Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Mother’s Day and A Vision

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I’m having a pretty fabulous Mother’s Day and am trying to stay in this moment, but this weight, this cancer, is so heavy at times.

I’m trying to be still and know that he is God. So hard to do. I see these faces I love and I think – will I be leaving soon? All information I know thus far says no – but getting this disease reminds me that we are guaranteed nothing. And in that realization, I have moments of stillness and I wonder what that means. I do not know God’s timing, but I know he is healing me and I know he is with me and loves me. And I know my goal sooner or later is Him – not a place, but a person – HIM. How do I live out these waiting, uncertain days? I try not to think about the C word or dwell on it – but live, just live life. To find the stillness in the uncertainty.

Flowers and hugs at church. A lovely friend saying, “God isn’t just saving us – his word isn’t just for us, but for healing too.”

Listening to the end of the For King and Country CD – there is a monologue where the speaker talks about love – how it’s the only thing that remains. And I close my eyes and I see Jesus in a yellow pink glow waving love around me and saying that love is everything and all things; that he loves me. This means everything; I stand in awe of my creator.

I can’t ask, “Why cancer?”, but I want to. I want to know and understand, but the only thing I know – the only thing he has revealed to me is that his power, God’s power, will be demonstrated in my life. Resting my spirit in his peace and power today.

Doctors and Tests

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

We went to the first appointment with the surgeon and I truly believe she will be excellent. She felt normal tissue on my left breast, which is encouraging. She recommended plastic surgery where I am getting the lumpectomy because I am so small. This surprised me. I didn’t think she would be taking that much tissue, but she is the expert. She recommended a mammogram on the left breast also, genetic testing, and an MRI. I believe I am in good hands.

I had my c-word necklace on that day. Not cancer, but a four-sided necklace with the words created, cherished, celebrated, and chosen on it.

Each word refers to a Bible verse as a reminder of who I am in Christ:

  • Created – “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14.
  • Cherished – “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have chosen you with loving kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3.
  • Celebrated – “He will take great delight in you…he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17.
  • Chosen – “The Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” Deuteronomy 14:2.

I have to remember that these c-words more than trump the c-word that is cancer. The surgeon said she liked my necklace. I have to remember that my life is a living testimony. I need to hold onto these c-words and never let cancer overshadow who I am – who God has created me to be and the purpose he has for me.

After the appointment, the scheduler at the surgeon’s office scheduled every possible appointment I would need in the coming week or two. I was floored how she fit everything in so quickly for me. This was an answer to prayer. Elder Tim prayed for me that first Sunday, that tests would be scheduled quickly – God working in all these circumstances.

A few days later I’m at the MRI, Valium consumed, and IV inserted and gowned up. I am face down in the superman position. The tech explains the procedure to me and how the dye will be pumped into the IV later on. I can hear her talking through a speaker in the next room, but she explains that the machine is loud and if I need her to press this black bulb squeezer thingie attached to a coiled, black wire.

The test begins, and all is well, but the Valium has me a little silly. I’m tired and fighting to stay awake. Every time I look up to see where the tech is, I can see the IV and the coiled up black wire and I am startled every time thinking that the dye is black going through that coiled wire. I start laughing! Why should I be afraid of black dye? Needless to say after the MRI, I sleep most of the afternoon.

Each day I talk to a doctor or tech or someone regarding cancer. It is starting to wear on me. It has only been eight days since diagnosis.

I start a Facebook page for people who want to follow my journey and pray for me. I am surprised when more than 100 people join the private group. What should I say or do on this page? God help me.

Be Still

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I’ve never liked being still. Most of my years I’ve moved quickly through school, activities, work life. But in recent years, now that I’m home with the kids, I’ve begun to slow down a bit. I’m an acts of service kind of person meaning that one of the ways I show love to others is by doing things for them – dishes, laundry, making lunches. But even just a few days after diagnosis, the mental toll is slowing me down. I see that this is God asking me to slow down. Today was a profound reminder of this. My friend Laura texted me Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

Yes! Not only do I need to remember to be still, to slow down in all this anxiety and uncertainty, but to also give all praise and glory to God. It is illogical, but I can still praise Him in this illness, these tests, this waiting, this cancer. He is still God and I’m glad I’m not!

