Search Results for '"Even Here'


Click to read- and don’t forget the blog has movedIMG_5918

IMG_0074.JPG 6 days. From around 6 a.m. – until….well, when ever the heck I finally stopped. I nested. Everything in my heart said: “this will be our escape. Our place of peace. Where we’ll enjoy the grace that is living away from all the mess and stress that is life. ”

I made it beautiful. It was sold furnished- all I had to do was a surface makeover to make it ours. It’s As cute a tiny respite as I’ve ever dreamed of having. A dream come true. Our own little cottage on a lake.

IMG_3463.JPG

IMG_3474.JPG

IMG_3461.JPG

IMG_3458.JPG

I even have a desk. A real writing spot.

IMG_3021.JPG

IMG_3014.JPG

IMG_3025.JPG

IMG_3050.JPG

And this: I can’t even believe it…..

IMG_3195.JPG. I h

IMG_3133.JPG

IMG_3141.JPG

IMG_3250.JPG

Just about the time I stopped furiously working- the wall of safety I thought I was building was once again hit by the wrecking ball of cancer. I did not want cancer to show its face here. Not here.

But, it did. Another bad report. More treatments ahead. More fear. More struggle. Lots of tears. Lots of prayers.

Cancer doesn’t respect boundaries. Cancer doesn’t take a vacation. It follows you and surrounds you wherever you are. Even here. In my favorite places ever.

As I was wallowing in the mess of emotion that is tied up in cancer I remembered a picture a dear friend sent me, this one:

IMG_0074-0.JPG

This is how I feel right now. In our nest of peace trusting. But also- surrounded by thorns and cacti needles.

I’m choosing to trust the one who’s holding our little nest- even here. In a place I’d never choose to nest. Cancer. Stress. Fear. Pain. Living in this nest isn’t as safe or comfortable as other places we’ve nested. The thorns reach out to tear at us every time we move. They hurt. We heal.

We do the next thing. We take the next step. Over and over.

If you’re feeling the same, I pray you find rest and nourishment for your soul. The nest may be surrounded by thorns- but it’s still being held by one who loves you. Even there.

Here’s my prayer today:blessed be your name

481383062_0885388077_m Even Here,

Please click for today’s post- and be sure to subscribe! I’m giving away either a Kindle fire HDX or an IPOD Nano (winner’s choice) When I hit 1,000 followers on the new site!

Extra entry if you share the link!

The brace- cone of shame...

The brace- cone of shame…

“It’s not fused. You wear the brace 24/7. Maybe it will still fuse. If not. I’ll do surgery.”

So, here we are again. For the foreseeable future I will be accessorized by a hard, ugly, uncomfortable, neck brace. And I will be praying that this stupid neck fuses with every uncomfortable reminder:

  • Like bumping into someone or something because I can’t see. (Not being able to turn your head- limits your peripheral vision… it’s a great way to meet new people… just sayin.)
  • When I trip over everything.. and nothing) Not being able to look down is a little like being 9  months pregnant and not being able to see your feet. (Minus the belly. well. maybe not in my case:P)
  • When I walk like a 92 year old woman- bent over trying not to fall because falling would be BAD, very bad.
  • When I have to hold my laptop at about nose level (propped on  my knees) in order to type this because I STILL cannot touch type and need to see my fingers…..(FYI: in addition to math, I failed typing in 9th grade. oopsy.)
  • When I have to fish bits of lunch out of the brace and need help with everything I drop and end up having a fit because eating without seeing what your doing is a little like this scene from Helen Keller. 

The good news: (more…)

The first day of vacation, I stayed on the beach until my skin felt like I’d been dipped in hot sauce and put under a heat lamp. Not a good thing, unless you’re a chicken wing. Which, at last check, I am not.

I know. I know. It was totally my own fault- my mom even kept telling me to put sunblock on. But, I couldn’t help myself. I was on the beach. The sun was shining. The waves were gently breaking on the shore and there was no neck brace trying to smother me or cancer test results or treatments to wait for.

It’s been a long time since all of those factors aligned. Too long, if you ask me. I was in my happy place.

