Tag Archives: faith

The Final Chapter

I need to start by saying that I know I don’t update much anymore, but this warrants an update. You guys, it’s been 7 👏 YEARS 👏 since all this cancer nonsense started. Seven! Seven years since I decided to take the “Big C” from cancer and keep it with Christ. And I’m almost 6 years past my “expiration date” 😉

It’s so crazy to look back and see how this has all played out and since I had scans today I wanted to update you guys because you have been so amazing to us through all of this.

Annual scan selfie from today 😆

Today I drove to Philly with a heavy heart. And I had to go by myself because of all the Covid restrictions. Even though every year there’s a thought in my head that something could pop up, today I felt fairly sure something would. Last night in searching the Psalms, this excerpt struck me. Yes! Even if something crops up and I’m back to treatments, and procedures, and prognoses, I will still rejoice in my salvation!!

Everything went smoothly with my brain MRI to check on my brain tumor and my full body PET scan and so I drove home and waited for a call from my oncologist, assuring myself whatever it was, God was with us. Many of my friends and family members were encouraging me throughout the day and it meant the world to me!

I won’t make you wait, when my oncologist called he was pleased to say that not only did my scans look great but since I’ve had 5 years of clean scans now, I don’t have to go back for any more! Our conversation was short and sweet, but there was one little nugget that I wrote down because I never want to forget it…

He asked if I had any questions so I asked him, medically, what I’m supposed to call it when people ask, am I cancer free? In remission? His response, “I don’t think there’s really a good word or term for it, you’re kind of a trailblazer here. It’s not really supposed to work like this.” He went on to tell me I should consider myself cured. My oncologist used the word “cured”!! I couldn’t believe it. Of course, he advised I still remain diligent with my health and if anything is worrying me to call him, but I’m no longer advised to get yearly scans.

In my mind, the absolute best case scenario here would have been hearing “your scans look good, see ya next year”, so this was unfathomable. Reminds me of Ephesians 3:20 “‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”. Absolutely more than I could have asked or imagined.

I know so many people don’t get this news, and for that I do struggle with survivor’s guilt and I cannot give an answer. It’s a lot of complicated emotions, but I would say guilt is the biggest. I understand that it isn’t fair and I wish I could explain any of this, but I can’t.

It feels final. It feels done. It really feels over, after all this time. Below you’ll find a short recap through pictures of some of the highlights (low points….) of this journey. My thanks to all who have prayed for us, I know many of you have followed even though we’ve never met, there are no words for our gratitude!

Love and blessings to all of you!! ✌️❤️

A few months before being diagnosed
2 months post neck-dissection after 1st radiation treatment
Radiation hair loss
After 25 radiation treatments 😳
Port life
Accessing my port for immunotherapy
My brain tumor
Gamma knife radiation on brain tumor
Clinical trial round 2 – Keytruda
Current facial situation (transplant site and scar from neck dissection)
Just a few months ago ☺️

Why Coronavirus is Driving You Crazy

Of course by now, we are all hitting peak saturation with information, statistics, media coverage, and various people’s spin on the Coronavirus outbreak plaguing our planet at the moment. Personally, I’ve been tracking this thing for months, long before it hit the US. And have been watching with a twisted stomach as everything unfolds seemingly in slow motion. Maybe you’ve done the same or maybe you were blindsided when things started shutting down and suddenly, by law, we are no longer allowed to go about our daily business.

I’m not here to speculate on any part of this pandemic nor am I going to try to comfort you. My attempt at either would be fruitless. But one thing I will do is commiserate. And this comes back to my life with cancer.

I’ve had the blessing of sharing my cancer story in many places and with many people. One thing that I think surprises people when I retell the story of that time is when I tell them that the main thing that I struggled with over the course of my illness was the loss of control over my life.

Or maybe more than that, the shattering of the illusion that I was in control of my life.

I see a lot of my friends really struggling with all of this and I’m not sure they can really put into words why. But I think I know. We are realizing collectively that the life and lifestyle that we’ve built for ourselves, no matter how steady and prudent we are, is incredibly fragile. That it can be lost in the blink of an eye. That we aren’t ultimately in control of as much as we would have thought.