As I went to read from my devotional Bible the next morning, the text was this exact Psalm.

God is reminding me that he is on the throne and he holds me in his hand. Nothing is too hard for him.

So, for now, I’m trying to be still as I wait, to not focus on the diagnosis, but focus on the One who holds me through all this.

Overwhelmed

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During those days, I wrote constantly. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I was apprehensive to go to church today because I knew that people’s response may be overwhelming. But in the end, it was fine. Countless friends encircled Jerry and I offering prayer and support in whatever way we needed. It WAS overwhelming, but in the best possible way.

Three ladies I don’t know very well came forward to tell me their own breast cancer stories and how well they are doing now. It made me think that if they can get past this, so can I. That I can live to tell about this and praise God for how far I’ve come. (I learned later that two of the three had nearly the same diagnosis, doctors, and experience that I had.)

During communion I prayed for God to heal me. After the service, I asked for the anointing oil because oil represents the Holy Spirit. Pastor Dave anointed me with oil and prayed for me. He said in his prayer that God’s power will be shown in my life – a common theme I believe God is showing me. This blog, these posts, are a testimony of God’s grace, healing, and provision for me.

I believe God can heal me and will choose to as he sees fit. And as I’m praying to him for wisdom, he is showing me the anger I so regularly feel. How it’s infected my everyday life, become too much a part of me. I’m praying for this repetitive anger over me to be gone. It seems key to my recovery somehow.

Cancer In A Box

Back in April 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through numerous tests, surgery, and radiation therapy. During those days, I wrote constantly. Since then, I’m compiling those journal entries into the beginnings of a book. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Yesterday I was diagnosed and today I just want it to be a normal day. But normal is different for everyone and that word cancer was already starting to rip the normalcy rug from under me.

My brother Chris and sister-in-law Kristi came over to visit. We planned to celebrate Chris’s birthday and I was laser point focused on this being about him and not me today. In my head I’ve refused to think much about everything because I’m waiting until the next appointment, the next phone call for more information. It seems pointless to obsess over things. But I didn’t really think about what this means to other people – what they may do or see when I see them. There was no way cancer could be anything but the elephant in the room that day.

Chris is the quiet giant of our family and it is easy to believe that not much affects him, but of course that is not true. Kristi needs to talk, to process things, just like most women do. She sat with me practically in tears the whole time. She told me how sad and down Chris was when he found out and had not yet told her what happened. Seeing his expression of sadness, choked up, looking down, it affected me greatly. Kristi invited me to always speak my mind about it in their presence – good or bad – that all emotions were appropriate and OK. I’ve never thought about how important this is – opening the door to speak openly.

She also acknowledged that only talking about this can be overwhelming too. Very true. Cancer was definitely the last thing I wanted to talk about. I told them that I have put this in a box until Tuesday. There is nothing I can do about it until then, so what is the point?

This whole exchange with them made me wonder – am I taking this seriously enough? By some appearances it may seem not. I think that I am, but I just can’t make the words “breast cancer” roll around in my head all that time or I will go crazy.

Diagnosis Day

Last year at this time I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through numerous tests, surgery, and radiation therapy. During those days, I wrote constantly. Since then, I’m compiling those journal entries into the beginnings of a book. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

No one wants to say, “I have cancer,” but the fact is, I do. No one wants to live in that reality, but I must. So here I am writing this story I don’t want to write, but I must write.

The first thing is the peace, the answered prayers already. The preparation of my heart and mind. I start to think back over the last few months. God preparing me to face this reality. I remember driving past the cancer center one day knowing somehow in the corner of my mind that I will be spending time there. There are more and more ways that God has prepared me and I didn’t write them all down. Too many to count or remember.

But back to the phone call, the words “invasive ductal carcinoma”, me kneeling on the floor by the bed, calming my frayed voice and mind. Trying to ask questions, trying to understand. The radiologist is kind and reassures me that I have done the right thing, I went in immediately when I felt the lump. I will get through this, it is very treatable. Her voice echoes around in the white space of my mind. I hang up the phone. I call Jerry and now I’ve crumpled all the way down to the floor and I choke out the words, “It is cancer.” He says, “I will be right there.” I lock the bedroom door. I lie down.

