Introspective Insights

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

Surgery Day

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.

Day of surgery. All cleaned up and antibacterial wipes done. My last food, eaten. I can have liquids until 11:30am. Kayla is nervous for me and she throws up right after she wakes up. It’s a beautiful day. It reminds me of the day Kayla was born 11 years ago.

As nervous as I had been the night before – to the point of a drunk, anxious, spinning feeling to anxious coughs – like asthma after running in the cold – I wake up this morning and command the enemy to leave me in the name of Jesus. No more spinning and a supernatural peace envelopes me. I post the following to my Facebook group:

 

 

 

 

I talked to Rachel last night and she said, “You have had your body sawn in half and a baby taken out, so how bad can it be?” Good point. We talked about lots of other random things and it was a good diversion.

Trying to stay calm this morning. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.

Surgery day is long. We don’t leave the house until 11:15, arrive at the hospital at 12:15pm and I go right in. They take me back for the needle insertion to mark the non-cancerous breast lesion. In the first room on the wall there is a yellow day lily painted on silk and embroidered in small circles, almost like quilting. I didn’t think about it much at the time.

Next, they take me into the mammogram procedure room. The doctor is very nice, and the needle insertion goes quickly. They were going to make me stand for it as they needed to take several mammogram pictures before and during to ensure they put the pin in the correct location. Instead they found a sitting gurney chair and used that. And yes, there was a needle sticking out of me, while I was awake, before surgery, taped down until they put me under. So weird.

I prayed quietly as I waited for the doctor and sang, “I love you Lord”. Then I looked at the picture on the wall – a white flower painted on silk with embroidery (same artist as the lily in the other room). I looked at the tag – white trillium. Suddenly I remembered the yellow day lily Rachel texted me that morning. The first in her garden this spring – she said, “I think this is for you.” The same type of lily and same color as the picture in the first room.

My eyes refocus on the trillium in the mammogram room I’m in now. I hear God speaking into my mind, “A gift for you, from me. You are right were you should be.” The flower swells off the wall as tears fill my eyes. Wow, just wow.

Ever since I learned about trillium, the pretty white flowers that grow mostly in northern Michigan that turn a beautiful shade of lavender, I’ve wanted to see one in person, near my home. I was privileged to see tons of them in Petoskey when my sister lived there. About three years ago, I was driving to pick up the kids from school and as I passed a small forest on the way, God beckoned me to look into the forest and said, “there are trillium there”. I could see them a bit from the road and after picking up the kids, we circled back and got out of the car to investigate and take pictures. There is no way I would have seen the trillium without God’s nudging.

After the needed is inserted, they wheel me to surgery prep and I was the only patient there. The nurse who did my IV was excellent – hardly a mark and no bruise. All of my blood pressure checks were normal – first time since I was diagnosed. Next, I meet with the doctors. The plastic surgeon draws funny lines all over me. He sees the needle sticking out of me and asks, “Who are you, Jane of the jungle?” I laugh.

The anesthesiologist gives me a small patch behind my ear to prevent nausea as a dear doctor friend recommended. He also inserted a nerve block near the lump removal site. This administers pain relief for about 18 hours after the surgery. I have never heard of this. Thankfully they sedate me during the insertion because, yeah, I see now on my upper chest where the block went in and no thanks! That would have been very painful to experience awake! I then see the surgeon briefly.

They wheel me back to the O.R. I see the table waiting for me and the lights, but they aren’t on yet. Then I wake up in the recovery room. Jerry and I and the nurse are the only ones there. I drink juice and eat crackers and feel nauseous but go to the bathroom and start to feel better. The nurse takes out the IV, I get dressed with Jerry’s help and we leave at 8pm – the sun still shining. I put the chest seatbelt behind me on the way home.

Dawn picks up my prescriptions and Laura watches the kids and they had a good day. I stay up for a while to get the pain meds going, update a few things on Facebook, answer text messages, and then go to bed. Surgery done. Now, time to recover…

 

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.

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.

31 Days

I don’t easily become emotional, but there are a few movies that get me every time. At the end of Night at the Museum, the director of the museum fires Larry the night guard and as he is walking him out and sees multitudes of patrons walking in, he silently hands Larry his keys and flashlight because he knows that it’s because of him that they are there.

Or when Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz, is at the Emerald City watching the hot air balloon fly away without her and she is overcome. Glinda the good witch appears and tells her she always had the power to go home. She clicks her heels together and chants, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” It’s scenes like this that bring a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Times when the hero of the story knows that he or she has finally made it past their fears.

Today is that day for me. I have met my goal to write and post to my blog for 31 days in a row. I’m honored and humbled that you have gone with me on this journey and I’m grateful for all of the encouragement and comments you have shared. Writing everyday has been a long term goal and I was too mired in fear to believe that I could do it, but here I am! Praise God!

What’s next? I will continue to post here a few times a week, but it is time for me to write quietly for awhile, to come to terms with what is stirring in my soul. There is a book in there, I’m sure, but I don’t really know what that means or what it looks like.

Thank you all again for reading and I will be back here soon.

Blessings to all, Jennifer

Perspective Changed

My husband is a sweetie and indulges me with jewelry whenever he can. Every once in awhile, I need to get my jewelry repaired or resized. It is then that I get the chance to wear items I don’t usually wear. As I put on my original wedding set, I am reminded of the first time I saw it – how it looked like nothing else you could buy at the time. The center round stone and teardrop side stones look like a flower with petals around it. The center stone is one of the clearest and most beautiful diamonds I’ve ever seen. The jeweler even remarked about how pretty it is as we stood in a sea of precious stones! I’ve been wearing my anniversary set for so long that I forgot about how remarkably beautiful and simple my original set is.

