Tuesday, April 11, 2017

a gift in the hard.

On the outside, my life looks hard. And it is. Really hard. But it is also bursting at the seams with God's gifts. One of those unexpected gifts has been a friendship because of the hard. 
A couple of years ago a high school friend emailed me through facebook. He is a PhD oncology researcher and living with a stage IV diagnosis of colon cancer. He followed my clinical trials with FA closely and became a huge encourager in my life. 
Throughout our friendship and his amazing spirit, I hooked him up with a few of my friends who were also walking the path with cancer. (Facebook can really be a good thing)
Last summer, he took time off from his treatments and spent a few weeks meeting his virtual friends around the country. I was fortune it enough to join this group for dinner one night.
Truth be known, I felt a little odd. They were all part of a club that bonded them together. We even joked about it. I commented that I was on Holy ground. I thanked them for making feel welcomed in the hard.
2016-07_Holland Fellow Patient Meeting.JPG
the "club" after dinner last summer
This hard is now my reality. I am living with a stage IV diagnosis of breast cancer. God knew I needed a Tom in my life. 

It's surreal that I am part of this club now. But I am so thankful to be standing on Holy Ground in the hard. And I am so very grateful for His gift of Tom.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

hope in the hurt.

When I was 18 I said good-bye to life in the states and spent my first semester in college living in Singapore. I was confident and excited as to what was ahead. The unknown didn't scare me but rather motivated me to be the person God created me to be.
26 years later, I am still living in a foreign land and want more than anything to live in His will.

As a 44 year old, I'd be lying if I didn't say the question of the future weighs heavy on my heart.
It's no secret that my life has been hard. I carry disappointments around like it's going out of style. I confront suffering like an old friend. And welcome the unanswerable with silence. I've been challenged to trust the hurting. This journey of stage IV cancer is no different.
But these past couple of days I've been struggling to articulate the tension I am feeling. The space between living and dying. I was there before- we all are. We live to die, right? I have to admit, that part is exciting. If everything I believe about heaven is true, I  will be more than fine.
But it's not knowing what God wants from me that is tripping me up. I admit that I wish the cancer didn't metastasize. I'd fight like hell to win the war with breast cancer. But this stupid disease is invading an already beat up body.
So there's the unrest. The disappointment. The suffering. The unanswerable.  The silence. The hurt.

The last round of chemo hit me hard. I'm scared to start the third round on Wednesday. I meet with my oncologist before it to hopefully approach the regimen of treatment differently. I need to live to die a better way.

And I still need to hope in the hurt.

Monday, March 13, 2017

one foot in front of the other...

It's been three months since I have been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. A journey I never thought I would be on but here I am. Searching, longing, desiring that "new" normal. I received a card in the mail last week that defined HOPE. "It's that beautiful place between the way things were and the way things are yet to be." Way to go, Hallmark. You put words to the way I feel each day. I'm in the middle. We all are. The dash in between the day we were born and the day we die. The battle. The time that we prepare, we trust, we stumble, we love, we cry, we laugh, we doubt, we live. The middle. One of my favorite musicians, Ellie Holcomb, sang about it so well in her song, Find You Here.
July 28, 2016 was my last day of work at a church that was my place of employment for 20 years. I sensed it was time for something new. I dreamed of starting a non-profit and use my story for others as they battle through their own story. I wanted to speak and write. I had no idea what that would look like, I still don't, but I knew I had to put one foot in front of the other and take the first step. The very first day of "retirement" , I sat on my deck and googled, "How Do I Start A Non-Profit." I spent the next few months applying for disability (a full time job in itself), meeting with friends who were wise with 501C3's start ups and listening to God. A lot. I had been approved for disability and enrolled in medicaid, as I waited and trusted until my first source of income came five months later. I was amazed how the whole process was relatively painless and so thrilled that my ministry did not have to support me financially. It Takes Hope (www.ittakeshope.org) was born.
sneak peek with the team at It Takes Hope
 (photo credit: studio 6.23)
God is so faithful even when it feels like you are just treading water.
I joke that I didn't realize I quit work for a full time job in cancer. But God knew. The timing of it all has been amazing. Don't get me wrong, I hate that I have cancer. It makes me so disappointed that my future is unknown. But it was with FA. What's critical is what I do in the middle. How I fight this battle. Oddly, that's the fun part.
"It's that beautiful place between the way things were and the way things are yet to be."
We all need it.
One step at a time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


I have a brain scan tomorrow. Those are five words I never thought would come out of my mouth. And yet, here I am. This is really happening. I have cancer. So bizarre for me to say. Difficult to wrap my mind around. I have a masters in counseling and don't think I am in denial. I'm not mad. I'm not numb. I'm not sad. I'm just me. I'm here. Those days of anger, shock and self pity may come. I might face them a hour from now, tomorrow or in a month.  I'm okay with that. I really am.
Because today the sun is pouring in my window and the sky is blue. Today. It really is blue!