Friends, that is a hard realization to come to! And it’s one I wrestled with a good long time while I was ill. It took a different form -not being able to care for my children, being physically incapable of even the most mundane things, not being able to drive – it was a loss of the physical control I thought I had.

Now listen, I’m not a control freak. At all. I’m easygoing and go with the flow and am a complete type B (or further down the alphabet even!) so it shocked me when I came to realization that control was really my issue here. But that realization was also what helped me to step back and reflect on life a little differently.

It allowed me to rest and rely on God in a completely different way and I suddenly didn’t have to fight Him for the steering wheel. He has it, I can let go.

All of us are fighting the same mental battle. On one hand, we are being told to simply stay at home. And that’s a good thing! So why is this hard? I would suggest that maybe it’s because suddenly we don’t get to decide where we can go, when, and with whom. You don’t get a choice to work or not, that’s likely been decided for you. And while Eric and I were able to have months to prep and plan for homeschooling, suddenly you are thrown the responsibility of educating your children with no forewarning. And your children are dealing with the weight of all this change too. We didn’t get to decide any of these things. The decision has been made for us and we don’t have any say in the matter.

My hope here is not to add frustration to the situation, but to add some clarity for why we are feeling the way we are. As someone who likes to research and as someone who enjoys encouraging people, it’s been hard for me to bite my tongue and just sit back and watch but I felt there was no need to add to the white noise, theories, mass placating, and all the wise and good things people are sharing. And the memes. The memes have been gold!

But when I hit the realization that we are now collectively feeling what I struggled for so long to figure out and work through, I thought maybe it’s time to speak up.

There’s good news! As things change so quickly and the world is in utter chaos, God doesn’t change. His word never changes. He is the only true, steady force in the universe. And that’s a comfort to me.

Honestly, I’m a nobody that doesn’t know anything about anything. So why you’re even here, I don’t know, but I’m glad you are! And my prayer is that we don’t waste this quarantine time. If you are a Christian, now’s the time to dig deep and grow in Him. If you are questioning where God is in all of this, now’s the time to wrestle with Him. If you’ve been resistant to the gospel, now is the time to open up. There’s no way to know if this is the end times, but sheesh this sure does feel biblical, doesn’t it?

-Jamie Erickson
Now’s the time!

Stay well, friends. And keep in touch with each other. We need each other now more than ever!

Wasn’t Expecting That…

A few weeks ago, I found myself in my family doctor’s office, tears streaming uncontrollably down my cheeks, passing it off as trying to deal with the pain from my sore throat. Both the doctor and I knew that was a lie but he went along with it, nodding kindly with a compassionate half-smile. His sense of urgency at my physical state triggered something in me that I didn’t even know was there.

The similarities were too much. It was mid- October and it was rainy. I was going to the doctor expecting some antibiotics and an annoying wait at the pharmacy to follow, only for it to be implied that it was something more. Something more. He suggested I see my ENT immediately and even called and scheduled the appointment for me so that they would see me as soon as I got there. “I don’t see anything abnormal in your throat. With your level of pain in your neck and transplant site, I think you need a CAT scan.”

Mid-October. Rainy day. Thinking I’m going on for an inconsequential “tis-the-season” type of illness. Furrowed brows. Concerned whispers. An ENT visit. And now recommending a CAT scan.

“I can’t rule out some type of malignancy, given your history.”

There is was. The thing that broke the seal. That made the dam burst. That made for an awkward rest of the appointment, to be honest.

The tears began to flow immediately, rushing down my cheeks and soaking my sweatshirt. They wouldn’t stop.

Kim. Pull yourself together! Seriously, how many times have family doctors said something just like this to you and it’s been nothing! Why are you crying?! Get a grip! This poor guy is seriously worried about your mental state right now…

The doctor looked uncomfortable and like he felt really bad. Like he had just accidentally ran over my dog or something.

“I’m fine, it’s just a lot of pain.” He nods and smiles. It’s not a complete lie, but we both know what started the crap-show he was witnessing now.

A kind nurse comes in and offers me the whole box of tissues and pats me on the back. He walks out into the hallway with her and I hear them whispering. I hear him on the phone in the hallway.

