Monday, January 7, 2013

From death to life


I can't stand to leave things open-ended. I am wired for closure, so much so that I compulsively open and shut my kitchen cabinet doors twenty times during one unloading of the dishwasher...why can't I just leave them open until the all the dishes are done?!?!? I thought about leaving this blog open and active, thinking I may have reasons to write "cancer updates" now and again, but the lack of closure was making me twitch a little, so this is a sort-of farewell post. I think it's a necessary way for me to close one door while I walk (or run!) through new ones.

My last six months of recovery have flown by. I have regained strength and can enjoy a variety of exercise without any of those worrisome side effects. I've discovered a genuine interest in learning to honor God with my health. How can I care for this body He has restored to life?  How can I accept the changes that have occurred within me and celebrate each day of energy He's proportioned for my careful use? It means celebrating the changing leaves along the Great River Road, embracing the crisp fall air that accompanies football Sundays, and trying to find something beautiful in slushy winter weather (I find a SoyJoy from Starbucks to be helpful!)

It means standing in wonder before God and his ability to take a body that was clinging to life just one year ago and make it strong enough to create and sustain the life of a new little person this year:

There's a lot to celebrate these days!

We are anticipating the arrival of our son in early June. Crazy. Maybe it's fitting, since this whole cancer journey really began with a desire to have a baby over two years ago.

I try to remember this. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with gratitude as I look at our Christmas tree and remember how different I felt last year, gazing at the lights and ornaments from under comforters on the couch. But honestly, it's usually hard to remember. Life has moved on. We have moved on and it would be so simple to forget that cancer ever happened. (A doctor once told me this whole thing would seem like a small "blip" in our lives and I wanted to kick him...turns out he was kind of right.) This started to freak me out a little, like moving on would mean loosing some essential part of myself.

As things return to normal I realize there are some parts of this journey I wouldn't return, some parts of myself that I need, like learning to lean on friends, living each day to its fullest, saying "yes" to what matters most more often, and dancing every morning. In some ways, cancer was a gift.

Just to be clear, I don't think God sat in heaven contemplating cancer and concluded "Wow, Ashley will just LOVE the present I picked out for her this year! Can't wait for her to open it!"In fact, I think He's a far better gift-giver than I usually give Him credit for, but I do think He took this one opportunity to bring a dagger of His kingdom's beauty plunging into the heart of the kingdom of evil. And yes, cancer still totally sucks.

We did find a couple of ways to find closure and move on from the cancer era. First, my friends planned an incredible party where I smiled and laughed more than I had in months. Donut-eating contests, pig piñatas, and a three-legged race with Jonathan where we gathered far too much speed and skidded into a downhill face-plant, were a few highlights.

Second, Jonathan and my parents joined me in a fundraiser for blood cancer research called "Light the Night" which culminated in a late-night walk through Forest Park with illuminated balloons. It was a powerful experience. I felt connected to a new community as red-balloon supporters walked hand-in-hand with white-balloon survivors of all ages. I especially loved it when an elderly gentleman spontaneously escorted his white-balloon wife to an open space where they danced before hundreds of smiling onlookers. He had clearly learned life was too short to skip a good dance.

Then there were the gold balloon bearers; the most beautiful, by far. There was a unanimous, unspoken, respectful sort of pause when you saw one of these, as you knew the person carrying that gold balloon was here to testify about a life taken by blood cancer. Each gold balloon-bearer was a witness to the memory of a loved one that had bravely fought the cancer fight, and they walked as ones set apart. These were survivors of a loss each of us had feared but not had to experience.

As Jonathan stated, "It's sometimes easy to forget that we went through cancer this year, but impossible not to remember when I see you walking around with a big white balloon." Light the Night had a beautifully somber and respectful tone as we showed the world (or at least the park) the reality of cancer, but was also surprisingly light-hearted and celebratory. After walking the equivalent of a 5K with my family and new friends, we crossed a finish line with live music and enough energy to dance our way to our car...and then to Ted Drew's to replace all of those calories we lost.
"I walk because my life depends on it"

While I don't plan to blog anymore on the Beloved site (that whole closure thing), I did discover a love for writing this year and don't know if I can stop. If you are still interested in reading posts, you can find them here: Avah Ministires, a blog for a ministry formed by myself and two dear friends.