Since I don’t do pretense-  I have to tell you…it’s been a craptastic year.  But, it’s also been one we’re glad to have survived with the help and love of friends, family and a God who has been with us every stumbling, toe-stubbing, free-falling and frustratingingly fearful and yet somehow- at least in moments-peace-filled, step of the way.  (How’s that for a run on sentence, Mrs Whit? It may be a record. Oops. Thought I was in ninth grade again..Mrs Whit  always busted me for run-on sentences.)

Anyway- the point is (Yes, there is a point, I’ll get to it. Eventually.) We haven’t been alone, even here. Through 2 major surgeries for my mom, a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment for my husband, 2 cervical fusions to fix my neck, (Side note: we should find out soon whether my head is finally screwed on straight. I’ll keep you posted.) the loss of my father in law’s foot and subsequent recovery and countless other things. You know- unimportant stuff like: life and kids and pets and laundry. (side note: Someone recently mentioned that I’d “really been through the wringer this year”… and all I could think was: “Yup- and yet,  I came out fatter not flatter. It figures.” For the younguns: a wringer- a device for rolling/pressing the water out of wet hand washed laundry…..think: Laura Ingalls. Oh man.. the youngun’s won’t even remember Laura Ingall’s… whatever.I give up. Google it.)

All year God has used a visual reminder of his love and presence with us. A birds nest. in a branch, cradling 3 eggs as they grow and mature.  Nests have turned up in tattoos, (Well, in mine anyway) cards, gifts, floral arrangements at the oncology unit and unbelievably- even in trees…. (I know, right? Trees. Who da thought? Just go with me here… k?) Nests have turned up at just the moment (s) I most needed a reminder that we aren’t alone.

So much so, that I’ve started looking for them. Like a programmers’ “easter eggs” or a child’s reaching for mommy’s hand when thunder rumbles, whenever “it” hits the fan, I look for a nest.

Last week, “it”  didn’t hit the fan. And so, as I soaked up way more sun than I should have- I neglected to look for a nest.

Maybe, it’s because I didn’t have any feelings of impending doom. Maybe, it’s because I was too busy enjoying myself. (And enjoying the amazing food….Our once a year foodie splurge;) Maybe, it’s because I fried too many brain cells on the beach. Maybe, it’s because it’s late summer and I figured all nests had been vacated. Or maybe it’s because I’m conditioned to look for and to God when things are rough…but not so much when things are wonderful.

Whatever the reason- I wasn’t looking and one showed up anyway.

On the beach.

Even here.

I’ll be honest-in all the crazy that has been the past year, I’d nearly forgotten that I’m not alone in my happy places, either.

Even here.

In the sunrises, the sunsets. In the feel of warm sand under my feet. In the sound of waves touching shore. In the smiles of boys and men: playing ball, catching fish and eating spaghetti and sleeping in.In the quiet voice that joined me my coffee and bible on the balcony before anyone else but the beach ducks were awake.

Even here. I am not alone.

Neither are you.

If you’re in a place of mess and pain- you’re not alone. I get it. Others do, too. If thats where you are- I hope you’ll share it so I can pray and knowing my readers, others will to.

If you’re in a happy place- you’re not alone either…. look around. Where do you see his presence? Who do you celebrate life with?  What’s your happy place?

There is an old adage that says: “A trouble shared, is a trouble halved” if so- then- a joy shared must be a joy doubled…..

So go ahead- share your joys and troubles… he is there- yup. even there.

After a great vacation- I’m hoping to get better at seeing his presence in the joys of life as well as the messes…..even here.

Also: it doesn’t matter if you’re 4 or over 40- if your mother says: put on sunscreen. Put it on. She’s right. The end.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
1even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Even here? Even here.

I thought I knew what my tattoo meant as the Hawaiian radio DJ (long story- let’s just say it FELT like the right time and place to get it!- and it was;) inked it onto my ankle: a bird’s nest- held in the crook of a branch- a reminder of Gods tender care and comfort- as he gently holds my family. 3 blue eggs tucked into the nest of our love held in the crook of a branch dotted with 5 small blossoms representing each member of our family— because we aren’t just eggs- but still growing.

It’s a visual planted in my heart at MOPS convention in 1998. (14 years ago- really? I can’t even believe it.) when the theme was “Feather your nest.” Based on Psalm 84 vs 1-3.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
 my heart and my flesh cry out
 for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home,
 and the swallow a nest for herself,
 where she may have her young—
a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

At dinner we were each given a small bird’s nest on a branch- to remind of us the truth of God’s presence in our lives and His promise of a nest for my family, by the altar.