“Yes…Yes…History of stage 4 melanoma. Yup, that’s her.”

Yup, that’s her.

The tears flow without breaks to the point that they are no longer individual drops but instead a steady stream.

He pops his head in, “can you head over now?” I tell him I can. He pauses and quietly asks, as though he’s embarrassed for me, “are you ok to drive?”

Yes, it was that bad.

I assure him I am and again remind him it’s just the physical pain and that I’ll be fine.

I got in my car and began sobbing. To the point of dry-heaving and physically shaking. Kim, what is WRONG with you?? This is literally the thousandth time this has happened to you. Get a grip!!

But it was all too much. The similarities between this appointment and the one that set everything in motion 6 years prior was just. too. much. 6 years after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, here I was again.

Mid-October, just after Brit’s birthday. Rainy. Going in expecting antibiotics and a wait at the pharmacy in my near future only be met with legitimate concern. An ENT appointment. A CAT scan.

The doctor’s sense of urgency triggered something in me that I didn’t even know was there.

And it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Fear.

It was pure, unadulterated fear seeping from my body, causing me to shake and dry-heave. It was as if he had ripped off a bandaid and I was expecting to see an all-but-healed scar but instead I was pulled under by the rush that came from underneath. But this was coming from within.

I drove home and laid in a ball on my kitchen floor and sobbed. Full-on ugly cry. As I wept, I began to rebuke myself.

You never even did this the first time you were diagnosed! And this guy didn’t even diagnose you with anything! What are you afraid of??

It was then that I realized just how far I had let myself slip into a safe and comfortable faith. Into a faith that means well, does good, is sincere in all forms, but had grown complacent somehow. I was doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things but without realizing it, my faith had become so small.

People see me as having a strong faith. And I do, don’t get me wrong. There was never a point where I turned from God, not at all. But I think I had hidden behind the image that everyone has of the Kim who had cancer. Brave. Strong. Fearless.

Fearless.

As I lay on my kitchen floor, I cried out to God in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. I felt small and weak. Helpless and not just fearful, but truly overflowing with fear. I felt God speak into my spirit “But what are you afraid of?

In that moment, I felt a sense of calm. There’s no other way to describe it besides God had heard my cry and like a parent rushing to a hurting child, picked me up and held me. The mess I was. Small and full of fear. Fear of facing it all over again. Fear at what my family would have to endure yet again because of me. Fear of no longer identifying with that confident fighter that I once must have been.

But He was there. Just like He had always been. He had never left.

My tears turned to those of gratitude and repentance. God, I’m so sorry! Forgive me for my small faith! Place in me, once again, a faith that is fearless! I don’t know how I still had tears to cry and they didn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

But I felt amazing. Any believer knows the bitterness of the brokenness but how the tears that come afterwards can be so very sweet. I felt renewed, like a burden had lifted and a fog had cleared.

And I felt ready to face the ENT. A visit there, a CAT scan, a whole mess of antibiotics and steroids showed it was just some “tis the season” type of illness.

And better yet, the next week my PET scan and brain MRI came back clear once again.

So why do I share this? Well, for a few reasons actually. I never intended, through sharing my journey, to ever come across like I was handling things perfectly. With any diagnosis comes a lot of complex emotions and that’s ok. I don’t want anyone to think of me as like a gold-standard for how to deal, because, well, did you just read the above account? Yeah….

I’m just sharing this in the hopes that maybe it can encourage someone who is feeling that paralyzing fear. I never told anyone but my husband because I was so ashamed, but God is bigger than my shame and for sure bigger than our fears. I realized I could stand in church and sing “no guilt in life or fear in death” and maybe not mean it in that moment. I’ve been spending my nights when all is calm and quiet in the Psalms and it’s been so refreshing for my soul.

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought me joy.” -Psalm 94:18-19

I hope you all are well and if you made it this far, you truly deserve a medal! In all seriousness, I know many of you have been along on this ride with us for these past 6 years and we are so grateful for your prayers, encouragement, and support.

Closure.

I’m writing this for several reasons. For one, I know that a few of you have been along for the ride but don’t actually know me. You’ve prayed for me and supported us through this so you definitely deserve an update! But I’m doing this for me as well. Although I don’t go back and read my old blogs, if I ever decided to I would for sure want this chronicled.

