Monday, August 29, 2016

FRIENDLY FIRE





Recently on Facebook, I stumbled into a comment thread between people whom I know to be Christians, arguing, making precision cuts with sarcasm, over their differing political/theological opinions.
It’s not only online that these divisive exchanges happen. Some of us might experience this in conversation around the dinner table, or in the break room at the office. Sometimes we experience “friendly fire” through email or private message. The enemy knows the power of a subtle, suggestive comment. However it comes, it cuts at our hearts and the wounds left behind can lead us to feeling isolated, dejected and divided.
Wherever it happens, you can be sure it’s got the stink of the enemy all over it. When he can tempt us to turn on each other, our witness fails. While we’re busy reeling from the blows of our friends, we’re at a standstill in our calling.




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

PLANS CHANGE.


Right when I feel like I’m settling into the current circumstances, plans change. 

More than two weeks before my vacation, I took a genetic test called a BRCA test (most people seem to pronounce it Brack-uh), recommended by my breast surgeon. Come to find out, I fall within a population of only 11% of women under the age of 45 diagnosed with breast cancer. Because I’m a newly inducted member of this sorority, it’s important to know if I am a carrier of BRCA. It’s not only important for me and my future, but also for my offspring.

What does a + BRCA test mean? Well, basically that I have a high probability of getting breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer in my lifetime. For me specifically? Well, I’ve nailed the breast cancer, so therefore I may live with a risk of ovarian cancer. There is currently no effective early screening for ovarian cancer; when it is caught, it is typically in advanced stages and hard to cure. For the ovarian surveillance, I would have a yearly vaginal ultrasound to check my ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus for abnormalities and a CA125 blood test that looks for elevated CA125 protein levels which is an indicator for ovarian cancer. Again, neither of these ovarian cancer screenings ensures that we would catch the cancer early. Preventive measures may be taken proactively, rather, which correlates to a complete hysterectomy. We’re not there yet, but that’s a beast of itself.


Rewinding….upon my return from the south Pacific, I received a series of phone calls. Long story short, geneticists are requiring me to perform a series of genetic tests considering my age, my mother’s death (a story for another time), and the few but significant cancer occurrences on my father’s side. Apparently, I meet more than enough criteria to be tested for Li-Fraumini syndrome, Chek-2 and a few others. Testing positive for these gene mutations mean a great number of things. In summary, a higher probability for many other sarcomas and the need for full body MRI exams on a yearly basis. Wow! Yikes. Okay.

So, there may be any one, or all, of these mutant genes inside of me, silently, doing it’s nasty work of churning out corrupted cells that go out looking for somewhere to attach and spread it’s darkness BUT soon we’ll about it. And instead of being on the defensive, we can attack. With all the violence and finality I can muster, I’ll have to fight.

I digress.

Our bodies are but a shell for our souls, our spark of life which cannot be changed no matter what is done to the shell. We are talking about double mastectomies, hysterectomy, chemotherapy, genetic counseling, implants, hormones, possibilities and probabilities. My body will change.
And God continues to be there through it all. God is always there with you. He doesn’t make you go through certain trials, He allows you to go through them. He allows us to experience pain, suffering, hurt, loss, and grief in order for us to learn something. After all, what would our lives be if they were easy all the time? Would we learn anything? Would we grow? We, as human beings, need to be challenged. And, as for me, I’m thankful for a God who challenges me. Even though the midst of these trials may royally suck at times, I look forward to the knowledge I will gain because of this. The story I will have.

You know, all of our journeys are unique ones. God gives each of us different stories to tell. Different chapters, different words, different characters, different plots. I believe He does this so we can personally learn and grow, and so that we can share them with others, so that they too, can grow. Be reminded that God also allows us personal victories, good days, and happiness. He is not only the author of the crap, but He also writes our greatest times as well. We gain knowledge through these victories, but as for me, I gain a helluva lot more knowledge through my trials. I am thankful for my journey. Don’t get me wrong, just because I’m thankful, doesn’t mean I always like it. However, my thankfulness is rooted in the fact that God will bless me for being faithful. He will bless me with things I can’t even imagine yet. These trials he puts us through will always result in reward. It’s the truth. God guarantees it.

