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.

ImageDetritus: detritus (pronounced dee-try-tus) is non-living particulate organic material (as opposed to dissolved organic material). It typically includes the bodies or fragments of dead organisms as well as fecal material. Detritus is typically colonized by communities of microorganisms which act to decompose (orremineralize) the material. In terrestrial ecosystems, it is encountered as leaf litter and other organic matter intermixed with soil, which is referred to as humus

Somedays, I feel like everything is falling apart around me. From the hem of my favorite jeans, to my relationships and house. Not in a cataclysmic  Typhoon kind of way—just in a late fall – decay laden kind of way.

My stress level rises and swirls like leaves in a November wind. My whole family is struggling to manage school, work, their own stresses, relationships, along with the ever present potential of my husband’s cancer. Somedays it’s really rough. I cry. I struggle. I fear. I pray. I think. I blow up. My kid’s stress comes out in tummy aches and separation anxiety. I worry if my husband is drinking enough water. I worry whether his cough is really a cancerous explosion yet to be confirmed. I worry how this is all affecting my college kids. I worry about the future. I pray for friends going through their own types of detritus. I think about the tragedy in the Phillipines. Somedays it just feels like everything is turning to crap or being hit with crap. (Sorry- that’s the nicest way I can describe it, at the moment.)

Not all the time. But- some times. Not usually for whole days…. but moments. Because: I’m human, I care about my family and we are facing changes and challenges that are beyond our control with outcomes known only to God. Whom I both trust- and fear. Trust because I know he has our best in his plan. And fear- because- as a parent I am painfully aware that our best may not be exactly what we want. It may not even be close

Yesterday, I took a few minutes to go outside and take a walk. (Actually- I probably went for a trespass. I have n idea to whom the land near my kid’s school I walked on belonged to. Oopsy.) I thought I was leaving the detritus behind me. I had my iPod and was listening to some of my favorite worship music…. (Third Day, Mandisa and a side of Plumb, than you very much.) Instead of leaving the detritus behinds me— as I walked through that little plot of woods- I found detritus EVERYWHERE. It was under my feet and was literally falling on my head as I walked.

As I walked (Stumbled, tripped and wandered around- actually.)  I whined (prayed) and worshipped (sang horribly and loudly but also whole heartedly) I noticed something. I noticed beautiful ivy growing among the rotten leaves. I noticed a beautiful crust of white snow over fallen leaves. I noticed the beautiful contrast of un-cluttered tree branches against a china-blue sky.

and then I noticed a decaying mattress topped with leaves and other detritus of fall.

And I became thankful. Not for the disgusting mattress- but because I realized the symbolism.  It hasn’t all been crap. It’s not all falling apart…….

Like the mattress- there have been beautiful places of rest among detritus.

Every day, no matter how bad- has held moments (however brief) of beauty: A meal shared. A hug. A friend’s text. A quiet moment. Reading scripture and finding new refreshment in it’s truth. Opportunities to give and share with others when I feel like a leaf pile after the neighborhood kids have finished with jumping in it. (I don’t know about your neighborhood, but leaf clean up seldom is competed after a good leaf pile jump-attack here. Here the leaves are just smashed and tossed to oblivion. We call it: mulch. we’re green like that.)  Somedays- mulch is all I have to offer others…. but it’s enough. Like truth telling, and knitting for a friend, or caring enough to check on someone…. it matters. God does much with little. As I walked, I realized they haven’t all been the bouncy flouncy canopy bed of my 6 year old dreams….(which I finally did get and loved, FOREVER.) But they didn’t need to be. They just needed to be soft places to land in the middle of the mess.  Like that mattress in the woods.

Maybe today- you’re feeling like your life is surrounded by detritus. Maybe today, you feel like it’s all too much and it’s all a bunch of crap. I want you to know, you’re not alone. I get it. But stop. take just a minute and look around….. what beauty can you find in the detritus? Some relationship that’s starting to grow? Some peace that you can’t explain? The ear of a tired friend – that listened to your hurt as an offering of mulch, cause that’s all she had to give?  Then you’ve found mattresses in the woods too. Take a moment to see them. Maybe even take a walk.

Now…. can you see the branches against a brilliant blue sky and know that the leaves will return? That’s hope.