Yesterday, I got my port out.

Yes, it’s an awkward pic but I don’t care! Because I’m excited and I’m happy! Let me tell ya, the procedure is done in a very professional way in the OR and all that, but I was also fully awake for it. So all of the tugging and pulling against my scar tissue while I was still awake and aware was gag-worthy. For real. But…good has come from it.

For a while this port was like a security blanket for me. It felt like relief and it felt like comfort. I didn’t want it at first but once I had it, I truly came to rely on it as a source of calming, as weird as that may sound.

But over the years, I’ve needed it less and less. Treatments were stopped over 2 years ago and it became a hassle. Something that was uncomfortable and that needed attending to (in the form of getting flushed) even though it was inconvenient. As my days were spent more at home than at Penn, these visits to have my port flushed felt increasingly intrusive. And so we decided to get it out.

I need to include something here for my own records because I felt that I never had closure on this cancer stuff. As much as I could physically feel healthy and mentally detach from the trauma, there was always the reminder in the form of that uncomfortable port in my chest. Treatments didn’t stop with some triumphant “last chemo” where I ring a bell and get applause. No, I simply didn’t want to do them anymore and my oncologist understood and supported that decision.

Appointments and specialists and scans sort of petered out. There wasn’t an end. But this? This felt like an end to the chapter. This felt like the turning of a page. This port that had ingested so much chemo and has seen me through some of the hardest times of my life was about to go. And symbolically, it was impossible to ignore.

You see, God has been opening my eyes to so much recently.

I wanted to go by myself to Philly to get my port out and as I drove home, I thought I’d listen to my chemo playlist on my phone. This was literally the playlist I would listen to during infusions. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to it for over 2 years, but I also haven’t been able to bring myself to delete it. It’s special.

So as the songs played, I felt myself get real honest with God. You see, over the last year and a half, we have been a part of starting a church. This is good! But on the same coin, it’s been the hardest time of my life. I’ll explain.

When God called us to this church plant, it ripped me from the only church home I’ve ever known. It tore me from the comfort of the church family that was truly my family, the people who had loved and supported us through my cancer and the people that I wanted to love and support. It took us away from the teens who loved and trusted us and who we loved so very much. Being a part of this church plant meant willingly giving up a huge piece of my heart. And unbeknownst to us at the time, it meant enduring some cruel and unjust criticisms as well. And I was just not ready for that.

On the drive home from having my port removed and thinking through all of the happenings of the last few years that I had shut off from myself, I came to see a few things.

For one: difficult emotions can coexist. I’ll say it again, difficult emotions can coexist! My grief over the loss of my church family in New Holland did not mean I love my new church any less! I’ve tried to hide my grief because I felt like if I looked sad to leave my other church that it would look like I wasn’t ready or excited to tackle what God had in store for us at the new church. And that’s just not true! I spent almost a year in a deep depression over losing our old church, especially the youth. So much so God had to hit me over the head with the new opportunities we had to spread the gospel this past week as 20 teens came to our house for youth group. Praise God for His goodness!! I will always miss our old church. Always. Especially the teens. But I feel more free to experience that grief alongside the excitement and joy of creating new relationships.

And two: God showed me that I have closed myself off from Him. Ok, actually I already knew this, but I guess He showed me why.

Over the last few years, God has called me to some things that were hard. Things I didn’t want or ask for. Things I didn’t want to do and things I didn’t want to face. I’ve meditated on the verse that says, “draw near to God and He will draw near to you” a LOT over the last few weeks, and there was just a hesitation on my part to draw near to Him but I couldn’t figure out why. I love Him and I want to serve Him only, so why couldn’t I connect?

Then, in the drive home from having my port removed while I was listening to the worship music on my chemo playlist it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’m terrified of what He’ll ask of me next.

The last few years have been so hard, such a struggle, with so little clarity that I was scared that what He’d ask next would be even more so difficult. I’m a little ashamed to even admit this, but I know I need to as some of you look at me as a Christian who just has it all together and has it all figured out. That’s just not the case.

