Tag Archives: music

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!! 💕

Thank you, Chris Tomlin

Ok, so I try not to preface because usually it’s unnecessary, but I feel like I should let you know in case you don’t already just who Chris Tomlin is.  He is a Christian mega-celebrity.  The Beyoncé of contemporary Christian music.  The Sandra Bullock of worship music.  The Taylor Swift of worship leaders in America (minus the pettiness.  Well, I guess I don’t actually know his level of petty, but I’m assuming it’s lower than me and TS’s.). And I, little old me, got a personalized video message of encouragement from him! (See below).

All that said, I had a pretty cool experience this week.  As my “cancerversary” is right around the corner and we have had some pretty big life changes lately, I’ve found myself more pensive than usual.  I’m having a hard time declaring my gratitude to God for his powerful healing in my life from cancer because survivor’s guilt keeps me from proclaiming His healing glory.  And the fact that he used a missionary who prayed over me as a vehicle to showcase that power?  It’s all so wild and unbelievable, and yet being healed from stage 4 terminal cancer is my truth.  Even if just for now.  I mean, I’m already almost 3 years past my oncologist-given expiration date and that’s pretty hard to shake.  Am I boasting?  Well, maybe, but Paul feels me on this:


So at the risk of sounding like a braggart again, stay with me because I think this is kind of cool.  When I was very very sick a few years ago, I wanted to go to Creation festival but couldn’t.  I had been in 2009, and besides being introduced to a little-known up-and-coming rapper named Lecrae, I also got to see Chris Tomlin as he lead worship.  His set is firmly embedded in my memory (even with as much of my memory I’ve lost through radiation and seizures) as a very worshipful and powerful time.  Declaring God’s glory and proclaiming His goodness with thousands of others.  Just awesome.

So fast forward a few years.  I’m literally dying.  My physical body is failing.  I’m mentally prepping for death for myself and prepping my kids for my death and that this time they are 2 & 4.  I bought a burial plot and have asked for an evangelistic service with an altar call.  And amongst so many other supportive and ridiculously amazing people in my life, I have a beautiful and kind-hearted friend who works at the Creation festival.  I message her and tell her, if it’s in any way possible, could she please just tell Chris that his song “Angel Armies” was one of the most healing songs for my weary soul.  It reminded me of God’s power and, at a time when I was powerless to change anything in my own life, it soothed my weary heart to hear that God is still in this.

This is what I got in return:


Ok, I’m not deluded enough to think that some people are better or more important than others, but that was pretty cool!

I had a lot of feelings about this, but mostly I just had to smile at the naive thought that I, a dying person, would somehow get to see Chris Tomlin again in this earthly life.  He was so sweet, but so naive.  I wouldn’t be seeing him and I knew it, but I so appreciated that kind gesture!

And here I am as of a few nights ago.  Seeing Chris Tomlin live and absolutely breaking down and ugly crying during “Angel Armies”​

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It’s a weird, amazing, wonderful, guilt-ridden, triumphant, and awe-inspiring benchmark in this journey.  I have so much more I want to say, but for now I’ll say thanks to Mr. Tomlin for his faith that we would, indeed, see each other in the future (even if I was just a face in the crowd – I’m more than ok with that).  

Life is crazy.  Cancer is terrifying.  But God is steadfast and He is good.  Always. 

I Just Like NED, NED Is My Favorite

I’ll make this short and sweet (and sweet it is!!), heard from my oncologist today that my scan showed no uptake that was indicative of cancer. Wahoo!! In plain speak, still no sign of active cancer in me. This is so unheard of for stage 4 melanoma. This drug, Keytruda, is a life-saver, so to speak. I am considered NED (or no evidence of disease), it’s not even that nothing new has popped up that’s so amazing but that what was there (mets in my brain, bone, and lungs) is virtually gone. Praising God in regards to my news and some other ways he’s been so faithful to friends and family in the past week. I’m overjoyed at this news, of course, and just getting used to the idea that I might be around here for a while yet.

To celebrate, we will be watching Elf and baking Christmas cookies while listening to Christmas tunes (I think I just heard my hubby’s eyes roll lol), so I need to know, what are the best Christmas songs and versions of them? I usually listen to the radio or Pandora at Christmas, but I’d like to tailor a playlist this year, I just am coming up dry in the idea department. Here are my given tracks (in no particular order):

Winter Snow – Audrey Assad
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Barenaked Ladies/Sarah McLaughlin version
Last Christmas – Wham
Mary, Did You Know? – Pentatonix
Go, Tell It On The Mountain – Little Big Town
All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Rascal Flatts
King of Heaven – Hillsong (not technically a Christmas song, but….Hillsong!)

