Introspective Insights

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

Encouragement From All

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.

Journal entry 5/22/16: It is the night before surgery (Sunday) and I literally feel like I’ve stepped off a boat and am trying to get my land legs. I’m not dizzy, so it must be stress. This happened the other day too. I feel restless and tired and yet I couldn’t take a nap this afternoon.

I’ve received so many cards, text messages, phone calls, and gifts this week – I can’t keep them all straight. So many hugs, promises of prayer. It is all surreal – I just had no idea of the love out there.

I’m trying to remember the last few days, but they are a blur. On Thursday a friend took the kids and told Jerry and I to go out to eat. We went to the Post and I ate my favorite there – Fried Egg BLT with Spicy Maple Bacon. Sooo good. I tried ginger beer and didn’t like it, but Jerry did. It was nice to be out, just the two of us doing normal things. I’m finding in the midst of this chaos, it is the everyday rhythm that keeps me going.

Friday Kayla and Zach went to school for Field Day and I spent the day with Abby. We didn’t do too much, except shopping, which we did some damage! We ate at IKEA like we did when she was little. It was fun to spend time with just her.

When we got home, I started getting calls. First from the surgeon’s office telling me that I have to go in early before surgery, so they can insert a wire where the small non-cancerous legion is located. I have to be awake during this procedure. I’m not happy about this.

Next, I get a call from the geneticist. She tells me that all six genes tested for cancer came back negative including BRCA1 and BRCA2. Praise God! BRCA2 came back noted as a “variant of unknown significance”. This basically means no genetic link to cancer, so I’m free and clear! This means that chemotherapy is very unlikely. Final genetics results with details in just three weeks.

Friday night I melted down. We had not done much cleaning for Kayla’s birthday party the next day. I worried about dealing with the mental fatigue of all of this. I pick the worst times to melt down. It was 10:15pm and Jerry had not started making the cakes yet. He started at 10:45pm, oh well. Thankful for Laura who came early to help put up decorations, clean bathrooms, and do dishes. Dawn helped with the food when she got there also. The party was a lot of fun and Kayla had fun. It was a nice diversion for me and helped me get through the weekend.

The day of Kayla’s party, Jerry had been home for five minutes from running an errand earlier in the day and I came outside and said, “What’s that on your car?” There was a gift from Erica – she’s so sneaky – a prayer shawl made of Solomon knots – a new stitch she just learned. Love her.

The prayer session after church was so nice. A few friends and Mom came, and Pastor Tim led the session. He prayed over Jerry and I and anointed us with oil. Although I’m nervous about the surgery, I feel immense peace. I am grateful for such a loving church community.

Today, the last day before surgery, my women’s ministry ladies came over with a large laundry-sized basket filled with gifts. Each gift was individually wrapped with a long ribbon attached to it. They said that after each milestone of treatment or every day or whatever I wanted I could pull on a string and open a gift. They told me that each gift was meant to encourage me. Kayla counted the strings – wow – 40 gifts! I’m honored and in awe of this gesture. Can’t wait to open one tomorrow.

There is so much to write but I must get to bed. I’m overwhelmed by the love and support of so many. God is good.

Praise God No Matter What

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.

Journal entry 5/17/16: I’m waiting for the call about the MRI biopsy results. Very much hoping it is this morning. Praying for no more cancer. I keep going to the bathroom. I’m a little shaky, yet I can’t keep my eyes open like my body wants to shut down.

I think God is telling me to praise him no matter what – regardless of the biopsy results. I will – but I don’t know what that looks like – what to do or how to act. But for now, I’m going to write down the verses that people have given me or those that have been revealed to me.

Revealed to me:

  • Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is a hard truth – but isn’t it true that we win either way?
  • A constant for over a year and hanging on the wall in our living room: Philippians 4:13 (ESV) “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
  • To remember that it is not what we can see in this world that matters, but what is unseen. 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
  • That God’s purposes are beyond our understanding. And even though he does not want us to suffer or be in pain he will work all things out for our good, for those of us who are his children. Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Tim S. / Rachel: comfort in anxiety. Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I do not have to accept anxiety but pray and receive the peace of God which is beyond my understanding.

