Dream

My mom was a dreamer.

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An incredible, crazy fun dreamer.

 

She  loved to sew.

She had plans to be one of the best children’s fashion designers in the nation.

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Her clothing line made Earnshawns Magazine and was featured in a trade show in 2006.

She came up with ideas that were way before her time and I am now seeing some of the designs she created on the clothing racks of various stores.

 

She was so talented.

 

She would create outfits out of unique patterns and colors and fabrics.

She went on this African kick once, and created jumpers, jackets and parachute pants out of Kente cloth, a fabric filled with vibrant colors and patterns from Africa.

 

 

 

My sister and I were her guinea pigs. Everything she made, we wore everywhere. The vibrant colors and patterns of Africa screamed loudly on my fair olive skin.

 

Third graders can be real jerks. I got called Kunta Kente from Roots. I begged my mom to buy  clothing from the Gap.

 

She didn’t stop. She created more clothing, more designs, more dreams.

 

Her dreaming landed her a clothing contract with JC Penny’s. I don’t exactly remember the names of her clothing line, but it flourished in the stores. She couldn’t afford to hire someone to manufacture all the merchandise for her, so she spent all her time sewing hundreds of pieces of clothing.

 

She’d break to feed us, help us get ready for school, complete homework and get ready to bed.

 

We’d often fall asleep to the sounds of her sewing machine whirring in the background, the faint light of her sewing machine peaking under our bedroom door.

This went on for a year. She got more contracts, more stores, more sewing.

 

More dreaming.

 

Then dreaming had to turn into surviving.

 

She was a single mother, with two very rambunctious, adventurous little girls. Sewing for stores in Georgia was going okay, but it was not enough money to take care of her family. She would have to leave Georgia and go to LA or New York to pursue her dream.

 

My mom was very focused on our education and feared we would not get the proper education we needed if we attended school in a big city and weren’t in a wealthy area. She had us living in an upperclass area of Marietta that she could barely afford, just so we could have access to better schools.

 

She did not want her dream to distort our future.

 

She picked up another desk job to make ends meet.

Soon the desk job and the struggle to raise two girls on a single salary took over the dream.

 

The dream became a hobby.

Then it faded into the background as eviction notices, overdue bills, and my cancer diagnosis loomed overhead.

 

My mother set aside her dream for us.

 

Occasionally she’d pick the sewing back up again and previous opportunities would arise and she’d pursue them. She’d get close, so close, but then the cares of the world would take over and the dream would be set aside again.

 

This pattern would happen over and over again, until she herself was diagnosed with cancer and died.

 

Watching my mom struggle with her dream made me afraid to pursue my own.

Yet, she always encouraged me.

“ You’re a writer, Sweetie, it’s what you’re meant to be. Don’t listen to what anyone says to discourage you; do what you love. God will always provide.”

 

 

So I tried to become a dreamer, too.

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I created bucket lists.

I planned to travel the world.

I hoped for a family of my own some day.

I wanted to become a writer.

 

My writing dream followed me everywhere.

 

I too, put my dream on the back-burner. I pursued Recreation Therapy, Rehab Counseling, and then Recreation Therapy again. I now have a job I love.

 

But writing…

It won’t leave.

God tells me that my writing is a gift.

But sometimes, I am afraid to use it.

 

God tells me:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened and do not be dismayed. For the Lord thy God will be with you, wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 9

 

This is my go-to verse when I am afraid.

 

Afraid of failure.

Afraid of success.

Afraid to dream.

 

God then tells me to write more. That if I do write for Him, He will bless it and bring success.

 

My only requirement is to trust Him and not be afraid to dream.

 

So I started to pursue my dream; I applied to Daughter of Delight last year to write devotionals and I got picked.

I was elated!

I could final put some time into pursuing my dream.

When it ended I looked for more work. I got a lot of rejections.

And writers block hit hard.

I got discouraged.

I stopped dreaming.

Stopped writing.

But God persisted.