I know I’m forgetting so many great ones! What are your favorites??

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Yes, I Got All of This From a Concert…

Imagine your favorite band. Go ahead, any band. Who’s your favorite? Ok, now imagine getting to watch them rehearse and set up for a concert, getting to watch the concert from the best seats in the house, and then, to top it off, meeting them and hanging out with them after. So for you it may not be Hillsong, but it is for me, and this is exactly how it happened. Hillsong, if you don’t know them, write many of today’s top worship songs (and they are mentioned an embarrassing amount throughout my other posts haha). But I promise that this blog is less about gushing about the experience (although I could!!) but more in sharing the things I learned and gathered from it.

Maybe you love them too, or maybe you don’t even know who they are, just bear with me as I try to explain why I am a different person now than I was when I went in.

Here are the three main things I gathered from this experience:

1. They were not idols.
In meeting the band, it was obvious very quickly that they in no way wanted to be seen as celebrities or really to be seen at all. What they wanted and their genuine heart cry was for people to see Jesus in them. That they wanted to be vessels. There was no ego, no attitude, nothing of the sort. Their super-nice tour manager informed us that they don’t even call them “concerts” because they don’t want to just entertain people. It is worship.

Within the Christian music circle, they are one of the biggest. And they were so humble. Talking to them was just like talking with our friends after church. They were so normal. In a good way! They were telling us about their families and kids and it was just really neat to see that they were just super normal people but with a really interesting ministry. Their concert had all the bells and whistles of any other concert, but their focus was Jesus. Unapologetically and unceasingly. So awesome. Here we are, you know, just me and my buddies, hangin with the band lol:

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2. Cancer and death are not the only “great equalizers”.
I am always amazed when I go for chemo or back in the winter when I went for radiation, and you look around and know, because of where you are, that most everyone here has cancer. There are young people, old people, middle-aged people, the parking lot is full of junky cars and BMWs, and there is no racial barrier. My point? None of us, no matter our age or income is immune to this horrible disease called cancer. And I always kind of thought to myself that it was kind of an “equalizer”. And then, during the concert, as I looked around at the people around me, all different races, classes, sizes, shapes, incomes, and it hit me that Jesus is the equalizer and that none of that other stuff mattered, not even a little, as we all stood together and worshiped the King as the body of Christ. Really amazing stuff!!

Death will happen to us all, and cancer doesn’t discriminate, but grace far outweighs them. We need to see ourselves and others as precious children of God, rather than reducing people to what they believe on one subject or another or making assumptions about them based on their appearance or socio-economic standing. How amazing would it be if we all actually treated each other as brothers and sisters in Christ? Unconditionally? What if we took off the mask of our own insecurities and self-righteousness and loved each other the way God intended? And I don’t think Jesus was kidding when He told us to pray for those who persecute us. Just sayin.

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.”
~1 John 4:17-18 (The Message)

3. Some people really “got it”.
As we left the concert, after having hung out with the band (I love saying that!! Lol I’m such a dork), we were walking down the street in downtown Baltimore to where we had parked, and as we waited at a light by the stadium for the signal that we could cross, I happened to glance to my left and there I saw something really interesting. There was a homeless man sitting on the street holding a sign begging for change, and there in front of him, stooped down and seemingly genuinely enjoying his conversation, were two older teenagers who had just come from the concert. Well, I’m assuming they did as the girl was wearing a Hillsong t-shirt, could just be a coincidence, but I doubt it. I don’t know what they were talking about but I just kind of got the feeling that these kids got it. I get a little choked up thinking about it. But what Hillsong represents is genuine change for Christ and a passion for following Him and finding joy in living in God’s will, no matter what that may be. I have no idea how that all ended and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, but it was so amazing for me to witness. I was changed by that, and I’m not even sure what I witnessed.

I can’t say enough good things about the band and their tour manager who helped all of this happen. A dream come true thanks to some of our amazing friends – you know who you are!