Over the years- that nest sat on the sill- reminding me of God’s presence as I washed dishes, washed gum out of kids hair, held dripping ice onto bloodied boo-boos and all the other things a mom does in the kitchen.

It reminded me of the truth through our struggle to buy our first home, in struggles with fertility, struggles in pregnancy and struggles in my marriage. It always brought me back to the altar. (It also gathered a lot of dust… nests are not easy to clean.)

When I started working on a book project in process (A Mile in Her Shoes)  I wanted a way to engage. To engage means to- To connect with commitment. My commitment is to the “other mom” the one who’s not like me…. She’s different. I wanted a visual reminder of that commitment. I chose to make that commitment to reach out- with a tattoo.

I settled on the bird’s nest …. because it was one of the strongest visual’s God has used in my life … (It’s possible I have birds nest jewelry, décor and photography… I may have written 6,000 nest inspired blog posts and given several talks….. nest= not a passing fad for me;)

Besides- I thought I knew what it meant.

And I kind of did. But not like I do now.

Now, I know it means much more.

Shortly before Kyle’s cancer treatment began and shortly after my diagnosis with some crummy spine issues and the fear they have involved…The nest took front and center again. This time with inspiration from a new verse:

 Psalm 139: 7-12

 

Where can I go from your Spirit?
  Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
 if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
 and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
 the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

I sat with an ice pack on my neck and a biopsy report in my hand and I read that verse and talked back to God. (My mother has yet to cure me of backtalk- she’s tried- poor thing- she’s my mom. But, I digress.)

Even there?  Sure- if I ride the wings of the dawn, or move across the sea- (to be a missionary of course) but what about even here?

 In chronic pain and physically limited body.

In my husbands cancer.

In fear of losing my husband.

In talking to my kids about cancer? How bout here??

The answer was simple, yet, not. Two words:

Even here.

Maybe it was a moment of psychosis…. Maybe it was my heart telling me the truth I already knew- or maybe it was God speaking to my heart.

Psychosis or not-  I knew without a doubt- that all these years later-our nest is still in the still resting at near His altar.

A number of weeks later as I sat down at the radiation center- I looked up to see a tiny birds nest in a flower arrangement. With 3 eggs held in it’s twiggy embrace.

I have no doubt he is with us and holding onto us-

Even here.

Regardless of what you are experiencing- personally, in your ministry, financially, or professionally- I believe he has a place for your nest at his altar…. Yes- Even there.

If you’ve never been to MOPS Convention– I hope you’ll seriously consider it….. I assure you- God will plant something in your heart- and he will grow it in your life- Even here.

Let’s pray.

Dear Lord- I know you are with  me- but please keep reminding me… in times of pain and fear- I get spiritual alzheimers……..I tend to forget. I love you Lord- and thank you for your tender care- amen.

We were 15 minutes late. Which- while it is  typical of being- well: me. Is  NOT what you want to be for your husband’s first appointment at radiation.  Talk about heaping extra stress on yourself when in an already stressful situation. Oy. However- you do your best when trying to get a kid to the bus and still manage to put on enough makeup to not scare the cancer patients.

Or maybe it was because we really just didn’t want to go.

Walking (like a ridiculous race-walker in pumps because the 12 seconds I saved running from the car to the oncology/radiation center’s doors makes the difference between living and dying. Forget the doctors. We have speed.) into the oncology/ radiation center is yet another slap in the face of cancer- denial. Even though it’s about getting well- it still stings.

Late or not- the staff was great and we only waited a bit for our appointment. (Weird- you never see doctors running in late cause they feel so bad…. yet- they are always: late. But- I digress.) It’s not necessary to go into medical jargon- but suffice to say we’re moving on to the next steps required to kick prostate cancer’s butt.  We’re ready to fight and are thankful we have a God who both “gets” us to our cores- and loves us- in addition to friends and family who love and support us.

However- a slap in the face of cancer denial- also makes you feel… well… a lot of stuff.

