better; to be gentler yet firm in my stance, hoping to demonstrate the necessity of respect and obedience. Yet it all seems to crumble around me at my feet as I lose it.  I yell instead of sternly affirm what I am asking.  I lecture when all I intended was to call attention to behavior that is unacceptable.  Apologies are carelessly and spitefully thrown around the walls of our house when I’ve asked for heartfelt repentance.  Anger emanates from these humans who are part of me and I don’t know the root.  If I don’t know where the depth of it comes from, how can I help them learn how to feel anger yet not act uncontrolled upon it?  In those moments I can’t navigate the maze of emotions that is leading back to the root of all of this.  I’m lost in this sea.  Barely keeping my head above water.  The sharks circle; sharks of doubt, regret, uncertainty, failure.  How has it come to this?  How did the sweet babies I held tightly and whispered softly to come to the point where they speak to each other and to me like this?  Who are they?  Who am I?

In those heated, messy, emotional moments it’s so hard not feel like I’m drowning in defeat.  I feel like Paul in Romans 7:19 when he says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”  Instead of being the calm, reasonable, full of grace adult example of how to work through confrontation, difficult or unfair situations, and the emotions of others, I have invited my kids into my crazy and taught them the wrong way to react and behave.  It’s been so painful lately because I recognize the error in my ways, I am determining in my heart to work on my communication with my kids and still find myself failing.  It hurts!  I think it’s a natural human reaction to veer away from pain but I came across a quote that made me think that in this situation, perhaps meeting the pain head on is more the solution.


They are in great pain and that’s because they are paying attention. -G. D. Melton


I need to acknowledge that paying enough attention to what is going wrong and the ways that I am handling things is going to be painful.  When J was sick & I was just fighting for her life I was paying attention to all the hard shit. I had to.  But it’s really not any different now; if I want to better the communication and relationships I have with my children I better pay attention.  The only difference is that instead of the hard shit I am facing now being ever before, to the side, and behind me, it’s more intermittent.  It’s not always at the forefront.  Sometimes I think we’ve crested over a hill and might be figuring this thing out, but when faced with a situation again, I am slipping back into the same old chaos.  Granted, while J fought cancer I had times where I mentally ignored what we faced and put things off for another minute or hour, but at the end of the day I paid attention and I faced what I was in the midst of.  I think that’s what I’m lacking now, I’m not facing our difficulties for long enough. I hurt and feel the pain in the shittiest of moments and then I put it away, somewhere not in the forefront so I don’t have to keep facing it; I don’t keep paying attention.  And that’s where I am actually failing, not at being a parent, but at this pointed paying attention because the same things just keep coming around and I’m no further in understanding how to help, how to change, how to move forward successfully.  I need to feel and face the pain until I hurt enough to actually make a real move to work toward change.

This parenting gig is tough stuff.  I’ve never been one to really avoid something just because it’s hard.  The harder a thing is, the more I want to work overcome it.  To master it.  I know in the innermost part of my heart that I want to face this pain, I want to face this hard shit because I want to fix it.  I want to make this better.  I don’t want to settle for the plateaus where there aren’t any storms when I know there are mountain tops ahead if I would just tackle the climb.  I don’t know the details of what this climb is going to look like, what it is going to require, I don’t doubt that it is going to be hard, but I do know that what I want, the best, is at the top.

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. – CS Lewis, letters to an American lady

 

 

enough.

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Two weeks ago J had her (almost) three year post treatment checkup.  She will be three years post treatment in January 2017.  We went into this set of appointments for labs, IV placement, injection, visit with J’s nurse practitioner, bilateral bone marrow aspirate and biopsy, CT contrast drinking, IV hydration, and CT and MIBG scans thinking we would be back to Seattle Childrens a couple more times to repeat the same schedule for two more years.  Some of these procedures are easy for J and some of them are really difficult.  She is so brave but some things have been so horrible in the past and she has this giant fear of them that no amount of coaching and preparing

can make better. I will admit that getting an IV is not a pleasant experience but by the screams that came out of J’s little 30 pound body you would have thought the nurses were amputating her hand without anesthetic instead of merely placing an IV.  If you’ve ever had to sit someone through something they were so afraid of you would have recognized the irrational and crazy look that was in J’s eyes, so full of fear that words and reasoning could not begin to reach her until the nurses had stopped touching her.  Which took several very long minutes since the IV had to be secured at the site and several tubes of blood drawn through it.  The remainder of J’s procedures have always went relatively smooth and did this visit as well, but the anxious anticipation of those few minutes it takes to get the IV placed plagued J in the weeks leading up to her visit.