“You’re a writer, Sweetpea. It’s what I called you to do. You must focus on your writing more.”

He then gave me a BIG promise along with that.

I got scared. I resisted a little.

But then I decided – YOLO.

 

So now I am dreaming again.

And it’s scary.

But it is starting to pay off.

 

To start my dream, I reached out to a few online ministries and I am now helping them out with their stories.

They are small roles, and not exactly writing, but I love it.

 

And on March 14th, I’ll have my first article published through Joy of It.

And there are more along the way.

It’s exciting.

It makes me want to keep dreaming.

Keep pursuing.

Keep writing.

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Dream always.

No matter how much it scares you.

No matter how many bumps in the road.

Or rejections you get.

Or doubts you have.

Go for it.

God will bless it.

Just dream.

Longevity

 

I have to say, 2017 was one of the hardest, yet best years of my life. My relationship with God and my friends and family deepened so much. So much joy and love came out of such a hard time. And I got to check one of my bucket list items off my list- Italy.

Around this time last year, I embarked on an unwanted adventure- stage 4 thyroid cancer. I remember the devastation I felt getting that initial diagnosis. Later I was told that this adventure was going to be brief; below is the conclusion to that unwanted adventure. To all of you who saddled up and joined me on this adventure: thank you. You mean the world to me.

Enjoy.

On January 8th,  I received an email with the results of my CT scan. Three of my tumors had grown. The cancer treatment I received in July did not work. I was devastated. This was not the answer I was expecting. I was supposed to be healed.

I immediately called the my doctor’s office for an appointment to set up a plan of attack. I left messages with no response on their end. I was frustrated, frightened and saddened by the aspect of losing my hair, chemo and my PTO being wasted on medical treatments instead of fun adventures.

I shared my email results with my closest friends and coworkers who immediately prayed for me. One of my coworkers who was outraged that I found out via email told her mother, who was equally outraged, and a nurse at CCare, a cancer treatment center here in town.  My coworker connected me with her mother who got me an appointment with one of the best oncologists at their center. On January 23rd, I took my squad, Lauren, Donna, Tammy Jo and my Uncle Johnny (who drove up from LA for the day just to be at my appointment) and we met Dr. Rao.

Dr. Rao went over my scans and medical information and gave me some of the best news of my life: there was no need for further treatment at this time. I was overjoyed: no chemo, no hair loss, no sickness…I would get to keep my PTO. I was thrilled.

After the good news, came what my boss calls “good bad news”: my tumors were not going to go away and there was no treatment that would rid me of them completely. There was no need to treat me now, as I wasn’t symptomatic. There would come at time where I would be and when that time came, there were treatment options that would help shrink the tumors and slow their growth, but again not rid me of them completely.  They would prolong my life, but decrease my quality of life. His goal was for me to have the best quality of life possible for as long as possible.

I took all this new information in and asked: ” So, will this cancer eventually take me out?”

Dr. Rao sighed and said: Yes, eventually you will die of Thyroid cancer.

“How long do I have?”

“15 to 20 years”

I was stunned. I did the math; I’d be 50-55 years old when I died. I want to get married, have a family of my own…15 to 20 years would definitely affect that. I wouldn’t be able to grown old with my friends. I may spend my last days sick and suffering. I sat in stunned silence, my mind racing with the thought of only 20 years left.

Dr. Rao continued on.

“The goal is to keep your TSH levels as low as possible. This will slow the tumor growth. They are very small now, not even a centimeter, so I am not too concerned. In 3 to 4 years they might be an inch. Right now the plan is to watch the tumors. When they start to become a problem, we’ll talk treatment options. I’m going to set you up with an new endocrinologist to monitor your thyroid levels…”

I don’t remember much else from that appointment. My friends embraced me once the doctor left. They prayed for me. I cried. I counted my years. 20 years. It was long but not long. I couldn’t believe this was it and there were no other treatment options. I’d have to live with it until it took my life. I was numb.

