Thursday, October 31, 2013

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time... long ago in the town of Waukegan, IL lived a little girl who loved to Trick-or-Treat. Every year she dressed up as a Bum & went door to door to as many houses as time would permit. She & her cousin did this well into their teen years. She just couldn't get enough!

The mayor always gave out Taffy Apples. That, of course, was her favorite stop. There were parties at school. One year she even won the contest because her teacher didn't recognize her. She treasured her candy, not necessarily to eat it, but loved to count it, sort it, look at it, & think about the joy she had collecting it.

She loved to build spook houses complete with eyeballs, spaghetti, & gooey pumpkin guts. Her house had an unfinished basement, & the sky was the limit. Such creativity & fun! She lived for these moments...

As time went by, she became a mother, determined to enjoy this fun with her own children. Together they Trick-or-Treated for miles. Sometimes she made their costumes which was a real feat since sewing really wasn't her thing. A few fifties skirts along the way, a chocolate kiss, & a little black doggie costume. Such fun!

Each year pumpkins were carved. Pumpkin seeds were baked, & Jack-O-Lanterns displayed. Her Daddy taught her well, & doing it for her own children was a treat (even though her pumpkin seeds were never as good as her Dad's).

So... the decorations went up, & fun times were to be had. Now... things have settled. She still makes her pot of chili. She buys costumes for a few children she adores. Trick-or Treaters come & go, & she passes out her candy, happy to see each child. Each Halloween she remembers her childhood & smiles a little smile & feels just a little of that same excitement she felt way back when...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Loss is loss, or is it?

A loss is a loss, or is it? Could it be both a loss & a gain? I say yes. Sometimes we lose relationships, people, things, jobs, homes, health... Usually our losses are not within our control. Sometimes we choose our losses. We may trade them in for better health, peace of mind, or whatever we hope to gain. My theory is this: If we trust in God, He will take our losess & turn them into our gain.

Our gain may not be what we imagined it to be. It might not be the miracle for which we hoped. It might not be better health or a relationship mended. It might not be the answer for which we pray, but rest assured, our prayers will be answered. "All things work for good for those who love the Lord & are called according to His purpose." That's a promise.

The problem is, our view of good doesn't necessarily line up with God's view. After all, it's not just about us. Every life has a ripple effect, & an answer to my prayer might also be an answer to another person's prayer. We don't have the whole picture, not for ourselves or for anyone else. Only God does, & yesterday is as close as tomorrow for Him.

So... I would have to say, whatever our loss, whether we brought it on ourself or not, whether we can effect the outcome or not, it all boils down to trust. When we place our trust in God, I believe we say, "Not my will, but yours." When we cannot see how anything good could possibly come out of our loss, we place our trust in God.

It is necessary to grieve. If we don't allow ourselves time to grieve, I don't believe we allow healing to take place. It's okay to be human. It's okay to miss what we once had. Being honest about our loss is also necessary to healing. When we turn to God in utter despair, when we beg Him, "How will I get through this loss?" I believe that is when our faith begins to grows. We gain more depth as a person. We find that some voids, can only be filled by God.

When we learn this lesson, we learn to trust in Him, to say, "Not my will, but yours," we begin to realize our gain. It's no longer about the miracle we wanted or the answer for which we prayed. It's about knowing that God knows best & placing our trust in Him alone. It becomes an addiction to His presence. It becomes knowing without Him, we cannot breathe. It becomes a grateful heart in a world of uncertainties. It becomes clinging to His steadfast love.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I just can't explain it...

Last night I went to a gathering for Breast Cancer Survivors. It was a night of pampering & fun. It was a night of learning, & a night of sharing. Mostly, it was a night of love. I can't explain the bond I have with other breast cancer survivors. I can't explain the joy. I can't explain the love. It just is...

I went with a newly diagnosed friend. She is a friend I would probably never have met if it weren't for this terrible disease. She is so sweet. I love her! God has given me a new friend! I met up with an old friend I didn't know was on this journey. I am so sorry for the reason we ended up at this gathering, but I couldn't help but admire her strength, her joy, & her faith! Wow!

About 1/2 way through the evening, I reconnected with a friend I met at my first Pray for the Cure. She walked with me through the opening ceremonies of my first Race. She is such a beautiful person. I think of her often & was so happy to see her. Her presence in my life came at just the right time. What a comfort!

I made a new friend. She has a business called The Stylish Survivor. Her presentation addressed all of the feelings I have struggled with over the last few years with dressing my ever changing body. She discussed things that really hit home with me. I was dazzled by her insights. I was comforted by her words. It made me feel like what I am going through is normal for what I have been through. I am shocked I am saying normal because there is nothing normal about breast cancer & the after effects of its treatments & surgeries.

A man who founded an organization, Men against Breast Cancer, spoke. I was so touched by his compassion for his mother, a 22 year survivor. He was 29 when she was diagnosed, & he said he felt just like a little boy. Suddenly, life stopped, & it was his turn (along with his brother & his father) to give back, to nurture this woman, to walk this frightful journey by her side. Just to be with her.

To be honest, 2 years down the road... breast cancer still scares me. It has ripped my security out from beneath me. It causes me anxiety. I worry for my beautiful daughters. That is the unthinkable for me. It causes me daily to place myself back in the palm of God's mighty hand. It hasn't robbed me of my joy or my relationships. It has increased my joy in unexplainable ways. It has deepened my faith. It has introduced me to people & thoughts I would never know. Yes... I live with this constant fear, but the joys are unfathomable!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Her secret...

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping... Lately, when this happens, my mind seems to fixate on my mom. I usually end up reminiscing in my head about the last week of her life. There are so many ironies. Realities were different from expectations (at least mine). Occasionally, life throws us a curve, the unexpected turns out to be better than we ever imagined...

I realize it's strange to say this, but I think my mom was joyful in her dying. I know that sounds crazy, but I cannot explain the love we shared in her last days. WE have always been close, but I never felt as close to her as I did next to her hospital bed. I feel as though she kept giving to me to the very end. I don't think this is normal, & I feel incredibly blessed.

As I witnessed her dear friends & family come & go, I sat in amazement, totally mesmerized by her love. I felt like she had a secret, something truly treasured, that she was sharing with me. So... when I lay awake at night, my mind pauses on this secret, trying to embrace it in its fullness. I feel as though, I got bits & pieces of it. I got enough to understand, & that's really all I need.

Her secret was about love. It was about a life well lived. It was about eternity. Somehow this all came together in that last week & even at her funeral. Her capacity to love others was amazing. The love she gave me cannot even be put into words. And even in her dying, she gave & gave & gave. I have never seen anything like it. As I sat by her bedside, peace radiated from her to me.

I felt as though eternity was at her fingertips. I fully believe God's grace allowed her to take her time in dying. I think she was enjoying her family. I think she lingered longer on this earth than she had to, but I think it was because of her love for her family. In her dying, she was showing us a peace that surpassed our understanding.

I have this strong sense that the healing of her mind began early on in that week. Given to anxiety her whole life, the peace, love, & even joy she displayed in her last days gave me strength to last a lifetime. I believe this earth is only our temporary home. She affirmed that. She smile & smiled & smiled. She couldn't open her eyes, but she could smile. I just can't make any common sense out of this.

So... as I lay awake at night, & I ponder her secret, I can only be grateful. I miss her, but I feel as though she gave so much to me. My cup overflows. I think she loved me enough to last a life time, that is my life time. I hope I can share her secret with the people God places in my path. I have a treasure more precious than gold.