Monday, November 29, 2010
Have you ever wondered if this were your last Christmas how you would spend it? Would you find hope and beauty in the time you had left? Would you be content in knowing you had loved and been loved? Would the time you were given to hold those you love dear be enough for them to remember you when December knocked on their doors the following year? In my life this is how I see each and every Christmas I share with my family and friends now.
You see for me December 2005 was the beginning of an adventure I never saw coming. Five years ago this very time of year I found a lump in my breast which would alter the rest of my life. I knew nothing of breast cancer or the path I was being navigated toward at the time. I did not know death was bidding for my company or that I was about to dive into a wrestling match with the Grim Reaper. I did not know my children, young and impressionable would have to face a journey of fear and worry alongside me. I had no clue the Grim would taunt them, whisper in their ears or stalk them throughout their childhood both day and night.
Yes I had known hardships before; I had faced off with the devil and found my way back home. I had dealt with chronic illness and financial woes before. I had even seen the Grim a time or two around the bend but I had never been in fist- da- cuffs with the Grim Reaper on a such a scale as this before!
Since my fateful December evening when the tiniest of lumps appeared on the radar screen my life has been a tale of both hope and desperation. I cannot say one does not come without the other because to find hope you must first have a need for her grace. In other words you must be desperate for her gift, for her burning light to chase the darkness away.
Do I find it ironic the longest night of the year, Winter Solstice, surfaces during the month of December? No I don’t! Seasons change, as do our lives. I know there is reason for everything in life just as I know when the Sun rises the following morning she will shed her light and warmth ultimately chasing the shadows of the night away. Why… because there is always hope, there is always a reason to hold on, to embrace the hardships knowing the sun will rise again! I know this personally because even through the longest, darkest nights I have faced during the last 5 years, I have always felt the sun shine warm upon my face again. I have never gone without love, without joy or without courage even if I have felt the night would never end.
It is now 2010 and I face each December with a grin because I am still here. I know the Grim still waits for me. I see her every morning as I pass by her with my cup of coffee in hand wearing her short black robe (she likes to show off her bony knees by the way), black leather boots and her shinny sickle. Most days she waves back at me with a frown and I just chuckle knowing today is not her day.
But let me make this very clear: I am not over confident in my bravery. I understand I am living on borrowed time. I do know one day she will come for me with her sickle and her chains to drag me away. I also know when this days comes I will be ready for her on my own terms not hers. She may have the satisfaction of cuffing me but she will not have the satisfaction of seeing me beg. When this day arrives, I will not be drug away. No when the papers have been drawn and signed I will go with a big smile on my face laughing all the way.
Until then I will live as if there is no tomorrow. I will hope and dream, I will live and laugh. I will love and I will dance. I will trust my God and keep my faith. I will not give in to the burden of what ifs. I will not allow myself to be down trodden by those who do not understand my faith or my courage. I will not fear the night even if this day was to be my last to behold. Do you want to know why? Well because I know the sun WILL reappear on the horizon for those I love.
So for today I am secure in this very happiness surrounding my life. I rejoice in the miracle of this season, the wonder, the grace and the beauty of December. I embrace the winter and all she offers, all she brings into my life because without winter there would be no spring.
In truth is this were indeed my last Christmas I could not ask for more than these very gifts before me. Yes, I would find sadness as I left my precious gifts of hope, faith and courage wrapped up in my love under the tree. I would shed tears of sorrow and reflect on all these memories I have been given but I would also return these memories of joy and laughter to my children, my husband and my family for their safe keeping.
Today… I am grateful I have been given 4 more Christmas’ with my family, with my husband and with my children. What about you my friend? What gifts do you have to give this year? Indeed what would you do if this were your last Christmas?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
For me Thanksgiving symbols a change in the seasons, a time to appreciate the beauty of nature, let go of the warm, comfortable season behind us and prepare for the winter ahead. As I come to the table this year I bring a lot of worry with me as I also bring hope and faith with me as well. I do not know what the winter will bring our way, what hardships we may face or if the snow will bring us to our knees this year. But I do know as I sit down at our table giving thanks for ALL I have I will find my family and friends. I will take part in lively conversations, laugh, cry and experience deep love and affection. I will fill not just my belly but my heart with hope and memories which will warm our hearth even during the coldest night of the coming winter.