But…I also had no peace. The words of the doctor didn’t sit right with me. I respected him and trusted him but the dying of thyroid cancer part- it didn’t fit.  Having only 20 years left didn’t sit right with me. Some would say it’s denial- but I felt like his word was wrong and that this would not be my ending.

God then whispered: You are going to have a long and happy life.

Me: “I know God; 20 years is a long time. It could have been 6 months left”

God: No Alexis, not only 20 years. You are going to die an old woman. You are going to be married and have children. You’re going to have grandchildren.  You are going to live a long and happy life.”

At the time, I was too stunned to hear or believe God’s words. I delivered the news to my family, friends and coworkers. They were shocked, but encouraging and supportive. Many of them were in disbelief of the news too, and almost all have stated: God is in control and has the ultimate say in all things.

God whispered to me daily to trust Him and His plan. To trust His word. The week after I got the news, I had to fight hard not to give into despair and give up. The enemy was so loud;  reminding me daily of my shortened life and broken dreams. It is so easy to listen to that voice and believe it when you look at reality: cancer, stage four, no cure.  But when you look at things through faith and trusting God- reality means nothing.

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He spoke to me again at church through my pastor- “The word of man is meaningless; you are going to live a long and happy life.”

And finally, I had peace.

Side note: I am learning to trust what God tells me and not having to rely on the words and prayers of others.  Not that those things aren’t good, but I need to realize I can hear Him clearly and I have to start trusting that I hear Him correctly. Thankfully, God is patient and will give me multiple confirmations of things He’s told me through His word or through others.  It bothers me that it took me hearing it from my pastor to really believe what God was telling me. I am working on that.

Since that meeting with my oncologist, I’ve met my new endocrinologist who confirmed that word from God: the cancer will be controlled by my medication. If I take the right dose of thyroid hormone and my TSH levels are at zero, then the hormone will act like chemo and keep my tumors from growing. She let me know that she has patients who are in their 70’s and 80’s with these tumors and still doing well. They have some symptoms but they are well managed. She didn’t want me to worry about dying from this; she was certain that I would have a long life.

Again, God sweetly confirmed his word.

So now, I am clinging to that word. Once the enemy realized that I fully believed God about my cancer and wasn’t afraid of the what the doctors told me- he was silenced. He may try to bug me in other ways, but my cancer- he doesn’t bring it up. He knows he can’t hurt or discourage me with it. And that my friends, is sweet victory!

So that’s the end of my cancer story for now. I get to live with it, but not be overcome by it.  I look forward to a year filled with new babies, new marriages, new travel adventures and plenty of PTO.

 

Italy

So I am back from Italy. IT. WAS. AWESOME!

I saw so many awesome things; met a TON of cool people and the food…OMG the food.

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And, the best part…this trip was a fast and a major test on trust.

Let me explain.

Oh, FYI, I am going to bounce around in this quite a bit. Sorry, not sorry. But bear with me…

Every September my church does a fast.  We fast for different things: our promises, salvation for the lost, our nation, etc.  We were to pick a pleasure and a food.  So I ask God, “Okay, it’s September. What am I fasting this time? Is it sweets? A meal? Caffeine? Social media? Routine? (This one is tough for me; I am a serious lover of my routines)”.  As I am going through all of the things I could possibly fast, God interrupts me:

God: Italy is your fast.

Me: Are you sure?  Because this sure feels like cheating…

God: Trust me; this is your fast.

Me: You mean I can eat all the pizza, pasta and gelato I want?

God: I’d like you to practice some restraint and not go nuts, but yes you may eat those things.

Me: SWEET!!! Best. Fast. Ever!!!!!

So this trip is a fast. Great! I honestly thought :”Oh man I really lucked out this September; I get to explore a country on my own, eat awesome food and meet new people. Not really giving anything up at all…

Or so I thought.