Like:

  • Moments of panic. Because while we know God is both good and in control and has the power to heal- he doesn’t always.
  • Moments of overwhelming sadness. Because talking to your kids about their Dad having cancer- just. sucks.
  • Moments of uncontrolled giggling because of the irony of a “siemans’ CT scan machine being used to detect prostate cancer….(Say it out loud. Think about it. I’ll give you a minute…;)
  • Moments of  being afraid to make a decision about care- because: DUH. We aren’t doctors. I Don’t WANT A CHOICE. Just tell us what will kill the cancer!!!
  • Moments of overwhelming love for the superhero-survivor that is my husband.

Sometimes all at once.

Especially when you walk out of yet another consult appointment, feeling like your head will explode due to fear/ stress and choice of treatment overload and have to wait while he gets his photo for his official “I’m a cancer patient” get out of everything free card. (Still don’t know what that was about- but seriously- they had to take his picture before we could leave.)

My neck and jaw and head felt like molten lead as I plopped into the nearest chair to wait for his glamour shot. I wondered if my brains could leak out through my ear for just a split second. For another second I kind of wished they would… cause the THINKING about cancer is almost as bad as the HAVING of cancer…. (i.e. the stress sucks. I’m not just talking about ME– I’m talking about my husband….we’d both like a lobotomy to help us cope- k? Thnx.)

Which is about when my glassy, overwhelmed eyes landed on this:

Which looks suspiciously like this:

My inked reminder that God is with us….

In pain. In beauty. In Peace. In fear.

Even Here.

And I knew he was.

Dear Lord- thank you for being with us in this cancer- I hate this.. but I love you— amen

6f72d9c1bb2806053f0ef0b54f998344“What if?” My brain scrambles a thousand answers to that question like an army scrambles  soldiers to respond to an attack. Every. Single. Time. It goes through my head. Which happens: often.

  • “What if, the cancer doesn’t die?”
  • “What if, I never really become a writer- because I don’t really TRY?”
  • “What if I try, and fail?”
  • “What if, life really is like a giant round of American Idol, and I’m one of the “joke” contestants?”
  • “What if God is really a cosmic version Simon Cowel?”
  • “What if my family ends up more like a reality TV show family-than Maybury?”
  • “What if the roof leaks because of all this snow?”
  • “What if the pipes freeze?”
  • “What if- I do become a writer and then get crazy in pursuit of best sellers and numbers and lose sight of communicating truth?”
  • “What if I stay fat, even if I do exercise?”
  • What if exercising hurts me again?”
  • What if- I don’t think through all the what if’s- and I miss something?

The truth is….”What if’s” mess me up- every single day. When I look at my list of most common “what if’s” I see a theme- the theme is: risk with a side of OCD. My brain is a risk assessment manager gone cray-cray.

Often, my brain “what if’s” me to paralysis. I end up doing: nothing. (Well- nothing but Facebook and knitting and maybe laundry.) Because I can’t figure out how to mitigate (actually- I want to: eliminate) all the risks.

The risk of rejection. The risk of failure. The risk of vulnerability. The risk of humiliation. The risk of NOT getting what I want. The risk of crappy things happening. The risk of getting what I want. The risk of not being enough- the risk of being “too much.”

“What if’s” aren’t the real problem. Fear of risk- is the problem.

It always has been. I think it started in junior high- I ran for the position on Student council that no one else ran for….(Recording Secretary- Which means I took notes. Which is awesome- and ironic-because I still can’t read my handwriting, neither can anyone else.) Running un-opposed= no risk. Guess what? I won. Shocking. I know.

From then on- I’ve chosen (for the most part) to run unopposed.

Today I’m asking new “What if’s”-

  • “What if the cancer doesn’t die- and God does amazing things in our lives in spite of it?”
  • What if I try to be a “real writer” learn a lot, grow and change in the process- even if I never “get a book deal?” (My brain insists- real writer= book deal.)
  • “What if I do try?”
  • “What if I fail spectacularly and it makes a difference?”
  • “What if, life is nothing like American Idol??”
  • “What if God loves real Simon Cowel- but thinks he’s a jerk to people- and would never act like that?” (Which- I’m pretty sure is true. Except for maybe the jerk part. Maybe.)
  • “What if my family ends up more like a real family than Maybury?”
  • “What if the roof leaks and hilarity of multi-bucket drippage ensues?”
  • “What if the pipes freeze?” (Got no upside to that one…. sorry. That would just suck- but we’d survive.)
  • “What if- I do become a writer and  take the risks of communicating truth and it: matters?”
  • “What if I stay fat, even if I do exercise? I’ll still be healthier. In theory.”
  • What if exercising hurts me again? I’ll learn my limits and adjust, or have the next part- repaired and thus move closer to actually becoming my alter -ego the bionic woman?.”