In light of all of that it would makes sense that we would want to be done with these procedures and move past the point where J needs them, which we had always planned on happening at the five year post treatment mark.  That’s what had been laid out for us from the very beginning and all through her treatment.  But when we met with J’s nurse practitioner we were told that protocol on J’s treatment plan had changed and her oncologist had made the decision that this would be J’s last post treatment checkup that would include all of these procedures.  She was done. No more biopsies, no more scans, no more blood draws, no more IV’s.  Yet happiness was not the emotion that flooded me when we were told this.  Fear was.  Watching J have to continue to go through these procedures is not something I enjoy, but it has brought a sense of relief each time we got that phone call after the scans had been read and the biopsy had been processed at the lab that everything was clear and J continued to be NED.  I knew that we would come to the place where we would stop these checkups but I wasn’t prepared for it yet.  It left me feeling vulnerable to fear.

Now I’m a couple weeks out from the news and it’s beginning to settle in.  I’m happy for J, that she doesn’t have to endure the procedures anymore.  I’m grateful that her body doesn’t have to be exposed to the radiation from the scans, the radiocontrast agent for a CT scan, the iodine-123-meta-iodobenzlguanidine which is the radioactive injection needed for an MIBG scan.  These all come with risks and possible side effects, not to mention being under anesthesia for all of these procedures.  Each time J has another bone marrow aspirate and biopsy she has more pain and stiffness following the procedure.  I am thankful, joyful that J is free from the burden of these.  And I am working through my fear.

Fear is an interesting thing.  It’s a lurker.  A hider.  A liar.  Fear would have me anxious and stressed – J’s chances of relapsing are greatly reduced by the length of time she has now been out of treatment.  Whether or not she has anymore scans doesn’t change that chance.  Most likely if neuroblastoma had been lingering, hidden somewhere in her body, it would have shown it’s hideous face again already.  Nothing is ever one hundred percent.  It can’t said for absolute surety that those NB cells aren’t lying dormant somewhere, hidden in the midst of all J’s healthy ones. Just as it can’t be said with absolute medical and scientific surety that there are NB cells in J’s body and tests should continue to be done to try and find them.  It’s a set of balancing scales and this is the new balance.  This is where trust in God fully kicks in.

I have trusted God in varying degrees through all of J’s treatment and the aftermath.  I am faced with how much the human confirmation that no cancer can be found in J’s body meant to me.  I’ve been trusting God, but holding some back too, just as a safety net.  In my heart I really do believe the promise that God gave my husband and I that he would bring J through this and that we would get to watch her grow up.  But I wasn’t choosing to let that be enough.  As I was given the news that J had arrived at the end of actually checking for physical evidence that she has really beat NB for good, I realized that I have clung to the tangible evidence that the medical community could give me.  I used it as a security blanket.

There is a verse in Matthew 8:4 that says this, “Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.”  No amount of saying that I trust God fully and completely will make that true.  No amount of the doctors telling us that J’s scans show no cancer and that her bone marrow is clear can make it more true or real.  It cannot make God’s promise more real to me.  But J’s life, her life that has been cleansed of cancer, can make that real to me. My thankfulness to God for seeing her and our family through this and my gratefulness for J’s life can. Me choosing to trust God with J’s life will bear witness to what He has done. I have decided that is enough for me.

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The IV is lovingly hidden under those bows.

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IV hydration

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Sleeping off anesthesia

 

Dear H

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More than anything else, God wants you to hear that He loves you.  These words were in a devotion that I was reading last week and they are so important for us to remember.  More than all the right decisions and good deeds we could make or do, God simply loves us.  In spite of our mistakes, our unkindness, selfishness, hurtful actions and words, God loves us.  Before we ever decide to make a change in ourselves to love and pursue God, He loves us.  But all that wasn’t what I thought of first when I was reading it.  My oldest son was first in my mind.  He stood forefront.

H turned thirteen in November of 2015.  We have had some ups and downs these past few years.  I see a lot of myself in him and it is most evident when we are butting heads.  And it is in those moments that I feel I most fail at times as a parent to him.  I tell him not to behave the way I realize later that sometimes I behave.  I ask him not to speak in tones that I can recall using with him more often than not.  I tell him to use kind words when unkindness has parted my lips.  I’m finding myself needing to be willing to be more and more refined in the fires of parenthood.  Willing to work at change in myself so I can ask for change and growth in my children. But beyond all of this those words created a longing my heart, a longing so deep it became an ache.  More than anything else, I want H to know that I love him.  In the intensity of that moment I sat and quickly jotted this next paragraph.  It is all of the many things squeezed into a few sentences I so desperately want him to know for these next few years that we have together before adulthood is knocking at his door.