It’s news that I didn’t want to share with people who have hurt so much, my family. It’s what my 10-year-old daughter Kayla so aptly described as “The thing that happens to other people, not someone you know and definitely not your mom.” Yes, my heart breaks for this wiser-than-her-years girl.

The love and support start to pour through my phone – overwhelming, still processing it all, making a list of all that people have offered to do.

I want things to stay normal somehow. I want to laugh and sing and read, run when I can and accept in the pain of life is also the joy. They are inexplicably linked.

Telling the kids is painful. They don’t understand and we try our best to explain it all, what we know, but there are too many unknowns at this point.

We decide to go out to eat at P.F. Chang’s that night. Kayla doesn’t understand. How can we be out and pretend that we are happy when we are so sad? We explain that sometimes in the face of darkness and pain, we choose celebration in an act of joyful defiance.

We put cancer aside. We try the white tea with tangerine. We each sip quietly. We find a way to laugh and smile.

Diana’s Scare

Last year at this time I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through numerous tests, surgery, and radiation therapy. During those days, I wrote constantly. I’m compiling those journal entries into the beginnings of a book. This post is a continuing series of the book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

Diana is my dear friend. We met through church and got to know each other through Women’s Ministry where we served together with three other wonderful ladies for two years. Now we work together, we’ve taught a couple of bible studies together at church, our kids are nearly the same age. We share many things, but what we didn’t expect to share was two very different cancer scares.

Diana texted us that Thursday evening, anxious, upset, asking for prayer. They called her back for an ultrasound and second mammogram. We prayed from our own virtual corners offering her comfort and reassurance. I just knew she was going to be OK. We later learned that her tests all came back negative for cancer.

That same Thursday night I am in bed reading. I am engrossed in my book, I mindlessly begin rubbing my chest just above my right breast. I feel something there…hard, oval shaped. I’ve never noticed it before. Jerry checks it, he is surprised too.

The next day when I put a bra on, I don’t feel it…it’s as if it sinks as my breast lifts. Is this all my imagination? I call my primary doctor anyway and she orders the mammogram and ultrasound as soon as possible. By Wednesday I have had a mammogram, an incredibly long ultrasound, and a needle biopsy in two different areas. By Friday I know the news and it is not good.

Diana repeatedly tells me how she feels guilty. “How could it be you and not me?” She is a compassionate and loving person. She cannot comprehend how she was dealt the scare and I was dealt the real thing.

We taught a Bible study months later and she told the class her story, which is a part of my story. It was October. I finished treatment just two months before. The only person who knew my whole story was Jerry and my journal. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to talk. My eyes filled with tears as she told her part. My throat began to close and burn. “Can I do this?”, I thought.

When she was done, I paused…30 pairs of eyes on me. I told her what I know in my heart is true – that without her concern and her obedience in reaching out to us in prayer, my radar would not have been up. I do not believe I would have found that lump or even been looking. She was part of God’s plan to save me.

We need each other. We are here on this earth to love each other, lean on each other, pray for each other, share our burdens. Diana’s faith and perseverance in asking for prayer are part of my story. When you share who you are, honestly, brutally, lovingly, you invite healing and connection in ways that you may never know.

Throwing Myself Against the Rocks

As many of you know, last year around this time (April 2016) I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through numerous tests, surgery, and radiation therapy. During those days I wrote constantly. Since then, I’ve started to compile those journal entries into the beginnings of a book. This post is a portion of that book I hope to one day publish. I survived cancer, which is a tremendous gift, but cancer continues to remain a shadow in my mind.

I’m starting near the end of this cancer journey, because while it seems that I am finished, the truth is that this word “survivor” is only beginning to dig its talons into my mind. It’s August, just 10 days after radiation therapy ended. A mere four months since this nightmare began.

I am starting to get a glance at what cancer can do to the survivor. My body is beginning to heal, but my mind is beginning its spiral into the dark. Yet I don’t really understand the storm still coming.