What if- I don’t think through all the what ifs- and I miss something? Well- I suppose God will be God- and I (still) won’t be. Pretty much. Which is what I think my “what if” struggle boils down to. Trying to be god. Trying to be omniscient. Trying to be omni-potentet. Trying to be and know everything- so I always do the right thing…..and things always turn out the way I want…

What if God has so much more for me- than just the things I want, and want to accomplish? What if my “What if’s ” became “More than’s?”

 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21

I don’t know- what would happen- but, I’m willing to try and find out. Let’s face it- “what if’s”  aren’t’ working for me.

Dear Lord- I love you- Help me to move into this new year- with confidence to take risks- regardless of the outcome. Help me to stop THINKING and start DOING. I may not like all that you have planned for me…. But I’m willing to go along for the ride. Because I love you, Lord. Help me to abide in you- even here. Turn my what if’s into More than’s ….…..Amen.

 a tiny nest in the doctor's officeIt’s taken over 2 years. Don’t get too excited. We haven’t arrived at a cure, yet. (Which sucks.) But, I have finally arrived at: thankful. At least I usually manage to visit the land of thankful, each day. If only for a few moments at a time. Apparently, I’m not holy enough (or maybe crazy enough) to be thankful for my husband’s cancer. (I’ve had several people encourage me to BE thankful for it…. so far? Not so much. Honestly? That sounds masochistic and sick. But hey- if it IS your experience- I’m glad for you. Just stop trying to push it on me, ok?)  I can, however- finally recognize my thankfulness IN cancer.

  • I’m thankful for the love and support of friends and family as we take this seemingly never ending Willie-Wonka- on- the psychelic -boat ride. A ride through diagnosis, surgery, treatments, appointments, emotions and trying to find a new normal that involves: cancer. Every single, day.
  • I’m thankful for the deepening of conversations and faith that this cancer battle has born like fruit on a thorny bush. I once heard that trees growing in harsh conditions where wind and rock make life difficult, dig deeper roots. I’m thankful the storm of cancer has caused our roots to deepen. (I’m feeling metaphoric- what can I say?)
  • I’m thankful for the daily reminder that life is short. Cancer puts a magnifying glass on the clock of life. There are no guarantees of tomorrow, and that loving people right now, where you are, is really the best anyone can do to honor God. This has always been true…. I was just oblivious of it. (Along with a lot of other things. Of course:P  Oblivious could be my middle name.)
  • I’m thankful that God has shown his presence in ways I recognize, at times I most desperately need it. He hasn’t DONE what I’ve been begging for- but he has shown up. We’ve not been, or felt alone. (We have however felt: angry, hurt, grief, fear, jealous of the healthy, frustrated with glib responses to our pain…. but not alone.)
  • I’m thankful for the strength of our family- birthed in love, is now being  forged in fire. Like steel hardened by a blacksmith- we’re becoming stronger- not weakened by the “stuff” we’ve been facing. (Cancer is just the tip of the iceberg….let’s just say if it COULD hit the fan? It has.) (You’re welcome- that was metaphor 3,002 for this post. I’m gong for a record.)
  • I’m thankful that life continues- even under threat.

I could go on…. But the point is- for the past few years I’ve entered each New Year hoping the next year would be better. I’ve been kicking years to the curb like the ripped wrapping paper and used paper plates currently filling my holiday infused trash. (I mean recycling. Yeah, that’s right- recycling.) I’ve been happy we survived them. But I’v not been thankful for them.

Last night, I felt different. I felt thankful. Finally. The cancer is still there. Life is still hitting us hard. We struggle. Like most people- it’s always something. Cars still break down and so do I.

But-I’m finally thankful. I’m thankful for what God accomplished last year. In spite of cancer. (And in spite of me.) Instead of kicking 2013 to the curb- I’m archiving it. I looked through this years “year in review” photo album with joy and thankfulness . Even the hospital pictures hold glimpses of humor and hope.