So why even write this? For one, an update to you amazing folks who have followed this journey with me. And for two, so I can look back someday and see what God was up to in this season. I feel closure on the part of my life that was ruled by cancer and that feels so good! And while I still grieve the loss of the most amazing church family anyone could ask for, I’m thanking God for putting us where He has put us.

If you read this to the end, I’m so sorry for making you endure all that and may God bless you for it!! There’s no way I can thank you guys enough for your love, encouragement, and prayers over the years. It’s really mind-boggling to think of all of the support we’ve received and we are beyond thankful! So, thank you!!

And in case you want to know, Eric and the kids are doing great and I found a hobby and passion in cookies!

Love to all of you!! 💕

It’s MY cancer, not hers.

It’s my cancer, not hers.

I wish she could understand that, but I know deep down that this story is not just mine but that it belongs to my children, too. That this is theirs just as much as it is mine.

We ran head-first into an unexpected trial of a “cancer parent” tonight. I’m not much of a cryer and wasn’t expecting to cry tonight but I write this as tears flow steadily down my cheeks.

Brit just had a complete breakdown because she’s going back to school tomorrow after Thanksgiving break and she’s going to miss me. Well, that’s where it started.

If you know me well, you know that I have severe separation anxiety from the kids. Absolutely and without a doubt in my mind a side effect of my trying to reconcile having to leave them – in the form of death – just a few short years ago. I’m still plagued by nightmares of them calling for me but I can’t get to them. And my anxiety grips me each and every time they’re away from me. Regardless of the circumstance. I joke “yes please take them! They’re driving me crazy!” (Which, to be fair, they are) But the jokes are simply a cover for the fact that I’m miserable and worry-stricken every single moment we are apart. They don’t know I struggle with this EVERY DAY and I’m not planning on making it an issue for them ever! But while Evan can, for the most part, go off and enjoy his independence and then come back and let me know he missed me and tell me all about his adventures, Brit is just not quite like that and it kills me to see her broken down at the thought of us being apart tomorrow. This is may just be your classic “nature vs. nurture” psychology sort of issue (is this her natural personality to be anxious and worried or did she develop that because most of her life has been marred with the threat of losing her mom? Or hey, let’s be honest, did she just learn these habits from me?). All possibilities seem plausible when you dwell in them long enough.

Today, I had to go to the doctor for a flu shot and when he looked in my right ear and asked me why it looked the way it did, Brit chimed in that it’s “because Mommy has cancer”. She was matter-of-fact and unemotional, it didn’t seem to phase her, it was just a fact. But I cringed so hard because as much as you try to protect your kids from these realities, they still know and understand. And it’s really hard to watch how MY cancer has affected them. It wasn’t supposed to. It was supposed to me mine! But here we are. Just since I’ve sat down to write this, she has come out 3 separate times just to make sure I was ok and that I am still here.

And, update, now I sit on the edge of her bed writing this as she drifts off because she wanted to be able to see me. She had to know I was there.

This wasn’t supposed to be her burden, but as they grow I am beginning to see how all of this is shaping their story too.

And I feel so guilty.

Snapchat was the only thing that calmed her down a few minutes ago. I’m thanking God for His provision, for health, for my still being here with my children, and for His steady hand holding me in the moments where I can’t actually take any more.

It’s MY cancer, not hers.

It’s my cancer, not hers.

I wish she could understand that, but I know deep down that this story is not just mine but that it belongs to my children, too. That this is theirs just as much as it is mine.

We ran head-first into an unexpected trial of a “cancer parent” tonight. I’m not much of a cryer and wasn’t expecting to cry tonight but I write this as tears flow steadily down my cheeks.

Brit just had a complete breakdown because she’s going back to school tomorrow after Thanksgiving break and she’s going to miss me. Well, that’s where it started.