God took away all comforts of the familiar, the known and the routine (which I LOVE) for me on this trip. It was just Him and I. I haven’t had time like that with God since I moved away for college when I was 18.  When I landed in Rome, there was no one to pick me up, no one to guide me as to where to go. I had to depend on God, for everything.

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And for that reason, I could have NO FEAR.

Before this trip happened, God did a TON of uprooting this year. Tons. Anything, anyone fear related had to go. It didn’t matter if it was close family or friends…it was gone. And it hurt. I couldn’t understand why it had to be that way and so sudden. I wanted to fix things, try to repair the broken things and confront the fears but God said to yield..and it was gone. Originally I thought it was because of the cancer diagnoses, and I needed solid people and things around me but I was wrong. It was for this trip. I could have no fear doing this trip. None.

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You see, when I am afraid, I can’t hear. I can’t hear God, any voice of reason or logic.  I can’t see.  All I hear are voices of doubt and panic and they are louder than my Father’s voice. Everything within me goes into self protect mode, I push God out of the way and I lean on my own strength. It’s dangerous enough doing that here at home, but even MORE dangerous operating like that in a foreign land. So I couldn’t have fear influencing me in any area of my life, no matter who it came from or where. It had to go.

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The only time I felt fear on this trip was on the plane to Rome. When you are flying, American Airlines has this screen where you can pull up a map to see how close you are to your destination. I usually love looking at that little map, but when I saw that my plane was closer to France than New York, I slightly panicked.

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” Oh snap! America is really far away!”

In that moment I wanted to reach out my arms and grasp for the tiny bit of America I could see left on that map. It finally felt real to me that I would be on my own, just me and whatever belongings I had in my suitcase and back pack for TWO WEEKS. The thought started to form in my head:

“I am al…”

God: “You are not alone.

 

So when I land in Rome, it is pouring. When it storms in Rome, it storms. The thunder is literally shaking the train station, there are people everywhere, everything is in Italian and I am thinking…”What on earth have I gotten myself into?”

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My first stop in Rome was to be  ICF Rome, a Christian church that was 45 minutes from the train station if I walked. Since it was storming like crazy, I had to use the bus. My original plan was to get to their 9:45 service for bible study, stay for the 11am church service, grab lunch then head back to the train station for my train to Padova at 4pm.

Yeah, that plan didn’t happen.

It took a while for me to figure out how to get euros, then how to get bus tickets, then how to figure out which bus to take and then find where the buses were to get to the actual church. By the time I got on a bus, 9:45 had come and gone, but hey! I found the correct bus.

One of the biggest differences between Italy and America is signage. Street signs aren’t really a thing over there. Sometimes a street name is carved into a building, or written on a wall. So when you are going somewhere you REALLY have to know where you are going and what you are looking for or else you get lost, fast.

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I did not want to get lost, because I REALLY wanted to make the church service because: A) it was storming like crazy outside and I really didn’t want to sight see in this weather. B) The church would be dry and warm unlike me, who was now soaking wet with a very battered umbrella. C) I really wanted to go to church because this was the whole reason for this stop and I didn’t want to wait in the train station until 4pm so I was pretty determined to make church happen.

So as I am on the bus contemplating all this and trying to figure out the bus stop from the directions I was given, God speaks up:

God:  “You should ask for help.”

So I turn around and smile politely at the lady behind me. “Parla inglese?”

She smiles nervously, pinches her fingers together and says “A little” I then try to explain where I am going and what I am trying find and we spend the next five or so minutes trying to communicate. She decides that it would be best to find an English speaker for me. She turns to the lady behind her, asks in Italian if she speaks English and thank God…she does! Even cooler, she’s going to the same church I am going to!  How cool is God?

So I got to church. The service was great, I met really nice people who helped me get back to the train station and I had some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted.

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That’s pretty much how this trip went. God led me along everywhere and provided everything.  He was my pilot. He guided and I followed. When I needed to speak up and ask for help, he provided help through anyone I met. When I needed to follow Him and just learn how to read a map…I learned how to read a map. (I disobeyed  in Verona and tried to do things my own…and ended up with an unwanted shadow for three hours. Lesson learned.)