There was beauty amid  the mess and  I am thankful. As I look back- now I can see- I HAVE been thankful. As all the things above and so many more, unfolded this year, I felt thankful. Not every minute. And certainly not for cancer- but the thankfulness has been there. Sometimes so fleeting, I barely noticed. Like a butterfly- it momentarily landed in my heart- countless times.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been feeling guilty about my lack of thankfulness in this mess. I’ve had lots of people tell me how thankful they were for their experiences with cancer. That cancer has been “a gift in their life.” If it’s a gift, it’s been one I’d like to return. I’d even wait in the Walmart after Christmas return line for as long as it takes. (Walmart post Christmas return line? = a taste of hell on earth. Justsayin. It’s that bad.)

I’ve experienced magical thinking- “Maybe if I can make myself be thankful for the cancer- god will take it away… maybe thats the key.”  The problem is: I can’t be thankful FOR cancer. Besides- I highly doubt God falls for manipulation by emotion. I  can’t get rid of it. Not even with magical thinking. It’s not returnable or regiftable. (Even I have limits for re-gifitng.)

Cancer doesn’t come with a gift receipt. There are no returns. Not even for store credit. It just: sucks. It’s the gift that keeps on sucking.

However- I’ve been looking back- all the way to the beginning of this journey- and now I can see not just God- but my own footprints of thankfulness, in the cancer- if not for it. The truth is-I’ve been thankful all along.

I refuse to keep trying to believe that I have to be thankful FOR cancer. Jesus never met someone sick or in pain and said: “You should be thankful for this affliction. Go and enjoy it some more.” The bible says Jesus had compassion on the afflicted, the outcast, the pained. It also says he understands our weaknesses and our pain. We have a high priest (Jesus) who “gets it.” “Jesus wept.”  Is one of the most profound verses in the Bible. It shows God doesn’t expect or desire denial… he desires honesty of feelings. And that he can handle it.

Dear Lord- I’ve felt guilty for my lack of thankfulness in this cancerous mess. I’ve longed for it- I’ve even tried to manufacture it. Thank you Lord- for loving me even here. When I’m too blinded by pain to be thankful. And to messy to even recognize the thankfulness I have experienced. Thank you lord for being with us- everyday- in and through all this mess- And thank you lord for letting me off the hook of being thankful FOR cancer……. Thank you for 2013, and your presence in it. I’m not kicking it to the curb- but am gently archiving it in the story of our lives. Thank you for 2014. I’m looking forward to seeing where and how you’ll be showing up in this new year. Lord- this year I already hear you whispering to abide…..even here. Please Lord- help me to live fully- to remain- to abide- in this new year. I love you. But- I still hate cancer. Amen.

Dear Reader- I don’t know what you’re experiencing. Maybe it’s cancer- loss, divorce,job loss, financial struggles, sickness, chronic pain, relational struggles…. But if you’re like me and think you need to be thankful FOR it- and are feeling guilty and frustrated with yourself in addition to all you’re going through. I want you to know you’re not alone. I’ve been there. And: I don’t think you have to be thankful FOR whatever you’re going through. It sucks.  But maybe, just maybe if you look back- you may find you’ve been thankful IN it all along even if only for fleeting moments. If not- I promise- it will come. When it’s time. I don’t know how long it will take. It’s taken me a long time. Just keep breathing. Keep praying. (yes even ugly prayers… God can handle it.) Keep waiting. Stop heaping guilt on your already burdened heart. You’ll find thankful. If you let yourself.

I didn’t feel cheer. I started to think there was something wrong with my vision. What should have been merry and bright 1441273_10201627269256256_1776938028_nwas either dimmed and greyed or harsh and painful. Even a little vulgar. I felt a sting at others joy, and longed to share in it.

What should have been joyous preparations, felt like struggling to survive.  I scavenged for joy. I mechanically did the “things” I had to do. I cooked. I cleaned. I sought out fellow survivors. some, with fear… their survival stories often inspired grief as and confirmation of already felt fear as they did hope.

There were no zombies…. well.. except for maybe, me. There was no nuclear war. It wasn’t global warming, or a pandemic. But it was a post apocalyptic Christmas.

As a family, we’ve survived several post apocalyptic Christmas.’ I’m guessing you have too. (Fortunately, we’ve had many more with out cataclysms.) But the holidays, even with all their wrappings and trappings- do not bubble wrap protect us from pain.