Most of us are living through hardships right now. The times we are living in are not easy. We are all struggling, fighting for each breath, each day and because of the worry we face we may tend to forget the beauty in our lives. I can definitely say these hard times are not my cup of tea but a little gratitude can sweeten up any day.
Look around you, what do you see? I know in my own life even with all the loss we have and are facing I can still see the wonder and beauty of life. I look around myself and I see 4 years I was not guaranteed, I see a loving husband. I see my boys growing, thriving full of life and laughter for each new day. I see my parents, both here with me, caring for our needs as they see them without a thought of themselves. I see every reason despite the debt, the medical concerns or the pot holes in the road before us to give thanks for our blessings.
Yes I am even thankful for the financial struggles we face… the tie me up in a knots, bite my nails, pull my hair out, bang my head against a wall, not just cook but eat my goose for lunch kind of days! If not for these how would I appreciate the blessings of family, the hopes and dreams I long for or the very breath I take in this moment?
Yes most days catch us between a rock and a hard place. I have found I have a permanent residence between the two but I also know deep down without the struggles I would not know the real meaning of hope, of thanksgiving and of gratitude. So as we look toward Thursday, as you bring your turkey to the table amongst oohs and ahhs and as you hold those you love close remember true gratitude without charity is meaningless. Real Thanksgiving comes from our heart, from the depths of our loss and gift of our sacrifice.
Knowing the sun will shine again as winter turns to spring is a blessing, knowing this we can truly give thanks even as we take cover between a rock and a hard place my friend. So I pray you will be blessed this Thanksgiving with family, a bountiful table and love. May you know the peace of genuine thanksgiving. May you tuck it away for the harsh winter ahead as you count your blessings each and every one until spring breaks through on the other side shining her warmth on us again .
Friday, November 12, 2010
Just a few nights ago we watched the New Karate Kid together. I have to say it was rather good. As we watched though I found myself looking over in my boy’s direction realizing they are my very own Karate kids. Both Joshua and Micah have been through a match of their own with my breast cancer over the last few years but I know Joshua, as the oldest has carried a heavier burden. If would ask him what has happened in our lives, I am sure his response would be breast cancer, that’s what happened!
There is a great quote in The Karate Kid. In many ways I see can see Joshua saying this very same thing. Dre Parker looks at Mr. Han after he has been hurt, after going several rounds in battle with the enemy and says: “Because win or lose, I don't want to be afraid any more. And I'm still afraid!” As Joshua has grown up on this battleground of the beast I have watched him live with fear but I have also watched him make the decision not to afraid as well.
He has been his brother’s keeper in many ways, even when he has been scarred to take the first step he has always believed he could step out on the water without sinking! Joshua has always been the one to reach out for the falling sky first, to hold it up before it could crush us.
Today is Joshua’s 14th birthday. I sit here today wondering where the time has gone. Just yesterday I was holding my baby in my arms protecting him and now he is protecting me! His dreams are so far and wide, his hopes secure in his faith, his courage keeping him moving along even in the dead of night. I marvel at his strength every day for even when the sky seems to be falling Joshua carries this flame of hope inside him that pierces the dark. He travels into the darkness shining his light for all of us to see in many ways I think he is the strongest warrior of us all
Even when it feels as the world has turned its back on us, Joshua can see past the worry. He knows God has a perfect plane, understands we all our worry but Joshua seems to know there is everlasting hope. He has the wisdom to embrace God’s plan which includes waiting for His timing. It’s just a matter of waiting, of praying like a city on her knees, of keeping his faith. Joshua in many ways has grown into a man already his voice rising up in a crowd so awesome in power proclaiming victory even if he is afraid!