I often pursue the next, shiny thing without pausing, looking around, appreciating, and remembering what I have. Isn’t that how life is? We forget about the gifts we have because we don’t remember or write down all that God has done for us over the years. Our perspective changes when we focus on God and look around at the abundance we have already been given. November is almost here. Let’s prepare ourselves for a month of gratitude by soaking in all that is before us.

Fighting The War

Writing for me is mostly cathartic – a way to heal and reflect and move on. But today, I can’t put together any words that resolve my angst, worry or pain. This human condition we face lends itself to negativity and loneliness and aching. And some days, you just can’t put a spin on that. It seems it is time to get back to basics. I have clothing, food, shelter, and clean water, which automatically puts me at a serious advantage over most people in the world. Yet, I have the audacity to want more. It is programmed into us to move past the physical and to the spiritual, to seek enlightenment where we can find it. We each have our own path and our creator beckons us on it. So while I face these temporary distractions of the physical, I look up and seek the divine in gratitude:

  • Impossibly orange, yellow, sunny day
  • My favorite yogurt with lunch
  • Soft, furry boots

I continue to do what I don’t want to do and fight the war within myself, but when I give thanks, I return to the center.

Dreaded Mondays

Mondays – I don’t like them either. It seems as though the days start late and rough and there is more rushing and crabbiness than necessary. Getting through the day is a challenge – catching up on laundry, picking up the pieces of the house after the weekend, making phone calls and to do lists. It seems that Mondays exist in the gray, mundane part of existence synonymous with drudgery and dread.

But I realized today that it doesn’t have to be that way. Monday can be an opportunity to have coffee in a cheery spot with a friend, bright flowers from her shirt lifting my spirits. It can be snuggles with my little one, her purple velvet shirt brushing my face. It can be a smile and a kind word from a staff person at the kid’s school. The surprised look I get every time I visit my oldest daughter at lunch and the super-tight hug her little sister gives her when she sees her sweet face. “I love her”, she whispers to me on the way out.

I pop up my fuchsia umbrella, thankful for the fabric that shields me from the mist and I mentally pause my to do list and thank God for these small wonders – all on a Monday afternoon.

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.

What a Bird Taught Me About Complaining

Winter in southeast Michigan brutally assaulted us this year. A constant barrage of snow storms, extremely cold temperatures combined with repeatedly negative windchills have left us housebound and generally at a loss for what to do next. Plans constantly changing, roads icy and impassable, cancellations and structure thrown about. Everywhere I look or listen, I hear whining, complaining, and general disgruntlement.
I’ve been doing my best to be quiet and accept each day for what it is, but this is not an easy task. This morning, I woke before dawn as I typically do. I peeked out the back window to the stone frozen quiet, stars glittering, silver, sliver moon above.
As I started getting ready, I looked outside again, dawning day in blue and yellow and I heard a rabble – quiet but steady. One bird – chirping, tweeting, singing. A single, solitary greeting to the day. I looked earnestly for that bird. Every few minutes listening intently as the tweeting continued – a full 45 minutes of uninterrupted singing, praising in this bitter cold – that still, small voice.
This unprecedented weather – it has stopped us, stilled us, slowed us down, turned us, slipped our focus, dulled our senses by the shear repetitive nonsense of it all. But this bird got up and sang anyway. This bird knows his purpose – to glorify his God – to sing his praises, to fulfill his calling – to sing. And isn’t that what we need to do? Why complain about something we can’t change?
If the sun rose this morning and you have breath, health and your family around you, aren’t you compelled by gratitude to your creator? Even if you don’t have those things, God isn’t finished with you yet and isn’t that enough to know that you – a work in progress – can humbly, quietly continue in the purpose you were given?

Holding on to Gratitude


Thanksgiving was a couple of days ago here in the United
States and I’ve discovered that with each passing year, this holiday becomes
more and more my favorite.  Most other
holidays have a commercial component to them now and each one involves gifts
except for Thanksgiving.  

Even though each year Thanksgiving grows on me on a bit,
this year I think I finally understood why. 
In church on Thanksgiving Eve, we were challenged to list all that we
were thankful for out loud.  Pastor
assured us to go on as long as needed and to not be shy.  As I started to say those people that I was
thankful for I realized that after a short time, I could no longer speak.  Tears streamed down my face because how can
you thank a great God who owes us nothing for everything we have?
  I am breathing right now because he allows
it.  Where can I even begin?  Pastor encouraged us to start small and
continue to live a life of gratitude.  I
was profoundly moved by this. 

Where do we begin? 
First, start with our smallness – start with the fact that we are dust
and then thank God for life and health and air to breathe.  Maybe family is next and then
possessions.  But here is the tricky part
– thanking him for pain and loss and all that challenge us in this life.  This is not easy, but if we are still
breathing, that means that God has a purpose for us and he promises to be with
us to help us.  

While the concept of constant gratitude is something I have
been studying for nearly three years, I realize that I have much to learn and will
probably never get it right in this life. 
But starting somewhere is all we have to do.

The food is gone, the family has left, and I have almost
recovered the kitchen from the madness. 
The kids want to decorate for Christmas. 
Me too…but I’m hesitating a bit. 
Looking around at the simple orange pumpkins, cornucopia, leaves, and
grasping the gratitude for just awhile longer.