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And the best thing: other than that brief moment on the plane…I felt no fear on this trip. None. It was awesome to do this without fear. I knew with everything in me that He would take care of me and I could just lean on Him. It was so freeing, and since I had that peace; I had a blast.

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There are so many more stories to share but this is getting long. But I’ll leave you guys with this: I am  determined to no longer let fear control  my life in any way at all anymore. Fear is stupid  if it is holding you back from what God has called you to do. Heck, even if you don’t believe in God, fear should never be the reason for not doing something you want to do EVER.

Fear is the enemy’s way of stealing your joy and robbing what God has for you. Christian or not, the devil doesn’t discriminate.  He hates all of us, he loves to steal and he uses fear (among other things) to steal from us. And it is so not okay. So if you feel fear and you want to do something, do it afraid. God will be there. And if you mess up (and this is a perfectionist talking) that’s okay, because God restores.

So that was my  fast/trip. It was God’s way to restore in me something I managed to forget along the way: God’s got my back, I can trust him and with Him I have no reason to fear..

Jeremiah 29:11- “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.”

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Almost there

In three days, I start my radioactive iodine treatment. Here’s what I’ve been up to medically leading up to this (super abbreviated version):

Tests, appointments, lost a lymph node or two that did NOT have cancer (yay!), more tests, more appointments, stopping medications, starting new ones, going through complete thyroid hormone withdrawals.  Now I am completing a 14 day low iodine diet to deplete the iodine in my system before RAI treatment.

So why the radioactive iodine treatment? They hope all of this will make my body so starved for iodine that when they give me the liquid iodine, the cancer cells  being in starvation mode for iodine will quickly gobble up the radioactive iodine so the radiation can kill all of the cancer that is hanging out in my lungs.  ( Whew, that’s a mouthful).

Side effects: Nausea, (already happening and booo!) fatigue, dry mouth, metal taste in mouth,  possibly destroyed salivary glands if I don’t drink enough fluids, possible (but very low) risk for leukemia.

So before all of this was to go down, I vowed to have the most fun of my life. I asked God for three things: The energy to keep up with everything, the ability to go to Tahoe and the ability to support my track team down at the Angel City Games in LA. God honored all of those requests.

The month of June, I started out in Tahoe at the No Barriers Summit loving life. I got to try adaptive cycling, boxing, archery (a new love of mine), did an abbreviated version of The Amazing Race, and met some amazing people along the way.

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Team 5 Thunderwomen!

 

The trip was such a blessing. I got to spend my birthday doing the things that I loved. I also got closer to one of my friends, who I am sure had she not been there, the weekend would have not been as great.

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In the middle of all that: work, friends church, life, repeat. Also going on: growing fatigue, forgetfulness, brain fog, mood swings…all signs that my body was going hypothyroid on me. I vowed not to let it stop me. To keep going. To suck it up and push through.

God whispered: It’s okay to take a little rest. Seriously. It’s okay. A nap once in a while won’t hurt.

Me: I AM IRON MAN BLENDED WITH TREX!!! ARRRRRR!

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God: “Okay…”

I ended this epic month with a trip down to LA with our track team for the Angel City Games. These kids broke national records, broke barriers, brought home  countless medals and wowed the adaptive track/ field world with their awesomeness.  The coaches worked hard and sacrificed their Saturday mornings to get these kids here and it paid off huge! It was so fun to be with these kids, my friends and watch them do so well for their first time. It was truly an unforgettable weekend and I am glad I got to be a part of it.

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God gave me one more final gift, to spend time with one of my closest friends before treatment since I would be unable to interact with her during that time (more on that below). It was such a nice time to relax and be with a friend who has been such a huge support through all of this. What I only intended to be just a few hours, ended up being a whole day. I am so thankful.

When it was all over…the fatigue hit. Hard. Then came the sickness. The constant sickness. I prayed to God to give me the strength to finish out strong. To keep going. To be unstoppable. To be bigger than cancer, my body, my weakness.

