Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I've Started Singing Again

One of the things I've missed so much since getting sick is singing. I am used to singing most days -- not formally, but just as I go about the day. I've always loved to sing and dance while cooking or cleaning. I've always loved to sing at church.

I've been too exhausted for months to sing. My throat and mouth have been bone dry (literally) from the chemo, and even if I had wanted to sing, it would have come out like a frog croaking. I've held onto praise inwardly -- sometimes with a very tight grip -- but everything has been been very inward for a long time as I've just clung to Jesus and hung on.

Yesterday I was playing some music and I suddenly started to sing aloud. And later I was trying to remember a song and sang part of it. And then today I've had some time alone and I started playing some favorite videos and I started to sing again. I can't say it sounds beautiful (I'm still pretty croaky) but it FEELS beautiful, because it feels like my spirit is waking up like a flower after a bitter winter. I may be stiff and broken (and bald) but my hands are starting to lift heavenward. "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, the earth is yours!" (I sing along with Gungor...)

Dancing, of course, has been out of the question. The pain and stiffness in my leg make it hard to walk, much less dance. I'm not there yet, but I can tell that my body is wanting to dance again too. I sit in my chair at the kitchen table and my hands rise and wave and my feet start to tap. And I pray it is just a matter of time.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Life Goes On

It's been a long time since I have managed a blog post. The past several weeks have been a long, exhausting blur. If I had to pick one word to describe them, it would probably be slog.

Having cancer is a terrible thing. Lots of well meaning people will tell you, when you have it, not to let it rob you of the things that matter, and it's true that attitude matters. But the plain fact is, being bludgeoned by serious illness and intensive chemotherapy just takes a lot out of you. It changes everything  - your body, your face, your daily routine, your relationships, your faith journey. It wears you out and wears you down. It makes you feel like a stranger to yourself sometimes.

I am tired on all sorts of levels today, and I am simply here to say sometimes it is okay to rage and okay to grieve. It's not giving too much power over to the reality; it's simply acknowledging that sometimes reality is just hard. Really, really hard. And while I am thankful for prayers, peace, love, and people who care - all part of this journey- I have days where I just need to say I am weary, and that is the truth. I have days where I need to say enough is enough, and I want healing, and "how long, Lord?" And to know it is okay to say those things and okay to cry and okay to want my life back.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Feather on the Breath of God

It's been well over a month since I've posted anything here. During that time, I've undergone a round of radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy. I have experienced a good deal of pain and a lot of fatigue. And I am still deep in the midst of a long, hard road, the road I am calling my healing journey.

I am just now beginning to feel as though I can write a little about how I am feeling. Both reading and writing -- my go-to pleasures and habits of a lifetime -- felt too exhausting during the initial days and weeks after diagnosis. Sometimes literally too exhausting -- I would try to read and fall asleep before I reached the end of a page, or I just found it too tiring to sit at a keyboard or pick up a pen. I'm still incredibly tired, but I'm in the midst of an extra week "off" between chemo rounds, to try to build my strength before the next one. And I am thankful that I am beginning to be able to read and write again and find solace and comfort in that.

Re-reading is such a gift in times of illness. For me right now, I am needing the comfort of familiar and beloved stories. I re-read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a favorite novel I tend to read annually) and am in the middle of re-reading the Harry Potter books. I am thinking I make take a dive into some old Agatha Christie novels soon too, and I've read bits of some favorite Austen books.

While I'm not feeling like tackling anything new and large, I am finding I can read new reflections, articles, and poems, so I've spent some time online doing that, especially some pertinent things for Lent and Holy Week.

Mostly I am trying to rest...not just outwardly, but inwardly. I am resting in God's goodness. I am resting in his loving care for me and in the knowledge that he is the great and gentle healer. I am trying to abide in Jesus and "stay on the mat," as a friend advised me (the image comes from the gospel story where friends brought their parlyzed friend lying on a mat to the feet of Jesus -- so thankful I am that so many people are bringing me to his feet right now)! I am spending time in the Word and meditating on the words God gives me, through the Scriptures and through others.

My friend Erin sent me a FB video the other day that showed a bunch of swirling flower petals on a street. It was lovely -- just a group of beautiful pink petals all caught up in a vortex of wind, swirling this way and that (almost looking like a flock of birds). I loved the image of those petals caught up in the unseen wind, blown about in such an intricate dance. It made me think of Hildegard's "feather on the breath of God" and how I long to let myself be steered by the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Living in the Shadow

The Psalms keep singing their life into me each morning. Right now, I am doing a lot of singing and clinging through them.

Living in the shadow of death is part of the human condition. A cancer diagnosis brings that into sharper focus than usual. Living with intensifying pain does too. I am suddenly far more aware of my frailty and fragility. I am also far more aware of fear.

But thanks be to God, the shadow of death is not the predominant shadow we see in the Scriptures. When we abide in Jesus, the shadow we know most intimately is the shadow of his wings.

It's not that the other shadow isn't acknowledged. That's one of the beautiful things about God's Word. It tells us the truth, all of the truth, even the hard truth about suffering. But it doesn't stop with the hard word. It goes on to the gospel goodness of God's presence with his people from first to last, through every drop of suffering and difficulty.