It’s what I was reminded of yesterday.. and what I pray you find today, Even here.

Dear Lord- somedays I just feel like everything is crap. rom my body to my home- you know all the details…all the detritus. Lord- help me to be a soft place for others- even in my mess and help me to appreciate the places of rest in the detritus…. even when they seem to be an old mattress in the woods… I love you lord- I don’t understand you…. I don’t always like what you allow- But I love you- and in you I find hope and rest. Thank you, Lord for being even here- amen.




Quiet. It’s very quiet at the Cancer center. They try to cover it up with classical music playing softly through invisible speakers constructed by some medical 007 musical research team. But, even high class, spy created music cannot drown out the quiet. The quiet keeps growing. It gets louder with every person who walks through the door. The quiet grows in the hush of emotions being held  in check. The quiet is the sound of the tension between managing fear and hope.The quiet is the holding of breath before the breaking of news.

I am: not quiet.

In trying to keep myself from being driven mad by the quiet-(And driving everyone else nuts in the process-)  I tend to pace, knit, listen to music or books on my iPod , read and or wander, while we wait. Sometimes all of the above at the same time.  Trust me. But it’s not just an abundance of nervous energy.

The truth is: I’m looking for God. I’m desperate for a reminder of his presence in this place. In the quiet.

Most of the time- I find something. A word. A visual. Something. A tiny nest of peace found in storm of anxious silence.

Last week- I found: nothing.

I walked around the corner. I looked at every piece of art, (Art therapy is big at cancer centers. Gotta love that.) expecting to find some little reminder. A bird. A nest. SOMETHING. I found: Nada. Nothing. Pretty, challenging and intriguing stuff. But: NOTHING.

I did the magic bible trick-(Come on- we all know the magic bible trick- it’s when you ask God to say SOMETHING and then flip open your bible like a leather magic 8 ball and “claim” what is written there as a personal promise.) I landed on the blank leaf between old and new testaments. I tried the spiritual discipline of iPod shuffle. (Same deal- just with your iPod.) A random Lascivious Biddies song popped up. I feared my ipod would spontaneously combust due to some “Nothing but classical Music” cancer center policy that I probably received a copy of, but never read. (Cancer= a lot of papers. Like- if we stopped printing so much rainforest devastating cancer information paper- we could find the cancer cure- amount of paper. Justsayin. it’s a  lot. I don’t read it all. Of course. )

Just: (more…)

“So, I’m not a hypochondriac? It’s not all in my head?” I said to the neurologist…. my eyes locking on his like a GPS locking onto a satellite…

“No, it’s in your neck. What did you do to your neck? It’s terrible. But, I will fix it.” Is his confident reply.

The words have become part of the script for every appoint with my neurologist. (Some people have a masseuse- or a housekeeper- I have a neurologist….not as much fun.)

I keep asking, because I keep questioning:

“Am I just crazy? How can a pain in the neck be…. well… such a pain in the neck? Could it be psychosomatic? Could it be my unconscious brain creating pain to get drugs by getting around my conscious brain’s aversion to them?”  As the daughter of a recovering addict- (23 years in December- Go Dad!) I am careful about drugs and the addictive cycle. I’d rather be in pain than on drugs. The question of genetics haunts me so I am (hyper?) vigilant of my potential weakness. And- Yes, of course I analyze myself like all terrible half educated counselors- duh.

Besides…. who ever heard of a cervical fusion not fusing? Seriously- there is a metal plate holding my head on straight- how can I still be in pain????? I also wonder…Is this like in junior high, when I faked injuries for attention?” Have I gotten so good at faking that I can fool myself?” (I never did get the hang of crutches but, I sure did get the hang of using them for sympathy.)

So many good reasons to doubt myself.

Here’s the thing: (more…)

I hate cancer. Between you and me? I think Jesus does, too. (That’s in the book of Tracey, or Zepha-somebody- go ahead, do a word search, you’ll find it, or not.)

Guess what? Nobody likes cancer- or any other craptastic diagnosis. It freaks us out and makes us say weird things. I know this, because 1) I’ve said weird things to people and 2) Since my husband’s diagnosis- people have said weird things to me. Things that make me say “Huh? Do you know how that sounds?” Which is not the same as things that make you go: “Hmmmm.” (Which may be culturally relevant- but inappropriate, and I’m leaving it in- because it’s funny.)