Look around you today and ask yourself where you stand. I know from my own life if you let doubt overtake you it will drown you without mercy. So what do you have to lose? I have tried to instill in our boys how great our God is but it is Joshua who has truly taught me that it is not my will but God’s will be done. Who are we to worry when He has us cradled in His hands? We honestly have nothing to lose if we are faithful to hope. Joshua has taught me everyday not to be afraid to move, not let fear take root in my life.
The truth is we can run away but where does that get us? Honestly we have to stop running from our insecurities. Life is a challenge, but we can’t be afraid to move or to live our lives through the pain we suffer. Life is beautiful even if the clouds roll in dark and gray. And yes what about the rain? There is peace, beauty and true reflection to be found as it falls. When the clouds pass over us we see the sun do we not? There is freshness in the air; the horizon is beautiful as we look out across the sky is it not? What of the promised rainbows which appear after the storm?
We may feel all is lost, we may feel broken beyond repair and yes we may possibly think we are lost even if we are home. But this is the truth: as long as faith and hope serve as our compass we are never lost. All we do, everything we say, all we are comes from a greater place than ourselves. We are children of the living God who has made us strong in His grace. So today I stand in awe of my son, Joshua, today he is my miracle. As Mr. Han says to Dre in The Karate Kid: I say to Joshua: You have taught me a very important lesson, Life will knock us down, but we can choose whether or not to stand back up.
If we stand on solid ground then we cannot be moved…. so leave the worry behind you and rise up above the fear my dear friend. We have today yes? So take this gift of grace and hope choose today as a new beginning, cease it my friend, embrace it and walk out on that water!
Happy Birthday Joshua! Your mom loves you; your spirit is beautiful beyond measure, your courage enlighting and your faith bold! You are truly my very own Karate Kid.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had not been diagnosed with breast cancer. Would we have been as happy, as close as we are now? Sure I know cancer is nothing to jump up and down about, hoot and holler while shouting how wonderful it is to the world BUT cancer does throw a learning curve.
I would much rather have my old form back, two breasts and not just one nipple. Seriously who likes driving around with one headlight? But it can be done if it is your only option right? Trading in an old Model T with 2 headlights for an old run down motor cycle with one headlight may not always be the best option but it is sometimes the only option. Yes in theory it sounds cool, I mean who doesn’t want a new motor bike even if it needs work right?
What about a boob job, seriously doesn’t that sound wonderful? Trade in the old ones for new ones, raise those boobies from the grave, and take them back from gravity? Well if it were really that simple everyone would be asking for this extreme makeover right? Women would be in line, pushing and shoving, trying to get to the front of the line first. Though breast cancer does give you an extreme makeover, it is anything but thrilling. Living with one breast, driving with one head light can be terrifying honestly because it is new, unexpected and nowhere in the plan! Just like when your hubby comes home with a brand new motor cycle, convincing you how fantastic it is and how you are going to love it. Well living with one breast changes everything, it takes some getting used to honestly.
It is not that it can’t be done because I am living proof it can! It is just a matter of perspective, of how you see yourself, your idea of a perfect 10. Once you can see past the scar in front of you and see the beauty within yourself screaming to get out well then driving with one headlight becomes almost natural.
Cancer has done many things to my body, to my spirit and to my soul. Yes it has taken many things from me as well, including my breast and my idea of perfect. But what cancer has not taken from me is my worth. She has made me stronger, more secure in who I am, comfortable in my skin, even if it has been cut up and torn by the beast within.
She has also not taken my family from me. We may be an odd little band of warriors to some but what we are is a family, we are survivors. As a family we embrace the struggles, we don’t back away from the fear or see evil around every corner because there is grace to be found too. I don’t believe we really stop and think about how bad it is or how bad it may become one day. Maybe we view things differently than others, but we just don’t see our situation as ever being that bad, as being so terrible there is no way back.
There is always hope, always another door to open, a window to crawl through, another corner to turn around and another path to trod upon. Truly it all comes down to perspective and attitude, sure you may prefer two headlights, but at the end of the day driving with just one may not be as bad as you think!