If you know me well, you know that I have severe separation anxiety from the kids. Absolutely and without a doubt in my mind a side effect of my trying to reconcile having to leave them – in the form of death – just a few short years ago. I’m still plagued by nightmares of them calling for me but I can’t get to them. And my anxiety grips me each and every time they’re away from me. Regardless of the circumstance. I joke “yes please take them! They’re driving me crazy!” (Which, to be fair, they are) But the jokes are simply a cover for the fact that I’m miserable and worry-stricken every single moment we are apart. They don’t know I struggle with this EVERY DAY and I’m not planning on making it an issue for them ever! But while Evan can, for the most part, go off and enjoy his independence and then come back and let me know he missed me and tell me all about his adventures, Brit is just not quite like that and it kills me to see her broken down at the thought of us being apart tomorrow. This is may just be your classic “nature vs. nurture” psychology sort of issue (is this her natural personality to be anxious and worried or did she develop that because most of her life has been marred with the threat of losing her mom? Or hey, let’s be honest, did she just learn these habits from me?). All possibilities seem plausible when you dwell in them long enough.

Today, I had to go to the doctor for a flu shot and when he looked in my right ear and asked me why it looked the way it did, Brit chimed in that it’s “because Mommy has cancer”. She was matter-of-fact and unemotional, it didn’t seem to phase her, it was just a fact. But I cringed so hard because as much as you try to protect your kids from these realities, they still know and understand. And it’s really hard to watch how MY cancer has affected them. It wasn’t supposed to. It was supposed to be mine! But here we are. Just since I’ve sat down to write this, she has come out 3 separate times just to make sure I was ok and that I am still here.

And, update, now I sit on the edge of her bed writing this as she drifts off because she wanted to be able to see me. She had to know I was there.

This wasn’t supposed to be her burden, but as they grow I am beginning to see how all of this is shaping their story too.

And I feel so guilty.

Snapchat was the only thing that calmed her down a few minutes ago. I’m thanking God for His provision, for health, for my still being here with my children, and for His steady hand holding me in the moments where I can’t actually take any more.

Scans and Results

Hey guys! I’m updating here because I know some of you have been following this journey with me for quite some time through my blogs and I wanted to share the good news with all of you! My most recent scans came back completely clear – check it out in my oncologist’s own words!

This is always a great thing to hear, obviously! The truth is, scan time brings about a lot of anxiety. My life is pretty much back to normal now and one little blip on the radar would mean the start up again of scans, treatments, and endless appointments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for modern medicine! But every time I see my results in and I’m about to click I have to take a deep breath and I think to myself “ready or not…”

Because I’m truly not ready for the implications of a bad scan. There’s always that fear that something is still lurking although in my heart I know that’s not true. God is good regardless, but I’m thanking Him for His provision in this moment. God has taught me so much in all of this and has given me so many opportunities to speak at churches and proclaim His goodness and I’m so grateful for that and am ALWAYS blessed and encouraged by the people I meet in these times. The Spirit is working in my life in big ways and so I’ll continue to trust and follow 💕

“As for me, I trust in the Lord” Psalm 31:6

Scans are never fun, but my heart and prayers are going to those who got bad news, who aren’t feeling well, who feel hopeless. If you’d like me to pray for you or a loved one, leave a message here or email me at morelikecantcer@gmail.com or if you know me in person, get at me!

I know some of you feel me here!! Wishful thinking, I suppose 😊

The Secret to Joy

Hey all!  I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve updated but God still has me on the mission of face-to-face ministry and I’m trying to be obedient there and I must say I’m in a really good place as far as that goes.  To be honest, I started to feel quite guilty when people knew who I was, knew my struggles, knew my heart but I didn’t know theirs!  I’m not limiting how much I may or may not blog in the future, but for the past few months, I’ve felt God saying that this was becoming too distant of a ministry and that I needed to be more present and intentional in the lives of individuals rather than the masses, so to speak.  So that’s what I’ve been doing!  And it’s been amazing, rewarding, God-honoring, and truly very refreshing.

But with all that said, I have been mulling over a few things lately that I felt have really helped me keep perspective in servanthood.  We know God wants us to live with a servant’s heart but in our day and age that can quickly lead to burnout or even just confusion over where to start.  If I can help with that for even one person, then I will be really glad to break my streak of not blogging.

My husband is one of the members of the teaching team at our church plant (another blog just waiting to be written!), and on Sunday he preached about something near and dear to my heart, which is serving.  He based his message off of Galatians 5:13-14, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  Looking at our faith through this lens is so invigorating and empowering.  What an honor to serve in Christ’s name!