God said no.

“God, I am almost there. Just a few more days left. I need more energy.”

“No girl, you need a nap.”

So we argued.

Me: “But I am Wonder Woman.”

God: “I get that, but Wonder Woman sleeps too, ya know? No one will blame you if you need a little time. You are not slacking. You are not taking advantage. You can not overpower what your body needs and right now it needs rest. It’s hard, I know but you need to slow down and rest so you can recover properly.”

So I gave in. The world did not end. People were not hurt. Things did not come crashing down.

The only thing I received was a much needed nap, love and so much grace.

Throughout this whole thing, I’ve received so much grace and love from others. People have come out of the woodwork just to show me how loved I am. I’ve had friends move their lives around to attend my medical appointments, invite me into their homes before and after my surgeries so I could recover. I’ve had coworkers step up to make sure I had what I needed and remove things from my plate so that I would not feel overwhelmed. I’ve had family members drive up just to spend the day with me.  I’ve had friends talk me down off the ledge when I spent too much time on Google and accidentally freaked myself out. I’ve had countless people pray for me, Christian and non Christian.

I went into this feeling that cancer was a curse. That this was the worse possible thing to have happen. That without my mom, I’d fight this alone.

I was so wrong.

I had no idea coming out of this that I would feel like cancer was a blessing. God used this to show me the love and grace of others. That I am not alone. That I am loved. So loved. I didn’t even ask for this, and God provided. I am so glad he did.

Thank you all who’ve been there for me. I can never repay you. Through God, you are the reason I made it this far.  He used you to combat a lie I told myself: I am alone.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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So on the 5th of July, I start treatment. For three days, I have to limit my time with people and can be no less than 6 feet away from others. ( To the people who have offered to build me giant bubbles or build giant signs or give me ideas for what to do with my new radioactive powers; you are my favorite).

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It would have been so fun to do life in a bubble for three days. Sweaty but fun!

After that, I have to remain up to three feet away from children and women who have children or are pregnant for four more additional days. I can’t work during this time so I get to catch up on sleep, reading, movies, and finish up planning for my Italy trip. Then I go in for another scan on the 11th to see if the treatment is working. I will know for certain September 28th if the cancer is gone. God willing, it will be.

So that’s it. That’s my life up until now. Next update will be my final itinerary for my Italy trip. I can’t believe thats’s like two months away.

Till then, love you all!

 

 

I choose love

God prompted me to write. I’m studying 1:Cor 13 and this past week, I focused on verses 4-8. These are my thoughts on it. Hope it makes sense 🙂

We are no match for the gates of Hell, for the sin that resides within us and the evil that seeks to destroy us and everything we hold dear. Alone we can not overcome this darkness. We are hopelessly lost.

The only answer that gives us a fighting chance is LOVE. Jesus is love. Through Him and only Him do we ever have a chance for victory.

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Now love is not easy. It is work, y’all. It takes putting ourselves aside, admitting that we are weak and need a savior. God has revealed that love is one of his biggest weapons. Jesus saved us all with one simple act. Love. He conquered sin and death for us all.  And when we use it, we can conquer anything. We just have to learn how.

So I took a look at 1 Cor 13, because I needed to figure out this “how to really love” thing. Like I mentioned before, it’s hard. Why is it hard?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. For one, I’m human. And with that comes selfishness, pride, impatience, foot-in-mouth syndrome, and anger. And when I’m  wronged, here come vengeance, walls a ninja can’t even climb and unforgiveness. It’s a mess, but its what you default to when you are human and try to go it alone.

So lets look at 1 Cor 13: 4-8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends

There’s a lot to love, many things this one word seems to hold. Yet, it was Jesus’ one command to us:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

I look at that command and think:

“God, I am so human. I want what I want, when I want it and how I want it. How can I possibly follow this? There are days that I remember who I am and that I serve you, but there are days where I forget (or times, like driving on the 41 on my way to work and there’s that one super slow driver….).