So from Jonathan and myself and the very bottom of our hearts, thank you again, for your support and love and for making sure that we never felt alone.

Hem, The Meeting Place
On the oldest day, that the world has known, I will meet you in the place we share. 
And it's not okay, 
But you're not alone. 
I will find a way and meet you there
And all the ships are lost on the river, I'll swing a light on the safest shore. 
And it's not okay, 
But it's not too late. 
Cuz we're not alone anymore. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

I have a testimony 'bout Jesus

"I have a testimony 'bout Jesus. He carries me through the worst storms! I only call on Jesus. I'm leanin' on His everlasting arms..." 
-Jon Thurlow (worship set that you should seriously take a minute to watch before reading on!)

Someone recently taught me the difference between a testimony and biography. A biography is the story about my life. A testimony is the story of Jesus' life intersecting with mine. Both stories can inspire, challenge, and change us but the biography ultimately points people to our glory. A testimony allures worshiping hearts to the only one truly worthy of our worship. I want to be that one.

And THEN, I read in Revelation (12:11) about how God is basically planning to fix this whole broken mess-of-a-world with the "blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony." Sign me up for that, too, please.

David Guzik explains:  "They overcame him . . . by the word of their testimony: The word of their testimony overcomes Satan’s deception. Knowing and remembering the work of God in their life protects them against Satan’s deceptions. As faithful witnesses, they have a testimony to bear - and because they know what they have seen and heard and experienced from God, they cannot be deceived by Satan’s lies telling them it isn’t true (as the testimony of the man born blind in John 9:25)."

Since the blood of the Lamb has given me a testimony, I thought I should keep writing about it. Which means I have to remember to remember it! So if you will bear with me, I'd like to dedicate this post (three weeks after my final treatment #12!) to remembering a little testimony about a great big God.

I have a testimony about Jesus...

I remember March 2011, shaky knees on top of a mountain in Colorado, trying my best to ski but utterly confused as to why I was so terribly exhausted.
I remember feeling ashamed as I struggled to hike up a moderate hill in May when my Mom (granted, she's a rock-star) had no trouble at all.
I remember feeling annoyed in June, waking up drenched in sweat and plagued by a persistent little cough.
I remember family and friends getting concerned when my finger nails became flaky and weird.
I remember sleeping ten hours or more a night, a non-negotiable nap around noon.
I remember feeling disappointed when, in September, Jonathan and I were no closer to calling ourselves "parents" than we were eleven months earlier.
I remember feeling hopeful when that led us to make a doctor's appointment, which led us to do blood work, which led to an answer: anemia, which might just lead to a speedy solution!
I remember having fun finding and eating as much iron as I could, joking about needing an iron skillet, and (to my delight!) getting one for Christmas.
I remember the iron pills and skillets not working. As my red blood cell count decreased, so did my hope.
I remember taking several breaks to climb the stairs to my apartment, needing the elevator to get me to the second floor at work, and pausing quite often to slow my racing heart.
I remember feeling nauseous and achy most days, three bites of oatmeal seeming like a feast.
I remember powerful prayers of others fighting for me when I had no strength to fight for myself.
I remember my doctor telling me I would need a blood transfusion (twice), which made me quite squidgidy, and feeling grateful to those who endured the pain of a donation needle so that I could have the blood to live.
I remember the strange experience of feeling crushed and crumpled on the inside when Dr. Visconti broke the news that the IV of Infed was just as ineffective as everything else in raising my blood count.

I remember what it felt like to have cancer winning it's war against my body.

...He carried me through the worst storm...