Dear H;  More than anything else, I want to you hear that I love you.  Above the noise of life and over the buzz of growing up.  Clearer than the direction, the criticism, the consequences I want my love to ring.  I want you to know no matter what you choose you can’t ever cause me to not love you.  I may be disappointed, I may be hurt; I am human.  But I will not ever not love you.  I want you to feel that surety in the very core of your being.  I pray it is a grounding point for you.  Love, Mom

Most times I can write with clarity what is in my heart; speaking it is a whole different story!  I’m not sure if this note needs to come to him with context, but it will come to him in some way whether I can find the words to tell him or I give him the words I have written.  By sharing this I hope to help us all remember that more than anything God loves us and by his example we need to be communicating that to our children as well.  Don’t leave what should be spoken unsaid.  Sometimes we think our unconditional love is implied to our children and that they know without us telling them.  But let’s not forget that they are yet still children and just as we need a reminder that God loves us unconditionally and without fail, that there is nothing we can do to make him not love us, so our children need to hear the same words from us and be reminded.

The Great Impossible & Why

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“God always grants incredible power to those called to face impossible pain.

– Levi Lusko


Stop.  Read that again.  Do you understand what he’s saying?  This is bigger than a typical one-liner that you can nod in agreement too.  If you really know what these twelve words mean it can only be because you have faced that impossible pain.  One month ago an amazing little six year old girl, A, that J and I had the privilege of becoming friends with in Seattle lost her fight against cancer.  A spent over sixty percent of her short life in a war with AML.  She faced pain and suffering the likes of which much of society won’t ever see.  But it’s not her pain that was the impossible one.  It’s the pain of her mom, dad and sister that are left behind.  This is the impossible pain.

Impossible pain is one that there is no logical explanation for the ability of a person to bear through and come out on the other side of.  Yet we, as people, do.  Impossible is defined as: not able to occur, exist, or be done; very difficult to deal with.  Being faced with an impossibility requires us to have incredible power in order to move forward.  As much as it may feel like we are immovable when facing impossible pain, the sheer passing of time forces us to move with it.  But how do we ever move forward again of our own will?  That’s where the incredible power that God grants us comes in.  I believe God grants that power whether or not you ask him to, even whether or not you know him.  But when we do ask, when we do know him, that power is coupled with grace abounding, mercy never ending, joy that surpasses understanding, hope that prevails above all else.

I have been asked several times how we dealt with the great “why” when J was diagnosed and went through treatment.  I made a conscious decision not to ask that question of God, but this verse in John explains it even better.


“You’re asking the wrong question.  You’re looking for someone to blame.  There is no such cause-effect here.  Look instead for what God can do.”  John 9:3


Jesus spoke these words to his disciples while they were walking down a street and had spotted a man who was blind from birth.  The disciples asked Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents, that had caused the blindness.  Jesus pointed out to them that they were focusing on the wrong thing.  They were stuck on what wrong had brought this malady upon the man when “why” wasn’t what they should have been focusing on, but instead their focus needed to be the power and mercy of God that is displayed in the face of human suffering and pain.  We waste our time, energy and strength over this why question, longing for God to give us the answer to this burning, consuming need we feel.  But perhaps it is like when a child asks us why and we give the “just because” or some other variety of response that doesn’t really answer the inquiry.  Sometimes we give that response because the why behind the situation is beyond their capability to understand and ability to process.  We are merciful in sparing a child what they are not able to bear.  Don’t you think that is also the case between us and God?  In his infinite mercy, he is protecting us from what we are not able to process or capable to understand.  He gives us power to move us through impossible pain, yet in his mercy shields us from what we are not, in our earthly bodies and minds, able to comprehend.

In a preface to the book of Job, by Eugene Peterson, I read this really amazing advice, “If we really want to reach out to others who are suffering, we should be careful not to… do our “helping” with the presumption that we can fix things… No matter how insightful we may be, we don’t really understand the full nature of our friends’ problems…”  If you have someone in your life who is facing impossible pain, no words you can speak, or things you can do will fix what they face.  But your love, your compassion, your empathy can help move them forward in their journey to heal.  You are a tool of God’s incredible power that he grants to those facing impossible pain.

I also had the incredible privilege of getting to know A’s mother, J.  She has been an example to me of beautiful, stubborn faith in God, even though the world would tell her to give up on him after what she has faced.  Her great desire is that through all of what A had faced, glory would be given to God.  And that we, as human kind, would find a cure for this cold-blooded killer named cancer.  One way us non-doctor, non-researcher humans can stand up for those weakened, beaten down and killed by cancer is to raise funds for those can do the research so they are able to find better ways to treat cancer that will not destroy the human body and find ways to CURE cancer.  J does this by participating in an event called Obliteride.  This event raises money for the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center located in Seattle.  My J was the recipient of her stem cell transplant because of research completed by Fred Hutch.  A was given options she might otherwise never received without them.  Following is a link to a video that was put together before A passed away to help raise awareness and funds for this years Obliteride.  Please watch.  Consider investing a bit of yourself to help those who fight the battle of cancer and to those who spend countless hours in research, dedicating themselves to a hope for a better future.