Mom: One of my favorite bands is Jars of Clay, named after the following verses, which Mom reminded me of: 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Beth and Lisa L: Lisa said that she was praying and reading her Bible and this verse made her think of me. Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Laura E. texted me this verse reminding me of who God is, even in this storm. Psalm 46:10 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

Beth: reminding me that God sees me in all things. Psalm 139:1-2,12 ESV “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

My friends and family, giving me spirit-filled words to lift me up and remind me that I’m not alone.

The phone rings and the MRI biopsy results are good – no cancer in the two spots sampled! One was a benign spot. The other is an interductal papilloma – a “high risk breast lesion”. They will remove this spot separately from the cancer lump and it will not affect anything. Certainly not a case for mastectomy. I am overjoyed! God is good! Somehow getting this good news breathes new life into me.

Lori and Diana pick me up and take me to Panera to celebrate. We laugh about silly things. Talking and eating and sharing with them soothes my soul.

Gifts Upon Gifts

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.

Journal entry 5/13/16: One of my love languages is gifts and people have been so generous with their time, prayers, and money, buying us food, and pouring into our family. There have been dinners, gift cards, cards, phone calls, watching the kids, text messages, flowers, coffee, candy. One of my most treasured gifts is from my dear friend Charlotte. As we were on the phone last night, she prayed a beautiful, moving prayer over me. I was stunned and calmed and overwhelmed by her beautiful, spirit-inspired words.

These are the true gifts that community can offer. Yet reaching out is hard for so many of us. When my mom had cancer, I didn’t know how to help, to talk to her about it. We live 150 miles apart and, in my head, I used every excuse in the book to be silent, to not visit. I was at her surgery, but as treatment progressed I didn’t visit. It feels so awful writing this down and realizing how much of an avoider I am. One day she was talking about how difficult her days were – when her eyes watered so much she couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t read. Food had no taste and lying in bed too much hurt more than being awake. During that terrible time, she said, “All I wanted was someone to talk to.”

When someone you know is going through serious illness or grief, it is better to say something through a simple text or message, a card, your presence, even when you don’t know what to say, than to say nothing at all. This shows that you see them, you are thinking about them, that you love them. All gestures big and small are appreciated.

The First Breakdown

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.

After meeting with the plastic surgeon and pondering everything involved with the surgery and aftermath, I break down. I text Rachel and Char and pour out the pain – more invasive surgery than I want, scars inside and out, forced into menopause from medications I will have to take after it is all over. I think that maybe after a while I will be cancer free – praise God, but the scars and effects will be far reaching.

It is Monday and I think about the Women’s Ministry meeting scheduled for tonight. I have the mugs Diana and I bought as a gift for the team. (Ironically, they say, “Today I Will Choose Joy.”)

I am scheduled to lead the devotion tonight. It is mid afternoon, and I cannot shake this off. I collapse on the couch and sob an ugly, terrifying sob. Panic and pain and pure despair wash over me. I was diagnosed just 12 days ago and most of my attempts to continue with normal activities have succeeded, but not tonight. I can’t figure out how I’m going to get off the couch. I cry to Jerry. My thoughts swirl into a black hole. I lie down. The kids kiss me and bring me a blanket. I lay there and stare. I can’t eat.  Abby kisses me and wipes my tears. Kayla flees to her room in anger and tears as we tell the kids we can’t go to Camp Arcadia over Memorial Day weekend.

I text Diana, “I can’t do this tonight, I’m so sorry. Can you pick up the gifts?” She is over two hours later, flowers in hand…I am still on the couch. I try to sit up to greet her; she says no, to stay there. She bear hugs me in my pitiful state right there on my couch. I am overwhelmed with her care and concern.

This is the first breakdown of many. The mental despair that cancer invokes is cruel and relentless. Months later the mental onslaught continues, but the moments of despair differ only in that they are more spaced out. The intensity and horror and fear of recurrence, any little twinge of pain or discomfort or the sensation of strange tissue invites another session.

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.

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.

Reflections From the Spray Park

I always struggle at places where tons of moms are because I can’t stand the Pinterest-bragging-cooking-from-scratch-organic-food-designer-kid-bathing-suit-perfectly-coordinated-everything that is here. The talk at times is the worst – I did this, I did that – the constant “one up” banter. Since when did we decide that we were all in a competition? That somehow being better is the goal?

This is my cynicism talking and I know not everyone here is in the perfectionism race. But I feel it around me here and it makes me grateful to be alone scribbling in my notebook. But I’m looking too – seeing the two moms who can still sport bikinis. Wow – that’s never going to happen here. The mom with the over sized t-shirt and hat hiding her beautiful face. The momma nursing her newborn, bleary eyed kissing her baby’s head.