I fondly remember a week at the Mayo clinic, believe it or not, because it meant a vacation with Jonathan who cheerfully insisted on pushing me around the entire complex in a wheelchair.
I remember feeling joy and peace on Monday, as I listened to hymns being played by in the hospital lobby.
I remember feeling guilty for being so weak and needy on Tuesday.
I remember feeling terrified and small on Wednesday, when my very qualified Mayo doctor said the bone marrow biopsy was fine, which really meant he didn't know what was wrong with me.
I remember feeling comforted when he said this was now his problem, and I wouldn't leave that place without answers.
I remember the Holy Spirit clearly telling me to wait, when all logic told us to go, leading to an expedited diagnosis.
And I certainly remember getting that diagnosis on Thursday, time standing still, my mind unable to comprehend the pairing of a doctor's optimistic smile forming the words "good news" followed shortly with "just lymphoma, only six months of chemo."

...I only call on Jesus...

I remember the reality slowly sinking in as we walked down a hallway full of people, squeezing Jonathan's hand in an effort to hold back the tears.
I remember them starting to fall anyway.
I remember sitting on a bed in our hotel room, trying to decide what to say to my mom and dad and brother.
I remember listening to Jonathan tell his mom and dad and brothers.
I remember putting a positive spin on it all, focusing on the good statistics, all the while desperately trying to keep an avalanche of panic from starting to crash in around me.
I remember Friday, after the chest biopsy, when reality could not be denied.
I remember lying exhausted but peaceful in another hotel room, after finally pouring out my heart to Jesus while Jonathan sat quietly on a couch in the corner, feet up, one arm laying across his head, covering his eyes.
I remember thinking that he seemed to be in worse shape than me. Maybe he just didn't how to let it out.
 I'll never forget the song he began to sing, which, if it wasn't so sad, would have been sort of funny:
"Noooooobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody knows my sorrow, NOOObody knows the trouble we've seen.....on and on and on and on and on and on until....
"Jeeeesus knows the trouble I've seen, and Jesus loves my Ashley. Jesus knows the trouble we've seen, and Jesus loves us, so...."

I remember six months of healing, where my symptoms melted away with the cancer.
I remember celebrating.
I remember intimacy with family, friends, and God.
I remember the victory of Jesus; a victory over more than just cancer, a victory over fear.

...I'm leaning on His everlasting arms. 

Celebrating my second clean scan with Dr. Visconti! 
Celebrating the end of chemo in South Carolina! 

I am having an end-of-chemo party this Saturday and will share the pics once the party is over. Expectations: a cut-throat guitar hero tournament, highly competitive donut-eating contest, ruggedly dangerous three-legged race, and a devastated pig piñata. Warning: this party is not for the faint of heart!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A chemo kind of prayer

I've survived #10 and #11 (we're not really worried about me not surviving one, but I always like a reason to celebrate). Number ten was a doozy, causing some new side effects that my doctor decided weren't worth the risk so he eliminated what he believes to be the culprit: Bleomycin, the "B" of my ABDV chemo cocktail. I was thrilled to get one less drug and we pray that "B" didn't cause any long-term problems in my lungs. Doctor V. continues to smile because I have hair and that makes me smile too!

 Even as I'm enjoying a weekend of Romanian hospitality from Ramona and her family in Chicago, recovering under comfy covers while Jonathan and our friends study to become great dentists, my mind flashes with faces of others I know who are also at home, their bodies hard at work fighting cancer and trying to compensate for the effects of chemo. 

This is my prayer for them; friends like Mary Lynn, no stranger to fighting cancer as she's been undergoing treatment for something like ten years. She is skilled at laughter and somehow manages to deflect all attention off her own pain to inquiries of mine, with kind eyes and a reassuring smile that makes me feel so much less alone. This is a prayer for a new friend, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, full of courage and spunk as her body faces its biggest challenge yet. And mostly, this is a prayer for children survivors. I see chubby-cheecked baby faces that I wish my hands had power to hold and make all the bad parts of chemo go away. Maybe I can't do that, but as I lay here I'm going to let my mind wander and imagine the hands that can. 
I pray His body becomes flesh today, that you open your eyes after a good, long nap to see His loving ones gazing into yours. 