 

 

 

Mainlining Heroin

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It’s been too long since I’ve sat down to write.  To share words.  I struggled if this was the right thing to say after a long absence.  Would my title be acceptable or had I taken it just a little too far? Like one more blurted out thought when the argument should have been over.  But this blog is about raw honesty.  So here it is,  honest and raw.


“Four parts blinding terror, one part perfection.  It’s like mainlining heroin.  One taste of life on the edge and you’re hooked.”  -kimberly mcCreight, reconstructing amelia


 

I don’t have an addictive personality, I’ve never been interested in trying any type of drug.  I don’t enjoy the feeling of inhibition that comes with drinking too much alcohol.  It might be fun for a few minutes, but regret usually comes later.  I don’t trust what might be done when I am not fully present in a moment because of an outside influence like drugs or alcohol.  My life has not been directly affected in drastic ways by someone else using a substance either.  But when I read that book and my eyes traveled over those words, they had me hooked.  You see, the author was talking about parenting.

Parenting has taken me to the highest highs and lowest lows I have ever been at.  Parenting a child through stage IV cancer was, I hope, the lowest point I will ever hit in the life. Watching immeasurable pain and a savage disease wreck the small innocent body you swore to yourself that you would protect is a pain that rivals nothing I have experienced.  Parenting has also brought out in me the parts of myself I don’t like so much.  The person who completely loses it in frustration and anger.  The person who can speak a mean and hurtful remark to someone I love with a fierce, burning love, but sometimes not fierce enough to halt my cutting tongue.  The person who forgets to extend grace when I have been covered in nothing but grace and mercy by my Heavenly Father.  As a parent I worry my perceived shortcomings might mess up my children I love so fully.  These are the four parts blinding terror.

Holding new life in your arms, knowing you helped to create it is like the rush of a powerful drug. The intense love that slams into you when you look at that little human that is half you is intense. And almost addicting. I’ve had moments of missing that crazy high of holding that small bundle, minutes into this world.  Watching my littles make a huge gain or accomplish something they have been working hard at makes me proud of who they are becoming.  Seeing them grow, play, imagine, and learn to love fills my heart to the over flowing.  This is the one part perfection.  This is the addiction.  This is life on the edge, knowing you can never look back, never return.  From this point on you will always be a parent.  The intense, consuming love that you feel for your children is perfection.  You will not be a perfect parent, but if you allow an unselfish love to drive you, you will find you will to go to the end of the earth for this person; that is perfection.  And once you taste that perfect love, it is a rush that cannot be ignored.  This one part perfection trumps the four parts of blinding terror every time.

I researched mainlining and mainlining heroin in particular.  In the user community mainlining is frowned upon by some, but almost cherished by others.  The reverent way some people spoke of choosing to exclusively do heroin by mainlining struck me so I looked up the definition of mainlining.

Mainlining: 1. to inject a narcotic, especially heroin, directly into a vein 2. to use or enjoy something without restriction

I think we need to enjoy our children more without restriction. The ones we put on ourselves and the ones we place on them. The guilt at not being enough.  Patient enough.  Fun enough.  Calm enough.  Creative enough.  Present enough.  How many times have I inadvertently quashed a spark in them because of careless words I have spoken?  Don’t wear that to school.  Don’t scribble.  Don’t bother me right now.  Don’t over-react.  Sometimes a good over-reaction is all we need as individuals to see the proverbial mountain we are making out of a mole-hill and to be able to change our approach to a situation.  Our kids are no different.  What kind of relationship could we foster with our children if we loved and enjoyed them without restriction?  This kind of love and relationship is what I think Jesus has and wants for and with us.  This unrestricted enjoyment and appreciation of each other.  I also learned that mainlining drastically increases the odds of forming a habit.  We all know habits are tough to break.  If we could actually form a habit of enjoying our children without placing restrictions on them and ourselves, what potential for greatness in relationship we would be blessing them (and ourselves!) with.

I read this recently on another blog, “Parents love their babies. I have met zero exceptions. Love is a river and there are times when impediments stop the flow of love.” – glennon, momastery.com.  Sometimes we allow things or things get placed into our lives that stop the flow of that perfect love that God is our example of.  He is anxiously waiting to remove those impediments for you.  As we struggle to love without restriction, allowing God to free us of the things that interrupt the flow of love from us to others is an integral part.  With his help, we can form this habit of loving and enjoying without restriction.  We can mainline God’s love right into our lives by turning the four parts of blinding terror over to him and once that is done you will never want to walk away.  I want my one part perfection to keep overshadowing the four parts of blinding terror I sometimes feel. I’m not a perfect parent, but with God’s love as my guide, I can love my children perfectly.