Maybe the truth is that I hide here alone because I don’t want to take a chance on truly knowing others when the external fronts we all display are so off-putting. We all struggle and we all fight guilt and self rejection and perfectionism and is my facade better than yours?

Finally, after all this time, the community I’ve longed for I have in abundance. Friends and invitations and I am humbled by God’s providence. Yet how do I allow a larger community in – always allowing new interactions? To become what I longed for back then – to return it back? Mostly its laziness, tiredness, excuses.

But I know I need to change, so I offer the ice pack and the band aids and she smiles and thanks me. And I realize that we all are looking for acceptance and love and we can easily give a smile, a hand, a kind word.

Closeness Issues

I struggle getting to know people, getting close. In this age of social media masks, flat, emotionless text messages – we don’t have to get close. But I realized the other day that in addition to those modern barriers, I block closeness because as I get closer to someone, I get closer to their problems and that is when I want to run.

I know this isn’t right. If I am a true friend, I have responsibility to bear their burdens in Christ. But wow – I still don’t want to. Life is messy and hard and that horribly judgmental part of me recoils in the face of the brutal truth. I am just as messy and difficult as they are. Maybe my shiny veneer makes me feel superior, but the bottom line is that I see my own flaws mirrored in theirs.

When a person doesn’t want help or to progress, change, improve, I’m turned off, I give up. But this is the same in my life – when things aren’t going my way – when changing seems impossible, I give up. I run to a restless, painful existence.

So this time, I’ve decide to persevere – face their pain, problems, fears with prayer and hope and a listening ear. It seems that this type of therapy may just change me also.

Tell Me Something Good

I’m tired, y’all, just tired. I’ve been listening to you talk about your husband / kids / friend / sister and if I’ve met them before, my opinion is starting to slide and if I’ve never met them I’m convinced that I don’t want to anymore. And it’s because of that one sided story you’ve told me…your venting. And I want to be there for you and nod and understand, but I’m so very tired of hearing the bad and the ugly. You see, I just want you to tell me something good. Just one thing, if that’s all you have about your husband, your sister, your daughter. Because I want to know all about them. I want to have a full rounded opinion about them. I want to know deep down, do you really even like them? Much less love them? Because right now, I don’t think you do – your words tell me you don’t – over and over they say rejection and anger and irritation and maybe even just a little hate. And its hard to listen to that over and over and not think the worst.

So let’s start over today, friend. Today, tell me something good and I will do the same and maybe, just maybe we will start to remember the good that is already there in those people close to us. It could help us change our minds and our hearts about them. And tomorrow, there will be another good thing and we’ll see it and speak it and there is power in our words and we can live in this good thing we’ve spoken.

Today, right now, about THAT person, tell me something good.

Know More, Love More


Tonight I co-hosted a table at our church’s Advent by
Candlelight event – a time to focus on Jesus, the true meaning of the
season.  As I looked around the table at
the women – some I had just met tonight – others I have had the honor of
getting to know over the last several months – I was impressed with God’s love
for them moving through me. 
 

As we went through the activities of the night, we shared
family traditions.  One woman’s family started
asking each other “what does God want for Christmas?”  Another shared about the delicious egg strata
her mother made each Christmas morning. 
One spoke of her family’s traditions – originating from Eastern Europe.  The women spent hours cooking – learning the customary
dishes for Christmas.  Each girl
initiated into the traditions – it was “woman talk” – a place where you heard
the family stories, laughed, hands full of sticky dough.  It was hard work, but significant.

I looked at each woman thinking that as I learned more about
them, I had the opportunity to love them more. 
When we share ourselves, our story, our true self – where we’ve come
from, the depth of who we are becomes rich and beautiful.  To know more is to love more.

I believe that at times God has given me a spiritual love
for people as I need it – at times suddenly and almost overwhelmingly.  But more often in life, this sharing of who
we are over time is what brings me to that complex, indescribable bond.  Conversely, if a person is guarded and not
willing to reveal even a glimpse of herself, I often cannot find love.  I find fault and annoyance and struggle
greatly to connect.

Tonight, I looked into each face and found that supernatural
love, a gift to my worn soul.  I can’t
help but praise God at the gifts of community and love he has given me –
something I have prayed for a long time.