I pray you curl up in His lap and know the comfort of a hug. 

I want to crown your beautiful head with a perfect hat, made from only the finest fibers, of course. It fits you like a glove and when it's on, your scalp stops stinging. Hair follicles can take a deep breath. Relax, they are no longer under attack. 

I want to give you a drink of living water, the kind that's crisp as it runs down your throat, healing the blistered tissue on your gums and tongue, cooling your burning heart and lungs. You can feel it flow through your veins, hydrating your thirsty skin from the inside out. Drink it up until you are soggy with life again! 

I pray His skilled hands move up and down your arms and legs, massaging away the fire and exhaustion until you are completely and utterly restored. 

I want Him to breathe energy into your airways. Passion and excitement accompany each puff. 

I pray His lips kiss your finger tips, bringing back to life nerve endings that are inconveniently M.I.A., reviving the delightful experience of touch. 

I want your taste buds to reawaken the pleasure of sweet and salty. Savor each flavor-burst of fruit freshly-plucked from the tree of life. 

I would wrap you up in a magic temperature-changing blanket that effortlessly compensates for even the hottest flashes and chilliest chills. It's a custom-made climate just for you! 

I pray His palms settle over your tummy, hovering until the chaos quiets and everything inside becomes a well-oiled machine. 

I pray the butterflies and worry warts flutter or sputter away as His Perfect Love casts out fear . 

I want to give you a brand-new walk-in closet of clothes that fit your changing body, expandable waist band for those days, making you feel beautiful, because you are.

I want to erase the "remembering" part of your stomach that recalls with shocking accuracy chemo-flu nausea as you glimpse any item of clothing, pass any restaurant, or smell any scent remotely tethered to treatment day. 

I pray He digs down deep to the source of that nausea, pulling it up and out of your body until you can feel hunger and fullness, hold the side of queasy, please. 

I want His fingers to tickle your toes, making you giggly or silly or carefree, and bringing more healing with each jolt of laughter. 

I pray He sits by your side and that you know you are not alone. 
I pray you feel touched, comforted, loved beyond belief. 
I pray you are healed, that cancer goes away and never ever comes back to play. 

I want His kingdom to come, His will to be done, in your life for now and forever more. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Laughing Jesus

Number Nine!  Only 3 left! I know, I know, I just spent my last entry talking about how the "only _____  more left!" phrase failed to bring me any comfort, but this week is different. My doctor says I can blame my vacillating moods on something like a temporary, medically-induced menopause, so I think I will.

Mom and me after #9
Since this weekend Jonathan and I celebrate our five year wedding anniversary, I've spent some time reflecting on events since last June. So much has changed, but the consensus is that we are in a better place now than we were then. A theme stood out during my stroll down memory lane; repeated re-surrender...the kind that walks a thin line between excruciating pain and exhilarating pleasure. Maybe a story can explain better.

This Sunday I had a chance to bring my mind, attitude, heart, soul...whatever you want to call it, back to Jesus. Sometimes I wonder where it goes, and why it seems to keep running away from Him, but inevitably, I can tell it's happened because "whatever you want to call it" feels cold and dead, like a smelly fish on the bottom of someone's boat. It's not that I've made a conscious declaration of independence from Him, or that I think He's turned away from me, or even that I'm unsure of my salvation, it just seems like my tendency towards self-reliance whisks me away into building and running my own kingdom, instead of willingly joining His. My soul simply cannot tolerate this constant rebellion like it used to.