As I have grown and gone through many trials in my life, I choose to view these shitty circumstances not as “Why?” moments, but rather as “What are You teaching me?” quests. God is working in me. He is teaching me something that will benefit my future. He is honing my character. I look forward to the person I will become due to this diagnosis and the immense blessings He will pour out to me.
Thank you all for your continued support, prayers, and encouragement. You all rock! Really, you are my rocks…my pillars…my sisters and brothers.



1 Peter 5:8-10 (Message Version)

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ -eternal and glorious plans they are!- will have you put together and on your feet for good.”

PERMANENT CORNER


The past couple of weeks were impeccable. If you know me, you know that Hawaii is a place of almost spiritual significance to me. But while Hawaii occupies a permanent corner in the back of my heart and mind, it’s not exactly the kind of place you can just, like, pop over to, you know? So, I have double the average amount of gratitude every time I get to return.

For two weeks, I didn’t have to think about my cancer or my upcoming treatment. I was able to enjoy my family and the beauty that enveloped us, share stories and laughter, and my heart was truly filled up. I love how God always knows just what we need. I mean, He knew months ago, when we were planning our vacation, that I would be diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks shy of our departure. I believe He knew and tediously planned my getaway…my temporary escape from reality. He also knows that I’m going to be very sick and weak pretty soon. I won’t be able to do much of anything. Which is a huge bummer. Being as independent as I am, this will be a huge adjustment for me…for us all. I am going to have to completely rely on my husband and family for any needs I might have, so the vacation was as equally as important for them as it was for me.

I’ve had some ups and downs in this journey thus far, and I know there will be many more to come. My faith, fortunately, has not wavered. God is the great physician, and for that I’m immensely blessed. He’s here with me now, will be with me during surgery and the treatments thereafter, and will cross the finish line of remission right beside me.

Philippians 4:19-20 (Message Version)

“You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity.”



Monday, August 22, 2016

WHY IT'S NECESSARY TO BE KIND


Today, I’ll stand behind someone in line at the grocery store that just lost their job.  I’ll sit behind a car as it misses the green light ~ watch it go from green to amber because a distracted mother is gazing out the window wondering when her teenager will come around.

Today, I’ll go to the drive-thru to get my favorite coffee and the cashier will be grumpy. Impolite. Because he just found out his sister has cancer. Then, as I’m driving to the bank, I’ll narrowly miss getting hit by a car with some guy on his cell phone.  He’s angry, animated, occupied. Talking to his soon to be ex-wife.

Today is the duplicate of yesterday. A portent of tomorrow. Today people are hurting. Struggling to believe this is a day worth rejoicing.

And so today, it’s necessary to be kind.

*Photo courtesy of Mandi Roach Photography



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

H A W A I I


The whole outside world felt really far away. Political campaigns and conventions and facebook debates fell entirely off of our radar. I felt humbled and small as I walked beneath towering palm trees and took in breath-taking sunsets. My littles were beside themselves excitedly eager to play at the water’s edge. Dad and the bigs released seemingly ever-present tension as they turned off their phones and left the demands of work and schedules behind.

The littles were outside from dawn until the very last rays of sun tucked themselves beyond the ocean’s end. They invented games involving wild sea animals and chopsticks they took home as souvenirs from one of my favorite sushi stops. They scavenged daily for geckos lurking around the house. They cheered one another on as they ran onto shore from the crashing waves and would collectively shout for joy when they spotted “dada” or “bubba” catching waves on their surfboards.

These few days away reminded me how we were all created with a deep, unrelenting desire to seek stillness. Often, time tucked away from the clanging cymbals of this world result in an intimate encounter with our Creator. He gently reminds us of his love through the beauty of creation. When we are still before Him, we are able to lean into the quiet whispers of truth. No matter how unsteady this world feels, He is sovereign and steadfast.

I want to teach my children to seek adventure and abundant life. I want them to know that this Jesus we serve is wholly good and full of gracious love. I want them to remember vacations like this one and know that joy and laughter are signs of life and light and are desperately needed in this aching world. I want them to pour forth love in every encounter with others and to seek beauty at every turn.

And, I want them to know that an escape to the islands on a whim with four kiddos is FAR FROM EASY and we can each be a jerk at any random time of day (and we were). Yet, the memories we made together are absolutely worth every ounce of effort.



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