One year- the apocalypse was an accident that made everything difficult and painful. Some years there were financial apocalypses. One year it was cataclysmic grief.  One year severe pain. Another- a cancer diagnosis and on going treatment.

So what do you do when you’re trying to survive (and maybe still try to celebrate) your own post apocalyptic Christmas?

Here’s what I’ve learned from ours:

1) Acknowledge the crazy that is joy and pain tossed like a salad and throw onto the table of your life. There’s no denying it. You can’t pretend it away or try to make everything “normal.” Post apocalyptic Christmas’ are different. It would take a psychotic break with reality to make them not be. It’s okay.

2) Acknowledge and allow that the joy of others may sting when you are hurting. Allow them joy- and allow yourself grief. It’s ok. Your grief (struggle) needn’t be hidden. But it’s also okay to engage in the joy of others. It can be good for your heart- if you can get past the very normal feeling of jealousy or denial.

3) Grieve what and when you need to grieve. Rejoice and enjoy what and when you need to. There is no need to feel guilty for moments of joy found in grief. They can be precious gifts.

4) Take time for some “normal.”  Even in zombie and other post apocalyptic movies-  humans relish in the moments of normal. You probably can’t do EVERYTHING you’d typically do- nor would that be healthy…. but choose a few things that are most precious- maybe a ride to look a lights, or a family tradition of watching a movie…..something simple but that speaks “holiday” to you- and endeavor to enjoy it. It’s okay if tears or fears randomly well up. Just let them. and carry on with the tradition.

5) Find some quiet. Find some heart to worship. Find some beauty. You might have to look hard. Pain, sickness, loss, hardships all make these things hard to see and find… but not impossible. To find quiet I sometimes have to get up really early- or stay up late. Which works- because apparently most apocalyptic experiences drew up my ability to sleep. I use those as my quiet moments. I’ve also been known to grab my camera and just go for a walk… somehow getting behind the lens helps me find beauty, even in some of the ugliest times and places. Or, I grab a book- and read beautiful words. Sometimes- I take a few minutes to create something beautiful… I like to knit (major understatement, there- I’m addicted to it.) But creating something  beautiful in the middle of pain helps me cope. When I don’t FEEL like worshipping- sometimes I just put on some music and see if it changes… (It usually does- but not always. Sometime my worship is just an offering of being still.)

Finally- know that you are not alone. Cataclysms of personal and other kinds are not respecters of season or tradition. Chances are someone else you know is hurting too. Reach out. Don’t make a meal or try fix it- your own apocalypse will limit your resources- of energy, time etc. However- sharing in each others pain is precious. (Actually- I believe it’s a holy experience . When a few pain filled people come together to love each other beyond and through their own pain…. it can be amazing.)

It also- gets better- loss, pain, sickness diagnosis’ that suck….. while they may or may not improve- will not make every holiday for the rest of your life feel  zombie like. It’s over 2 years since my husband’s cancer diagnosis- and while there are moments when the tears well up, and odd times when the fear threatens to overwhelm….like most apocalyptic survivors we’ve reached a new (uncomfortable, messy, imperfect) normal. The pain from our loss’s during the holidays become less stabbing with pain and more sweet with memories of those lost. Cancer is being fought with everything we have.

We fear, we grieve and we rejoice.

In a way it must be a bit like that very first Christmas….. When shepherds quaked, Israel wept for their sons and the world rejoiced over the birth of a savior. 

Dear Lord- Most of us at one time or another face  what feels like a post apocalyptic holiday. Our hearts long for a joyous one- but they feel bipolar with grief and joy. Help us survive, Lord. Help us find beauty. Help us find quiet. help us accept and acknowledge the crazy mix of it all. Help us to share our grief and our joy. Help us find the joy we can and find hope that grief and fear and pain can change over time. Be with us. Comfort us. Remind us that Christmas from the very beginning was a mix of rejoicing, fear and grief….. Remind us that it’s ok not to be “happy “all the time.  Most of all lord remind us of your love- even here- in our post apocalyptic Christmas’ I love you Lord- and trust you-mostly.  amen. 

If you’re experiencing a post apocalyptic or apocalyptic Christmas of your own….. I’d love to pray for and with you. Please let me know- either in the comments of via email….. You matter- so does your pain- to me and to God. Even here.