Me at Camp Arcadia

It is evening at Camp Arcadia on the beautiful northern shore of Lake Michigan. I am struggling, feeling awful about myself – all the weight I’ve gained, the aftermath of surgery, and four months of recovery and radiation treatments. Feeling tired and sluggish beyond comprehension. Yet, I’m in this beautiful place – one of my favorite places in the world. The sun is on it’s way down, but it is still fully late summer evening light.

I am sitting on the raised patio six feet above the pounding surf. Beach hazard in effect, surging waves battering the seawall in front of me. At that moment, the despair envelopes me like a black cloak. I envision myself jumping in, imagining the consequences. The current pulling me under the water and the waves pushing me up, slamming me onto the rusty, jagged, metal wall, rocks, shore. My body continually battered, bloody, lifeless, crushed, smashed over and over. Normally the horror of such a thought is immediately rejected, but the heaviness is too great and in that moment the image replays over and over. I hear Jerry and the kids looking for me, yelling my name. Searching, but not finding.

It is a terrible way to die and I know I can’t do it. I press stop on the mental replay and I choose to walk away, the roaring still in my ears, images fresh and horrible in my mind. I cannot tell Jerry what I’ve just witnessed in my mind’s eye. This week has been challenging enough, the last few months heavy with despair, tears, anger, listlessness, fear.

The next night I am on the shore again, waves crashing again realizing that forward movement seems like jumping into those waves only to be battered and carried along where I don’t want to go. And isn’t that what has happened these months? Death and illness – cancer – sweeping over me, pulling me down with the undertow. Going forward doesn’t seem like an option. I am stuck here for now in the mental anguish of this pounding surf.

But these waves, these breakers, the verses come back to me – Psalm 42:7:

“Deep calls to deep

at the roar of your waterfalls;

all your breakers and your waves

have gone over me.”

All the breakers and waves HAVE gone over me. I’m battered and beaten mentally, physically. And YET deep calls out to deep. I’m drowning, but the God of the universe calls out to me in my deepest parts. And these waterfalls cover me and what happens when I emerge from all this? I don’t know as I feel that the emerging is the painful process of right now.

Being the “Fat” Mom

Today’s post is from Caty Dearing who blogs over at www.catydearing.com. Caty is wife to Justin and mom to K and is a high school English teacher where she loves her job and says that it motivates her to be awesome every day. Caty’s blog is a safe space for her and her readers to stretch, grow, and live. She promises honesty in her posts, which as we all know is pretty hard to come by these days.

Being a mom is difficult. No one tells you just how hard it is. The pressure of raising a human being to be kind, intelligent, and gracious is a heavy burden to bear. I remember being pregnant and reading book after book about how to be a good mom. Now, my daughter is 3 years old, and I think that I’m just now learning what difficulties have been present for me as a person, removed from my kiddo and husband. One of these, and probably the biggest one (no pun intended), is my weight.

“Fat” is a no-no word. We use words like “curvy” and “voluptuous” to mask the negative connotations of overweight-ness. Being called fat would have completely broken me a year ago. I’ve spent a lot of time telling myself about my large bone structure and that the curves on my body are just part of who I am. I’ve also spent a lot of time spewing hateful words towards myself, avoiding cameras, and wearing oversized clothes. Years later, I’m finally at a place where I think I’m ready to face the fact that I am not healthy, and to do something about it.

If I’m being 100% honest, I used to judge overweight moms. You know exactly what I’m talking about: the cute child, dressed to the nines, the handsome and fit husband, and the mom who looks like she woke up 15 minutes ago and just barely pulled herself together to be out and about. I remember the condescending tone I used in my head, an almost smug self-declaration of “That will NEVER be me.” Now, here I sit, weighing more today than I did the day before giving birth, and I’m faced with a choice: how will I handle this issue, and what example will I set for the tiny set of eyes watching my every move?

I found the answer at Disney World.

If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you know about the Photo Pass feature. If a professional photographer takes your picture, you can scan your Magic Band and the photo immediately becomes accessible. I felt like there was a professional photographer every 10 steps or so! I packed the only clothes that I could feel comfortable in: Disney t-shirts and work out pants. It wasn’t my cutest look.