Whoops, rabbit trail. Ahem, back on track.

Yet, He calls us to love. It’s a scary thing because we’re human. And better yet, you want us, with all our mess, all our stuff, all our love of self, to join together with another human…with all their stuff and mess and love of self- and call it love.

Wow. Thats an even bigger command. To let worlds collide, very different worlds, and learn to love within them.

So what do we do with all of this? What is our plan?

We have to follow love. It’s the only way to win. It’s the only way to defeat the enemy. It’s like a throat punch to the devil every single time we choose to love. Every time we choose unity over separation, another throat punch.  Pretty soon the devil can’t speak anymore hate and fear into our lives because his throat is swollen shut. That’s an awesome thing.

Every time we lay ourselves down, and choose these things and choose Christ, the enemy reels back in horror. Our love for one another, our willingness to lay ourselves down  and follow Christ terrifies him. And it causes him pain. Doesn’t that just make you happy to know that every time we do this one simple act, to love, it destroys him. The devil, who steals our joy, wants us dead, destroys our families…it is wonderful to know that every time I choose love, it ruins him.

So I choose love. No matter how difficult, how scary or how painful…I choose love.

 

 

This sucks, and that’s okay.

There have been a lot of negative things going on lately: friends losing loved ones, families being torn apart, friends being hurt. I’d been feeling down about all of it and tried to stuff those feelings away until I found out that a patient of mine passed away last week. It was very sudden and unexpected. I remember smiling at him, telling him how great he looked and how awesome it was to see him up and moving around.  I waved goodbye and went on with the rest of my day.

He passed away the next night.

I kept thinking in my head, “He was just here. He was fine. How does this happen?”

It takes me a while to process feelings. When something unpleasant happens, I freeze. Or maybe I detach? Physically my body reacts, but it can take awhile (hours, days…) to express it outwardly.

For example, as I was saying good bye to my sister during my last trip to Atlanta, she starts sobbing. We hadn’t seen each other in about 4 years and hadn’t spoke for about a year. It was a great trip, with lots of healing and restoring of relationships.  She’s sobbing, telling me how much she loves me, doesn’t want me to go and I am in the front seat like:

blank stare

Now internally, this is the conversation I am having:

” This is really sad. I don’t want to leave either. I’ve really missed my family. Oh, she’s really crying. Hard. Why the heck aren’t you crying? Why won’t you just cry? Are you a robot? Don’t you feel sad? Didn’t you miss her, too? What’s wrong with you? CRY YOU ROBOT!!!”

Despite my inner “coach”, the tears don’t come. We say our goodbyes, our I love yous, and I head back to CA the next day.

As I am sitting on the tram back to my car, the tears decide to make their appearance. In front of complete strangers.  A day later.

“Ma’am are you okay?”

“Yep, something in my eye.”

index

When the kiddo died, same thing happened. Same freeze up. But when I got home, I felt pretty crappy. There were a mix of emotions: anger, shock, confusion, sadness. These were all things that I did not want to feel and I wanted these feelings gone immediately.

So I prayed.

Me: “God give me something, anything so I don’t feel like this.”

God: “Read Lamentations.”

Me: “What? Why? Isn’t that entire book about a guy lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem? Wheres the happy in that?”

God: “Read Lamentations.”

Me: “It’s going to be depressing. I already feel sad. I want to feel un-sad.”

God: “Trust me. Read it. Take a look at Jeremiah 52 first, then read Lamentations.”

So I finally stop being hardheaded and start reading. So for those of you who don’t know the story, the last chapter in Jeremiah details the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. Lamentations is basically the authors response to seeing his city destroyed. It’s pretty bad.  Mothers eating their children, people dying from disease and starvation, homes being burned to the ground, everything being reduced to rubble, nasty stuff.

if you want some perspective of what they went through, think 9/11.