So, collectively at our Sunday morning service my church family came together for communion. It is often during communion that I first realize I've become a smelly-dead-fish and need to be revived. During this process of communing with the most beautiful presence I have ever known, I find myself declaring a familiar phrase, stolen from a Chris Tomlin song, one I've uttered multiple times this year:

"I lift my hands to believe again! You are my refuge, You are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember: You are faithful God,  forever."

The first time I declared this was last November on a date-night to a Chris Tomlin concert. At this point, I was operating on what my brother-in-law dubbed, "half-blood" so even walking short distances was unpleasant, not that this kept me from wearing heals. I mean, it's date-night, after all . We couldn't find the entrance to Chaifetz Arena, so I logged some extra miles around the building before finding the seats, which were great seats if you were in any mood to be surrounded by very energetic, worshipping Christians. Unfortunately, I was not. I felt so bad, physically, but felt even more "bad" about feeling bad. I wanted to stand and sing and worship with everyone else. Instead, I was ready to punch the next arm that waved across my face and poor Jonathan was in serious danger of being that arm.  Picking up on the quickly-deteriorating status of our date, and having some kind of supernatural ability to extend grace to me in my ugliest moments, Jonathan convinced me to be a "rebel" and climb to the top of the arena, where there were still plenty of free seats. I grumbled over each painful step to the top of that mountain in my gold heals, but we did arrive, victorious and completely alone. Here, I was able to rest, letting the worship of everyone below us rise to wash over me. Here, I learned that even in the midst of physical pain, it is possible to be so enamored by His presence that, while the pain in not gone, there's no place you'd rather be. It's the strangest experience of contentment I've ever known.

Then, when Chris sang his song, "I Lift My Hands," I decided to rise. I wish you could see this memory as I do. With the stage lights as they were, the audience was only slightly illuminated by a glowing kind of darkness, mostly people on their feet with thousands upon thousands of tiny little fingers reaching into the air, like they wanted nothing more than to be closer to whatever that presence was that just kept beckoning them to a place, higher and higher. And then the voices! All kinds of them, rising up in passion as they proclaimed love for an unseen God. Even as I started to feel a sacred sort of union with everybody below me, I also experienced a sense of being very much alone. The darkness became thick, the voices seemed to fade as I chose to let mine rise and I'm convinced the one spotlight on the stage turned completely around to illuminate me, posturing myself at the top of the auditorium, leaning against the guard rail like I was Rose DeWitt Bukater on the Titanic. It felt as if all eyes were on me and I knew this moment meant everything. I knew that choosing to stand there, feeling so exposed and vulnerable and "on-stage", was really my stage before my most important audience. I was on stage for Holiness himself. This was my moment to tell Him what I was going to do with my pain, my fear, my doubts. So I lifted my hands to the sky and sang:

"I lift my hands to believe again! You are my refuge, You are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember: You are faithful God,  forever."

Phew. As you can imagine, this song has been meaningful ever since. The cherry on top is that I really think Jesus loves that memory, that moment, as much as I do and I'll tell you why. On Sunday after communion and that moment of re-surrender, I told Jonathan on our drive home about how much I loved that song. I had no sooner finished suggesting that we plug in his phone and play it, when I heard those all-too-familiar notes on the radio...yep, I do believe God directly intervened with either me or that radio station to play our love song. Jonathan smiled and said "this is what Jesus is doing right now," then flipped around his phone to show me his background picture:

I'd have to agree.

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes; the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. -Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jehovah Shammah

Chemo number eight is over and four more remain. Many people don't have a finish line laid so clearly before them.
should be excited about that, I know.

Today I was able to blow dry and style my hair. Most people don't have any hair to brush at this point in treatment.
I should be grateful for that, I know.

So why do I find myself feeling numb instead of happy when the voices of loved ones celebrate that "there's only four more!"When did my heart change from a song of praise for each day I still have hair, to a frenzied assessment of whether I lost more today than yesterday? (I may or may not have a trash receptacle dedicated to measuring each week's lost and found strands). Where did fears of relapse and possible long-term chemo side-effects find an audience in my mind? How did that sly devil of doubt slither into the bed of my faith, messing up my freshly-laundered, tightly-tucked covers?

