Introspective Insights

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

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. 

To Be Known
If you know me, you know that I’m an outgoing person.  I love to laugh and talk and drink coffee while
discussing every detail of my life.  If
you have known me a long time, you know that I am pretty intense – I feel joy,
anger, and excitement – all in about the same minute.  What you may not know about me is that I used
to be a better friend than I am today.

You see, time and experience and my own internal struggles
have led me to this point where I have become a shallow, and distant
friend.  If you knew me then, you would
have called me the “Cruise Director” as most of my friends did then.  I was always making plans to do this and that
and everyone was invited.  I would get
excited about even the most minute detail and ponder the event over and over
and think of all the fun that we would have. 
The event would come and I expected it all to be over the top, no matter
what the experience.  I love trying new
things – especially new foods. 
Unfortunately on more than one occasion I’ve had to say, “This is not
what I expected.”

If you were my friend then, I would have called you
regularly – checked in more – just to find out how you were.  There was something in me that just had to
know.  I had to know what made you tick,
what your experience was that day – what you had for breakfast and what color
shirt seemed like a good idea and did you wear those same earrings or something
new?  Did you buy the shoes?  Did you talk to her about the same old
thing?  How did that book make you
feel?  I thrived on the simple day-to-day
of who you were. 

But then my interactions with friends were not as
frequent…plans not made, kept or reciprocated…phone calls unreturned.  Things were allowed to get the in the way –
work, children, and who knows what.  My
striving for those friendships was dashed – unreturned, unopened,
unappreciated. 

I didn’t know it, but this slow process of drawing in
began.  Drawing into this darkness and
cold. 
I am still friendly, still
outgoing, but there is this part of me deep inside that assumes that we will
never become better friends than these superficial masks that we wear and that
my attempts at frequent contact and a real knowing with you will not
happen.  And so I try less and less.  My faux list of Facebook friends grows and
yet there is this horrible lonely part of myself that longs to be known.  Known by another like me or different…or
intense like me or reserved unlike me – but really exposed to who this frozen
soul is. 

How do I begin again? 
How do I become that intense, angry, loud, boisterous, silly, fun,
unpredictable person that I was?  How do I
reach out and seek to know that part of you that also longs to be known – in
this sisterhood of friendship so few of us dare to become initiated into? 
I don’t know right now.  But I know I need to learn to walk the edge
of this cliff again – fearing that one wrong step I could fall off, but fearing
a greater danger of walking so far over to the solid ground that I cannot see
the breathtaking view of the edge.