When we got to Magic Kingdom, a photographer offered to take our picture in front of the castle. She asked Justin and I to squat down beside K, which immediately brought to mind the image of fat rolls, awkward posture, and all of my other insecurities on display. I looked at my daughter’s face, smiling up at me, at the castle…and I smiled. Then, I squatted down and took the picture.

Caty Dearing picture 1

When my daughter is looking through photos of our family, she’s not going to care if I was overweight. She’s going to comment on the fact that I wore ridiculous Mickey ears the whole time, or the facial expression she made when we rode a fast roller coaster. I HAVE to continue to be present in photos, and to speak positively and full of grace towards myself.

At the same time…(here’s where it gets murky)

My body was falling apart the entire trip to Disney. My feet ached, my back hurt, my knees throbbed…due to the extra weight I was carrying around. I struggled to fit under the airplane seatbelt, and in a couple of the seats on some rides. People can argue all day long until their faces turns blue that you can be healthy at whatever weight, but there is no way anyone can convince me that being overweight and the symptoms that come with it are preferable to a less injury-prone existence.

Caty Dearing picture 2

It’s a delicate balance, brutal honesty and loads of grace. And, to be frank, this pairing isn’t an idea I see being preached. It’s not one or the other, people! You can love yourself and still recognize that you aren’t your best self. As a mom, I want to show K that it’s possible to live a healthy lifestyle and not constantly struggle with food or fatigue. But, even more so, as a person, as ME, I want to prove to myself that it’s possible to love myself at 270 without accepting it as my final reality. Because, to me, loving myself means pursuing my best self.

I was the fat mom at Disney World. But I was also the happiest mom at Disney World. Next time we go, I might not look the same, or I might. But I really hope that the changes I am making, both internal and external, are growing within me a person I can be proud of.

What has been your most challenging moment of introspection? How did you respond?

 

 

Dare to Reflect – In Reflection is Life

I write out of my weakness, it defines me, the inability to reflect on life. In that weakness I write to discover the divine thread, the God-leading words, the gratitude for the mundane. When I do not write, I am restless and lost, forgetting what I’ve learned, where I’ve been and from where I have come. Despair results and addiction to food, reading, and coloring fill the void, numb the pain.

Coffee flows and steams where I write and obsessive amounts of journals live in jumbled stacks, all written in at one point or another. Coffee paraphernalia, grounds, and mugs strewn all over the kitchen. Pens, pencils, post-it notes, laptop, and lamp.

It is in the reflecting, the looking outside of myself where I find true life. My people busy me with needs, wants, schooling, and general chaos. But it is in the reflection where the purity and beauty of life is lived. The scarlet red cardinal singing on the branch in a background of grey, white, black. The orange pink skies appearing only five minutes at dawn, swept away by the blustering wind. The cherub cheeks of sleeping girl, hair matted, fuzzy sleeper draped. The strong arms of him holding me.

This life also deals its pain, but this reflection is necessary also. Sitting in the chair where my father died, seeing the world he saw in those final moments, leaves swaying and shushing, light fading. Entering in the brokenness of sister standing over infant son’s grave, days marked in black ink that blur as I hang my head. Daughter asking me to read dates on them all as I kneel in damp grass overcome. Friend lost and shattered when brother leaves this world. All life involves loss and each story, experience shines a light warming us to stand and move on, broken, but full of purpose.

I drag myself from warmth in early darkness, stumbling for coffee, shuffling to favorite chair, soft light. I read always, books stacked to my right. I crack open black journal, embossed flowers and words flow from my heart. And when they are typed in, I look back at what I have missed those months. I marvel at the words, the images. Who wrote this? Surely, not me?

Yet, it is only me as I pause in the half-light. I have found and remembered those things I wanted to forget, lost those things that I wanted to remember. They are here, if I have pause to write about them, this scrawl crooked and slashing on page, small and perfectly formed on the next.

My passion rises from this broken down, ugly, stricken world and finding joy, gratitude, divinity as close as my living room, back yard, and across the miles. They are all there if we look, but we must have eyes to see, time to pause, and practice to truly celebrate it. I am not always good at it, but when I make it a habit, I always find it.

My friend, dare to reflect. Even in the pain that we inevitably all must face. And in that pain there is always joy hiding at the next turn.