I should read my own blog and rest assured of His love, His presence, His healing, His provision.
I should be able to work longer, get up earlier, exercise harder (or at all), feel better sooner.
I should be praising louder, praying stronger, loving better.

But, it's time I stop "shoulding" all over myself.

The truth is that, even though I think I know who I should be, I am not that person. I often don't know who I am. Sometimes I even forget who He is. As I trudge along in this marathon, I am just as desperate for His presence and His reassurance as when I began. I found myself in a mini faith-crisis just this week as I questioned the role of the Holy Spirit in my life. I spent hours researching our faith history, curious to find out who or what is influencing my current thoughts and beliefs about God. Am I a cessationalist  or sensationalist? Am I charismatic, neo-charismatic, radical, reformed, or just wrong and weird? By the end I knew only that I didn't know. And I knew that I needed to hear from Jesus (cross-out cessationalist, then), because every theological quest I've ever begun has at its core a question of deep, personal significance. This week my question was simple, "God, do you still see me? Do you really speak to me? Do you love me?"

I finally turned to the old, weatherworn pages of my Bible (weatherworn because I left it in the rain, not as a result of some extreme scriptural devotion). I read about "Jehovah Shammah," the Lord who is there.

"Be strong and bold, have no fear or dread of them because it is the Lord, your God who is with you. He will not fail or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6

"...and remember, I am always with you, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20

"...this is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him or knows him. You know him, because he abides with you and he will be in you." John 14:17

" content with what you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Hebrews 13:5

Theology meets Theophany. The Word became Life and my belief became sight: He will never leave me nor forsake me! As those precious words have soaked in my heart this week, I've learned a little about who I am and who I am not. I am not loved for who I should be, but as I am. I am not loved because of who I am, but because of who He is. But most importantly, I am loved. Even though I wish this moment of clarity and  faith would carry me through until eternity, or at least the end of chemo, I have a feeling that when I wake up tomorrow morning I will need to hear it, believe it and see it once again. Jehovah Shammah will be there...which should help me stop "shoulding" so much.

Kendra and John chemo-sat for #8
The perfect place for a recovery weekend

Monday, May 14, 2012

Keeping Vigil


wakefulness maintained for any reason during the normal hours for sleeping.
a watch or a period of watchful attention maintained at night or at other times: The nurse kept her vigil at the bedside ofthe dying man.
a period of wakefulness from inability to sleep.

It seems it has been awhile since my last update, since the celebration of the first of what I hope to be many more "clean scans." Thanks for your ideas about how I might now approach my remaining chemo treatments (5 more!) Vacations, celebrations, songs and poetry are dreams now swimming in my head. Today, I thought I could share how one of those suggestions has transformed my dreaded Thursdays into times of beauty. 

Two different friends in two different spaces and places suggested to me the idea of "praying the hours". I was unfamiliar with this ancient concept and after studying it some the past few weeks, I have found myself appreciative and enriched by the heritage of saints, brothers and sisters that have shared in it. 

To explain, briefly and imperfectly, praying the hours is a way to recognize the sacredness in the hours of the day. It's a way to maintain a posture of worship. Sounds good, right?!? If aware, we can appreciate and mimic the progression of a sleepy-sunrise stumbling towards the midday sun. We can take a moment to pause in the middle of our work day and reconnect with our Creator. A deep sigh and sunset on our drive home slows us into evening, as we fall gracefully into an embrace of darkness, sleep, and silence....anticipating the sunrise of the next day. God's way of building worship into the simple experience of our day has been overwhelming me. 

The hour I've found myself most relating to is actually the hour dedicated for those who awake in the middle of the night. It's the hour of those who can't sleep. It's the hour for those who suffer. This is the hour of vigil, traditionally prayed in the middle of the night or early in the morning, meant to embrace the darkness, to stand firm in the silence with those who have lost the strength to stand.