FA has taught me to live in the moment. Just be. I know by now to dive into the wave of emotions rather than ignore them.
Fortunately or unfortunately, life has prepared for me for this. #battleready I call it. We are all in one. A battle. It just looks different for each person. Mine just happens to be a compromised digestive system, a diagnosis of Friedreich's Ataxia and now stage IV breast cancer.  A new challenge, for sure but it doesn't change my direction or my outlook on life. God is still God. And He is still good. So good.
This journey started the first week in January. After the initial appointment when it was believed to be cancer, I left my doctors office and turned to my mom and said, "Well, buckle up."

And not only has my family buckled up, they are holding me up. Literally. Every stinking appointment they have been there. My friends. Incredible. The Lord. Amazing.

This story, His story, is not over. I may not understand it or like it but that doesn't give me reason to not be faithful in it.

So today, I will choose to rest in Him. That's all I can do. Really, that's all I want to do. And lots of laughing. Don't forget the laughter.

Even if the brain scan doesn't turn out the way I want it to, I'll make a choice to laugh. Maybe through tears but I'll still choose joy.

You heard it here, folks. You can hold me accountable.
I'm #battleready.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

game on!

It Takes Hope
'Twas the night before my oncology appointment,
when all through the house Barkley was snoring,
not at all like a mouse;
the unknown of this cancer hovering in the air,
 in hopes of the right medical team that'll be full of care.

These past three weeks have been a major blur,
trusting on treatments, the docs will concur.

 While my faith is tested and the outcome unclear;
 I have absolutely no doubt that God is so near.

My dog is always cuddling, the fire is lit, my focus on Him; His love won't quit.

Friends are encouraging, I'm doing okay. I trust in His mercies, they're new everyday.

Many are hurting; it's hard to understand, but I know God's got this, He has a plan.

People seem to question; it seems so unfair. But not for a second do I say He doesn't care.
This guy is a trooper.

My life is hard yet so full of hope. I'm battle ready. He'll help me cope.

Tomorrow is the day I long to know more. My family's been awesome. They love me to my core.

Thank YOU so much for joining this fight. Your support is amazing. Carrying the load and making it light.

The time has come to "get-er-done!" I'm confident in God. I say that -He's already won!

getting my port placed

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

wanting and waiting.

This past weekend I witnessed my nephew say, "I do" to his girlfriend of three years. The following day I hugged my niece good-bye for her second semester of her freshman year of college. It wasn't until the hotel door shut that I bawled. And I mean bawled.
Time has flown by and The Cousin Sleepovers are a thing of the past. Life continues and new memories are made.
Not being a mom is one of things in my life that stings. And not being married, hurts. It's the one area that makes me feel less than, patronized and lonely. Even writing those words makes me cringe. I fear the responses of people who mean well but only magnify how my life seems misunderstood.
But what I can't do is misunderstand how big God is. He is confusing but not discouraging. I can't view him through a distorted lens. I need to accept He is God.  And thank God,  I'm not.
Indeed, I would write my story differently. I'd be married, live somewhere warm, be a special education teacher and be a mom to twins. A boy and girl.
That's not my story.
So I live in this tension of wanting and waiting. Which turns into trusting. Believing the journey I am on is the exact story He's writing.
The life of less than, patron ism and loneliness is a lie. I can't live in that.
I choose to live in the moment. That moment may look like the ugly cry as my niece gets on a plane to college. Or it may mean watching my nephew drive away in a car marked JUST MARRIED. But it's His story, I just need to be faithful.
Don't misunderstand me, that doesn't mean I have to like it.
I do like this guy, though.
all gussied up for my nephews wedding. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

quote of the year.

I was texting a friend the day after Christmas.

Me: We did it.
Friend: It wasn't pretty but we made it.
Me: Proud of you.
       This season is brutal.
       We can do it.

The conversation continued as we shared our melt downs. We reminded each other to breathe. We exchanged our love for one another. And in that moment, we weren't defined by our hurt. We weren't alone in the pain. The disappointment in our lives was acknowledged but not dwelt on. We are making the choice to move forward. Whatever that looks like.

For me, it's diving into the reality that my life is not how I thought it would be. It's crying, or screaming, when doing something that should be super simple is exhaustingly difficult or even impossible. It's accepting that I am facing another loss. My life is full of losses. But I am not losing. I'm not.

It feels good to write that. I read those words and the things I have gained in my life because of my journey, flash through my mind. It's a choice. I don't always make the right one. But I know I have a choice.

This holiday season is hard. It seems to magnify everything. Family, money, time, friendships, future...most of the things that are out of my control. But the very things that I can choose better.

FA is not pretty. But I can make it. It won't be without loneliness, fear or tears. I know that. But just as I cry hard, I laugh hard. Life is hard. With or without FA.

After I finished texting my friend, I listened to a podcast with Craig Groeschel. I'm not one to pick a word for the year. This will be my quote for the year. No, not just for 2017 but my life.

"You don't have to understand the plan to trust God has a purpose."

Happy Holidays.
We can do this.