Today, Jon Acuff let me hijack his blog to talk about the weird things we say when the diagnosis is —-insert yours here—-craptastic. (How awesome is that?)

So go! Read it! And then, let’s talk! Stuff Christians Like

If you’ve landed here from John’s blog- I want to say: Welcome to my jungle.

It’s not a cancer blog. It’s a blog about life, and faith and mothering and the mess that can be. (Especially at my house. #justsayin)

I love: people, (especially mine, you know who you are, and yes, I do mean you!) mothering, God, ideas, photography and knitting. Not necessarily in that order.

I work with MOPS International as a Field Leader and on the Board of Directors. (I still can’t believe that;) MOPS is where I’ve learned that the reason I feel
like “I can’t do this mothering thing on my own” is because I’m not supposed to and I don’t have to. No mom does.

I’m in Denver right now, at a MOPS board meeting- but I’ll be over in the comments on John’s blog as soon as I’m done- I can’t wait to hear the weird things you’ve said- and heard!

I’m known for my shoes. Or, rather- for my obsession with shoes.

A Mile in Her Shoes

I admit I’ve earned my notoriety. I have shoes for every occasion. And I’m not afraid to use them.

I have shoes for walking, running, barefoot running (it made sense at the time.) biking, water sports, beach wear, indoor wear, lounging, dancing, dinner, (Dinner shoes= shoes too uncomfortable to actually walk in but look cute peeking out from under a tablecloth.) shopping, speaking, snow.. the list is infinite. It’s not just a shoe collection, I wear them.

  • I bring an entire bag of shoes camping.  I see this as a practical necessity- due to the different climates and activities camping involves. However, friends tell me is evidence of my shoe obsession.  Something about camping and minimalism going together. To which I respond: I DON’t BRING ALL OF THEM- so it’s minimalistic. Duh.
  • When weighing my luggage at the airport- friends, family and the TSA know what put me over the (in my opinion: anorexic) weight limit. (I think my photo is on some watch list for luggage handler abuse) Travel= greater necessity for this right shoe to wear. A bad shoe choice on vacation, can ruin your  trip.)
  • I’ve occasionally taken up a sport because I found it’s footwear flattering. (Maybe. Once. Or, twice.)
I have a few reasons for my shoe affinity:
  • A good pair of platform pumps can change my BMI significantly. (BMI Height/weight math stuff taller+ same weight= thinner. In my head, f not my jeans.)
  • Shoes lead to adventures. (In my head dancing shoes mean i’ll dance, trekking shoes mean I’ll trek….whatever trek, means. You get the gist.)
  • Shoes don’t just make the man… they make the woman. (Or at least her outfit. Something like that.)

All of this is probably why I’ve been working on the “Mile in Her Shoes” writing project. I love stepping into the shoes of others and seeing life from their perspective. I’m passionate about helping women to connect with each other, breaking through their assumptions to intimacy- because I believe we are better- together.

I’ve delighted in wearing the shoes of a homeschool mom, a working mom, a work from home mom, a stay at home mom, a public school mom, a private school mom, a soccer mom etc. …..I’ve learned so much about the different types of women God has brought into my life- by simply living out what my mom always taught me: “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”  As I’ve walked miles in the shoes of other mothers, I’ve learned that the desire to judge disappears. It’s been replaced with respect, understanding and compassion.

From iconic black heels to orthopedic comfort shoes and slippers- each pair I’ve walked in has brought me joy.

Until now.

Right now I’m wearing shoes I don’t like.I’m wearing.  Shoes I would never have chosen if Life (and God) hadn’t chosen them for me.

“I’m going to have to send you to the evil doctor.”

That’s what the orthopedic surgeon said, at my follow up appointment for the never ending saga of the running injury.

He could have been speaking chinese. I had no idea what he was talking about. Clueless, table of 1.

“What’s an evil doctor?” I asked… fearing some medical speciality that involved torture devices.

“An Orthopedic Oncologist. What we see here could be several things… including cancer.” (more…)