Macrina Wiederkehr in Seven Sacred Pauses: Living mindfully through the hours of the day speaks this way of night vigils: 

"Rising from sleep in the heart of the night, I keep vigil with eternal questions....Holding vigil with the Guardian of Life, whose eye shines down upon all who live in terror of the night, I become quiet. In the middle of the night I hold hands with trust and surrender to the One who sees without a light....Like Jesus, keeping watch the night before he died, I keep watch with those who wait alone...I keep vigil with those whose tired hearts have lost hope. In the middle of the night I pray for those who sleep and those who cannot sleep. I pray for those with fearful hearts, for those whose courage is waning. I pray for those who lost vision of what could be. When I rise in the middle of the night, my prayer is simply one of waiting in silence, waiting in darkness, listening with love." (pg 29-31)

I may be drawn to this hour of meditation because those pesky hives and hot flashes keep waking me up every two hours. Being someone who typically enjoys uninterrupted sleep, these past few months have been...unusual. Anxiety-driven prayers for more sleep, wide-eyed staring at the ceiling for hours, and flip-flopping around the bed have proven unhelpful, so I changed my perception of these night awakenings. They are no longer annoyances but invitations. I'm no longer being inconvenienced, rather, invited to worship. Helplessness morphs into purpose as I take up arms with Jesus in the darkness, keeping vigil with Him, for those who also sit in darkness but feel like they are there all alone. No one should feel alone. 

Even though this started as a night-time prayer ritual, the flavor of these prayers has followed me into the day, especially on those chemo Thursdays where I find myself surrounded by people embracing suffering. I see some purpose in my chemo treatments because I now know I am fighting for them. 

Oh, but don't feel sorry for them. These friends of mine are warriors, too. Most are much more brave than myself. I want to tell them this. I want to shake their arms and look into their eyes and tell them how very brave they are, for driving to that chemo office again and again. I want them to see how humbled I am by their cancer scars, their years of uncertainty and fighting to survive for.....well, for kids or pets or just because they know nothing else but to fight. I want them to know they are seen, that their battles matter, that they are never alone. Their stories give me courage to walk into another treatment with my bag full of prayer shawls, crackers, cucumber-mint water, and earbuds. Their faces remind me of an unsettling reality: there is a battle with a long, dark night ahead, and I'm going to take the night watch. Well, not just me. The sweetest part of these vigils is the face of Jesus, who never stops standing vigil for us all. I'm just privileged to join him for whatever short time my weak flesh can stand to keep watch.

I thought maybe this idea would relate to more than just cancer survivors. I thought others who find themselves awake in the middle of the night with a crying baby, or working the night shift, or unable to quiet their mind from the worries of the day might find comfort in joining the vigil. There is purpose in the night. The darkness doesn't need to be scary, just find those of us keeping our light on in it. Most importantly, find the One whose heart is a constant vigil for you.

#6 Not punching him,
just excited to fight cancer.
#7 was a birthday celebration
with Hannah and Laura! 
Yum Yum knows how I feel after these Thursdays. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

High Five Friday!

There's this thing happening, which I love, from some of the blogs I read, called "High Five for Friday!" What a great way to celebrate everything that's good from the week, 
so I linked up with Laura, From My Grey Desk

Here's my Top Five: 
This book is changing the way I read the Bible....who knew Leviticus could be moving! 

2. AACC webinar by Dr. Moon and Dr. Tan about spiritual direction and the role of the Holy Spirit in counseling. I love what I get to do. 

3. Sick days. 
I felt icky and more tired that usual, due to a cold-allergies-chemo-who knows? The good news is that I enjoyed serious rest, caught up on reading, and found some new blogs to follow. 

4. SIUE Dental School Intramural Team are league champions! 
...and the championship game was at 11:00 last night-crazy college kids :) 

5. Catching up with friends through extended phone dates this week. Good for the soul. 

Happy Friday!