But here’s what I really wanted to share.  I wanted to share what I’ve found to be my secret for keeping a positive attitude and a desire to continue serving, regardless of the circumstance and here it is:

Express gratitude and give appreciation whenever possible, but never, ever expect it.

This may sound simple enough but if you really take it in and apply it to your own life you can see that it may just be the key to serving joyfully in all circumstances and if you’re looking for opportunities to encourage others and that becomes your heart’s desire, it really won’t phase you if your efforts go unnoticed.  This philosophy has kept me humble in ministry and kept me from ending up doing acts of service where there’s recognition of some sort.  Not that recognition is horrible, but it sure shouldn’t be the goal, right?!

Maybe everyone already knows this and I’m late to the party, but I really wanted to share this because it has helped me so much.

And if you haven’t found a means of serving that seems to quite fit yet, I encourage you to apply this to that area.  Don’t limit yourself only to opportunities that your local church offers, though that is of course a great place to start.  But when you find a means of serving that energizes you and doesn’t drain and to where you would continue to serve even if no one ever knew you were there, then in my humble opinion, that’s the one for you.  Disclaimer, of course we can all have more than one important ministry in our lives.

Hopefully this all makes sense, give me a little grace, it’s been a while!

And hey if you’ve made it this far, I’ll give a little life update.  Cancer-wise, everything is steady and stable and besides little things here and there, I’m feeling great.  So a deep, heartfelt “thank you” to those who have prayed for me over the years, it is much appreciated!  And I very much miss interacting with those of you I’ve “met” through blogging.

A few little updates, our family has grown by 7 chickens, 1 duck, and a kitten.  Buck and Mater, Eric, and the kids are all doing well, and I hope this message finds you well, too!

 

A Season of “No.”

Imagine if God gave us everything we wanted right when we wanted it starting as soon as we repented and accepted Christ. At first, this sort of sounds awesome, right?

But what would we ask for?

We would, no doubt, destroy ourselves with indulgences and whims and would turn from Him to live in our selfishness, glorifying only ourselves.

I think back on things I’ve prayed for and can see where His unwillingness to yield to the foolish whims of my heart were ultimately in my best interest. I also see clearly where seasons of suffering, that I prayed to be delivered from, were painfully drawn out and have brought much fruit that otherwise wouldn’t have flourished if left to my own will.

This is why I will trust His “No.” or His “Wait.” Whatever it might be. It is most certainly for my own good.

The problem is I’ve grown impulsive in my faith, all because of cancer. I no longer see any need to sit around and wait, I want to be shown where to go and I want go. So being told “No” or “wait” is most definitely bothering me more than I’d like to admit.

But just as these two pictures of our lane show, clarity will come. It won’t be foggy forever. And so I’ll seek Him in prayer and scripture. I will continue to serve Him the best I know how.

And I will wait.

.

Cancer, a Birthday, and a Secret Prayer

I was dying.  And I knew it.  I was under no delusions that healing was on the table for me and I had accepted my lot in life.  Or death, I suppose, as it were.  Cancer was “exploding” all over my body, in the words of my oncologist, and I had a few good months left – at best.  My brain tumor was wreaking havoc in the way of grand mal seizures that left me for minutes on end without oxygen, leaving me to try to regain my body functions and memory after each one.  And after each one it got increasingly harder and had more long term effects that didn’t dissipate.  I had tumors in my lungs that were so inflamed that any exertion left me in a coughing fit and I found myself night after night sleeping upright on the couch because laying down in bed next to my husband, where I longed to be, would result in painful coughing fits.  My hip and back ached constantly, crying out in pain, and reminding me that the cancer was eating my bones.  Little by little.

Each day I had to relinquish more and more control of my life and the life of my family over to family and friends.  I thank God endlessly for the selfless love we received, but there is no 30 year old mother on earth who wants this for her family.  And so I struggled mentally with my lack of involvement with my kids at the level I had wanted for myself.

My body and my mind were both betraying me more and more each day.  And there was no hope in healing.  And so we faced each day as we had to.