I’m going to include an important link here. This is a link to their page that explains some things about Jesus if you may have any questions. Also, feel free to leave any comments here, I’m always willing to be a resource so if there’s any way I could help your faith process, any way at all, just let me know!
www.hillsong.com/jesus

Also, here is a link to their official blog from the night we were there. Still can’t believe that we had an impact on them as well! And the last pic, the one of them praying with us, still gives me goosebumps. But only because I am in awe that people so amazingly devoted to ministry and who sacrifice so much to spread the gospel and who I look up to so much took the time to pray with us. It’s a memory I will hold dear forever!!
Hillsong Worship Blog – Baltimore

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My heart hurts right now so deeply for some of the things my friends are facing, and as I pray fervently for these situations, I sometimes feel helpless. But I’m reminded of the importance of surrendering our burdens in our Christian walk. Surrendering to Jesus doesn’t mean we won’t face these scary, sad, and heart-breaking things of life, but it means we have somewhere to look, somewhere beyond the emptiness within us. Trials don’t mean that He doesn’t love us, He wants us to turn to Him and be broken and vulnerable and let Him in.

I’m reminded of this song, it’s from Hillsong’s new album “No Other Name” and it’s called “Broken Vessels”. I had never heard it before the concert on Friday, but as I listened and watched, I was moved to tears. I couldn’t believe the affirmation and hope I was hearing. As tears streamed down my face, I was able to lift my hands and say to Jesus, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” In the midst of this terminal cancer and all the pain and heartbreak that goes along with it, I was able to worship and thank Jesus. This song is an amazing reminder that being set free is not being set free of our circumstances, but being set free from the burden. We still feel the hurt, but have the hope.

I have friends facing some gut wrenching obstacles in their lives and I pray that if you are someone who is finding yourself in that boat right now, that you will click this link and listen to this song (the whole way through) and be reassured and feel held by our loving savior.

Do this one favor for me, just listen.

Let yourself give in. Let the tears flow. Let yourself be broken before The Lord. And allow His love and mercy into your life. Maybe you feel like you don’t deserve it, you do. Maybe you feel like you walked too far away from Him to get back, you didn’t. Maybe you’re angry at Him, deal with it. Maybe you’re holding onto something that you need to let go, let go of it.

“Broken Vessels” Hillsong

“Empty handed
But not forsaken
I’ve been set free…
Oh, I can see You now
And I can see the love in Your eyes”

This doesn’t count as my blog about the Hillsong concert, their ministry has touched me too much and there’s still too much to say there, just haven’t had the chance to put all my thoughts together there.

This was on my heart now, so I needed to share it. I love you guys. Don’t give up.

What A Difference 40 Days Makes

I am, as of today, done with my personal 40 days of prayer. Remember that? If you messaged me or reached out to me in any way, or if I just saw that you had a need, I added you to my list that ended up being a whole page front and back with two columns. That’s a lot of needs!! But, as always, God not only worked in the situations of the people (I know of some, but would love to hear if I haven’t already heard!) but worked in my life and taught me a lot about myself and my situation.

It was just a few days into this endeavor that my brain tumor was discovered and I got bumped to stage 4. I will admit, even though I did still pray every day, there were days where I only had the strength (or maybe only had the desire, if we’re being honest) to touch the pages and ask God to work in the situations without naming each one. I’m pretty sure God knew exactly who I meant and what my heart was, I just felt better when I could name each one individually as that reminds me of what people are going through.

I learned a few things in this process:

-Prayer is as much for us as it is for God. God knows what we and our friends and family are facing, but what He needs to know is how much we care about those people and are willing to approach the throne on their behalf. I think some of our “problems” could be fixed with a perspective change and the softening of our hearts to the problems that others are facing. This can be done through prayer, service to others, or just reaching out to someone when God lays them on our hearts. Trust me, we have received all of these recently and it makes a huge difference!

-We are never “need free”. People told me that they felt guilty that I was praying for them. I could see how people would feel like this, but in a way, it was nice to remember that I am not the only one with problems. I need this reminder sometimes as it’s easy to get caught up in the struggles of this cancer thing. But I was reminded in a big way that it’s harder to be self-focused when you are purposefully focused on others and how God might use you to touch them – figuratively lol. I still struggle with being self-centered, but God is still working and as long as I am a willing participant, I know He can help me change that.