It is God's presence that enables us to say that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil. We are more aware of his rod and staff bringing us comfort.  (Psalm 23)

It is through the tender mercies of God that the sunrise breaks upon us, shining light even as we sit in the darkness and the shadow of death. He knows we need that light to live, and so that our feet will be guided in the path of peace. (Luke 1) 

And when we dwell in God's shelter, under his wings, we know protection, mercy, and grace. He covers us so that we do not have to keep our eyes on any other shadows, even the scariest ones. From Psalm 91:

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *
    abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

2 He shall say to the LORD,
"You are my refuge and my stronghold, *
    my God in whom I put my trust."

3 He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter *
    and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,
and you shall find refuge under his wings; *
    his faithfulness shall be a shield and buckler.

5 You shall not be afraid of any terror by night, *
    nor of the arrow that flies by day;

6 Of the plague that stalks in the darkness, *
    nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

7 A thousand shall fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand, *
    but it shall not come near you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

"Mercy Embraces Those Who Trust in the Lord"

More goodness from the Psalms for my tired but trusting heart this morning. "...mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord" is from Psalm 32:11. Earlier in the Psalm, we read these words:

7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in
time of trouble; *
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;
you preserve me from trouble; *
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

9 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you
should go; *
I will guide you with my eye.

The waters are overflowing, Jesus. Right now it feels like I am caught in a flood. Let your mercy keep me safe in swift currents threatening to overwhelm me. There are times I am resting secure, but times when I feel fear and pain and uncertainty threatening to overtake me. Do not let them overcome me, Lord. You promise that when the great waters overflow, they will not reach me, that you will preserve me instead. Be my life preserver. Let me hear your shouts of deliverance, loud and long enough for me to know you're coming to my rescue.

And do guide me with your eye. There is no other eye that sees further than yours. You know every single step of the road ahead for me and for my family. Do not let us step anywhere on this path without you. Help me to follow so closely in your footsteps that I'm like a clinging child who keeps stepping on your heels and grabbing your hand. I don't want to make a move without you, Jesus. Teach me in the way I should go, step by step.

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Be Strong and Let Your Heart Take Courage..."

"...all you who wait for the Lord." (Psalm 31:24)

Waiting for him today. Waiting for his strength, his courage, his love, his deliverance, his healing, his hope, his peace.

Also from Psalm 31:

14 But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord. *
I have said, "You are my God.

15 My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.

16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me."

Could there be any better words to pray today in light of the news I received yesterday? I so did not want this diagnosis, Lord. And yet here it is.

I couldn't even make it to the gospel in my readings this morning. There was too much goodness to cling to just in the Psalm. I love how gospel-infused the Scriptures are. We trip over the good news at every turn.

Courage, Dear Heart. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

So Much Goodness, So Much Grace

"Why is God so good to us?" may have been just about the most beautiful thing I've heard said in a long time. Those were the words spoken to me by the sweet girl last night as we hugged each other before bedtime. They sort of burst from her spontaneously and left me standing there almost limp with joy. (Okay, yes, I was very tired, but the joy was real too!)

My dear thirteen year old daughter has struggled a lot over the goodness of God in the past couple of years, especially with the big questions like "how is God good when there's so much suffering?" To hear her so joyfully affirm her sense of his goodness at the end of what has undoubtedly been the hardest week and a half of her life makes me so grateful.

These days really have been hard....very hard. My sudden swoop into serious illness, the uncertainty and anxiety we're all living under as we await more news on my diagnosis, the way the world felt like it turned upside down as I had doctor appointments, surgery, and have been having to put the brakes on almost everything "normal" in our life routine so that I can rest and heal -- all of this has been hard. It would be hard for any family and any thirteen year old. The fact that many of the challenges tap the sweet girl's most challenging places of anxiety has sometimes felt like another rushing and scary part of this whole tsunami.

And yet....

She is feeling and sensing and KNOWING the goodness of God. As I am. As are we all.

And she is feeling and sensing and knowing God's goodness through God's people. Her question last night: "why is God so good to us?" came on the heels of other exclamations: "I love people. I love God!"  And I knew exactly what she meant. I do too, and I especially love how God loves us THROUGH his people. It's astounding.

Why is God so good to us? Because he loves us, and because that's who he is.

In other good news today...
I had a very broken night's sleep, and finally got some good, healing sleep in the later part of the morning, after taking more pain medication.

When I woke up around 8, I reached for my water (doing a good job of staying hydrated) and my groggy mind started the phrase "this is the day...." I think what my brain was going for was "this is the day you might hear from the oncologist."

But the long engrained habit of Scripture reading and memorization took over. My heart and mind interrupted with the words "....that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Can I just say how deeply, deeply thankful I am for all the words of God that I've tucked away over the years? Beginning at the kitchen table with my own dear Mama and dancing through these last years when I've sung and repeated and taught and rehearsed so many words from the Scriptures with the sweet girl. They are there now, like a treasure house, ready to draw on. Or like a spring welling up inside me and bursting out when I don't even expect it.

Holding onto lots of truth today: that God is good, that he loves us so, that he made this day, that we can rejoice in it. No matter what.