I watched my kids, then 2 and 4, living a seemingly normal life.  At least, as normal as we could provide in the midst of all my treatments, scans, and appointments.  We tried to build a sense of normalcy around the fact that Mommy was dying and we treated it as a fact of life rather than a scary and sad event.  I bought them a book called “A Kid’s Travel Guide to Heaven” and we read it every day.  And while it’s certainly not scripture based, it did help open the discussion and help the kids to see that that was where Mommy would be.  Waiting for them to come.

I needed them to know that if they understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and that if they accepted the gift of salvation that we would be together again.  And I needed them to know that although Mommy was happy to go to heaven, that it would never be my choice to leave them.  Never.  I was desperate for them to understand this.  And the tears would fall.  Rolling down my cheeks in silent protest.  Just as they are right now as I write this.

A sibling squabble was a reminder that I wouldn’t be there to help them bond as they grew up.   Setting the kids in front of a Veggietales so I could get a break because I was in too much pain was a reminder that I wouldn’t be a spiritual influence for them for very much longer.  A sweet hug goodnight and even the frustration of trying to put young kids to bed were all too painful reminders of all I would be missing out on.  And selfishly, this tore me up inside.  Everything in me longed to be there for them as they grew up, and so the tears fell.

People often ask me how I did it.  How could I face this?  How could I cope?  There is truly no good answer to that.  I know we did what we had to do but looking back it seems so impossible.  It really was too much.  How did we do it?

There was a profound acceptance on my part that this was the end.  Mind you, acceptance certainly did not mean gladness.  I was tired and I was sad.  But I was ready.

I remember one sleepless night very clearly.  I had propped myself up on lots of pillows so that I could stay in bed with Eric, and as was so often the case when I could manage to stay in bed, I would listen to him rhythmically breathing as he slept and I would be soothed by the fact that he, at least for a few hours each day, had calmness and rest.  On this particular night, just like I had on so many others, I would pray.

But tonight would be a little bit different.

I lay there with my eyes closed tight, silent tears falling faster each second, cascading down my cheeks only to puddle up onto the sheets.  And in my desperation I reached my hand up to heaven.  And I begged God with all I had in me, to give me until I was 34.

34 years old.

Please God!  It would be about 3.5 years at that point and I felt like I was asking for the moon.  I felt like I was asking God to turn me into a unicorn or something equally as impossible.  I felt like I knew I was asking for too much, that it wasn’t possible, that it was absolutely ridiculous.  But that for some reason in my head that was the perfect amount of time.  That if He just allowed me that window of time that the kids would be old enough to have some good, solid memories of me.  At that time, this was the number one tug on my heart.  Selfishly, I wanted nothing more than for the kids to remember me.  That’s just the way it was.  Eric and I would have been married 10 years when I was 34, and that was just an astonishing feat to me.  It sounded so glorious.  Perfect.  The perfect amount of time!  I kept apologizing to God because I knew my request was so silly and so selfish.  But as I continued to pray, my desperation simply grew as I begged and begged God to please just give me until I was 34!

I write this today.  On my 34th birthday.  I can honestly say I never thought this day would come.  I know God isn’t a genie up in heaven granting wishes, but I believe He heard my heart on that night.  I’m not sure I’ll ever know for sure how all of this has worked or why it has worked out this way, surviving this long isn’t something I believe I deserve or have earned.  It just simply is.  And as I sit here now with clean scans as of last week, I’ll accept it as the beautiful gift it is.

I didn’t want to tell this story.  In fact, I could count on one hand the number of people I ever told this prayer to.  Why?  Because it felt like a childish prayer.  Like a lack of faith on my part, and maybe it was.

But I wanted to tell it now because God is good and deserves all praise.  Always.  He has given me more than I could ever ask or imagine.  Think about those words, more than I could ask or imagine.  All glory to God!  And I give Him glory for this urgency He has placed in my heart for spreading the gospel.  It can feel like a burden sometimes because it was so much easier to live a lukewarm life, but I pray He never lets this passion for praising Him and spreading the Good News fade.  Christ has reconciled this sinner with a Holy God through His righteousness alone.  I’ll always be grateful and I want to only praise him forever.  Thank you, Jesus!

“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, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen.”  ~Ephesians 3:20-21