-I am not as faithful as I thought I was. There were days where I would almost forget to remember my friends in prayer! Almost, but still! I take promises very seriously and was disappointed in myself for not always remembering right away to do this. It made me think of Peter in John 13:36-38 (NLT):
36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”

And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”

37 “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”

38 Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.

Peter seriously believed that his faith was so strong that he was ready to DIE for Jesus. But, when push came to shove, not only was he not willing to die for Him, he denied even knowing Jesus. Sheesh, after all they’d been though! This just got me thinking about how, until we are tested, we really, really don’t know how we will react. I thought I was prepared mentally for the progression of my cancer, but boy was I wrong!! I was absolutely sure I could take it in stride but turns out it took a whole lot of seeking to get to a place where I felt like God still had my back. I think if it hadn’t been for the fact that I promised people I would pray for them daily, that there would have probably been a week or two in there where I wouldn’t have prayed at all. But forcing myself to continue allowed me to open up my heart again to God and I’m really grateful for that. It kept me reading my Bible, and seeking, and doing devotions, and all that. And now I feel so close to Him that I sometimes feel like I can feel Jesus right next to me. I know that probably sounds crazy to some people, but it just helped me to realize how much He really does care for us. I needed that time of praying for others to change my prespective from self-focused to others-focused.

-I am not as tough as I thought I was. I feel that I have, at least for now, jumped the emotional hurdles and have come to a place of acceptance, ready to keep spreading my message. I am not so sure I’m ready for all the physical difficulties that lie ahead. I’m kind of a wuss in that department, quite honestly. I found that out for certain over these last 40 days where my physical state has deteriorated quite a bit, with the realization that this is how it’s expected to continue. My brain tumor was of course found, that causes issues with my vision and a wicked pressure in my head that has varying degrees of severity. It seems like at least once a day though it gets so intense that I need to take ibuprofen and lay down. This usually helps, which I’m grateful for, but sure is a change from before. I can’t drive because of the seizures, but luckily I haven’t had any seizures for several weeks, so that’s awesome. My vision seems to be getting worse in my right eye. I have no clue why. It’s a little compromised already in my left eye, but we know that that’s because the tumor is nestled in my right occipital lobe, so vision changes in my left eye are expected. It scares me to think about the reasons my right eye might be affected at this point. I tire easily and mentally, I feel like I can’t filter out distractions the way that I could before. My mind gets very easily overstimulated. I assume this is still a side effect from the cut off of oxygen during the seizures, but who knows?? And on top of it all I think my sweet little boy shared his stomach bug with me (that’s why, dear church family, you did not see us today). I don’t say all this to make people feel bad for me, there’s actually a few other things that I didn’t mention, I am just fearful for when things might get worse. I completely understand Paul though when he says,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Just read through that a few times. Paul, of all people, didn’t have problems that were “light”. The dude was imprisoned, starved, beaten, and persecuted his whole Christian life. It’s all about perspective. We are no different than Paul if we are in Christ, and if Christ is enough to sustain him, then He should be enough to sustain us. I have a feeling I will be leaning on these verses very heavily for the rest of my time here.

I apologize, I realize this is getting long, but congrats! You almost made it to the end! Haha. I realized that music has been very helpful in minstering to me throughout this whole ordeal, so I’m going to try to remember to post a link to a song that has been helpful to me at the end of every blog. Today’s is “You Are The Lord” by Tim Reimherr. This song randomly played once on my Hillsong Pandora station and I immediately found it on youtube and I think I’ve listened to it approximately 91,643 times since.

Personally, the songs that help me the most are the ones that remind me of who God is, not necessarily what He can do for us. Reminding ourselves over and over how powerful He is and His sacrifice and love for us is usually how I choose to worship. Don’t get me wrong, I like some songs that speak to our situations as well (Mandisa’s “Overcomer”!), but I typically choose to worship to songs that speak to who He is. This is a GREAT song that has helped me remember that. Doesn’t hurt that it’s a well-constructed song that’s pretty catchy.
Tim Reimherr “You Are the Lord”

And since it’s become an anthem around our house (my son asks to listen to the “Stopsign Song” haha), here’s Mandisa’s “Overcomer”. It’s an awesome, uplifting song and the video shows people like Robin Roberts and Gabrielle Giffords overcoming their struggles. If you’re going through something, give it a watch, you will feel ready to FIGHT!!
Mandisa “Overcomer”

20140629-125440-46480775.jpghaha I love this!