As I was going over the history of Lamentations in my commentary, God leads me to one simple sentence:

“The best way to survive grief is to express it.”

Ah.

That is exactly what the author of Lamentations does throughout the book. He doesn’t hold back. He lets God know about his pain, the horror he’s experienced, the suffering, the sadness, the anger, all of it. He’s not afraid to put it all out there. He’s being so real and raw about how much it sucks to see his city, his people, his home experience so much death and destruction. I mean, how could you not say anything? How could you hold all of that in? It’s not healthy. It would kill you.

Yet I hold stuff in it all the time.

Now I do have to mention that this book isn’t all anger and despair, there’s hope. Midway through Chapter 3, the writers lamenting switches to hope:

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because of His compassion fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

I love Hope. It’s listed as one of the three great things to have in 1 Corinthians 13.  Hope keeps you moving forward when you want to give up. Hope brings peace when your world is filled with turmoil. Hope is expecting something good to come out of the darkness.  Hope is knowing that everything will be okay in the end. That’s why I cling to it.

In the same token, I tend to try to shove out anger, sadness, despair, confusion and skip right to the Hope. That’s the happy place. That’s where the light is. There’s pretty flowers there, butterflies, unicorns, (in my world anyway).

Lisa Frank is not reality, no matter how much I wish it to be.

I bury the bad, pretending it’s not there and just jump right to the happy. That’s not realistic. Or healthy. I don’t give myself the chance to grieve the loss, or address the anger. Some part of me feels like I am not trusting God when I let him how much I think it sucks that this kid died, or my friend lost her husband, or that my friend was injured.  That people are being terrorized and murdered. That I don’t understand why there has to be so much loss, sickness and pain along with the joy. That I hate suffering and sometimes feel so powerless in this fallen world. That sometimes, it just plain sucks.

I have to see that God can handle all of mine, all of  our emotions good or bad. That He can take our honest feelings, in fact, that’s exactly what He wants. He isn’t offended by our questions, our anger and He doesn’t see it as a judgement of Him or who He is. He’ll still love us. He’ll still be faithful. He’s still God and in control.

It’s okay to say, “this sucks.” God will listen, open His arms, and ultimately it will be okay.

To Be Someone

(I finally unpacked all my books, and decided to spend the afternoon reading. I picked up a book, and then this happens. God said “write” So I did. Enjoy.)

It’s just a book.

A book.

A book my sisters dog chewed up on the edges that I couldn’t throw away because I loved it so much.

Thanks, Sammi
Sammi always went after things we loved. For my sister, it was her shoes. For me, my books. Thanks Sammi!

A book that has me unglued and sends a flood of memories. I picked up,

To Be Someone

and got really into the first few chapters, when I realized the last time I read this book:

My mom was alive, I was a week from moving from Sacramento to Fresno for grad school and I was excited FREAKING OUT.

I was so scared and uncertain of my future. Why Fresno? Why did I just leave my job that I was crazy good at to move to a city I’d never dreamed of living in? Also, counseling? REALLY? And finally, college students? I’m supposed to manage a bunch of college students? I’m able to plan groups for 100 psych patients but watch over 600 COLLEGE STUDENTS?! Am I INSANE?! I hate confrontation and to manage people…what on earth was I thinking?!

On top of all this, my mom was still dealing with the after effects of cancer treatment, and here I was, leaving.

Was this really the best time to leave? REALLY?

I remember bawling in my room, my dog Roxci standing by the door watching me cautiously as I sat on my bed. I wanted to get up and tell my mom she was right: Fresno was scary, that I was just going to stay, complete my degree at Sacramento State and turn down the Resident Director job in Fresno.

Yet God had opened every single door imaginable to get me to leave…and I knew I had to go. I’d never had doors open that easily before. EVER. I sat on my bed holding,

To Be Someone

knowing that if I shut this door my life would change drastically. If I gave into my fears now, I’d make a serious mistake. If I let the idea of comfort and the “known” keep me back, I’d have a lot of regrets.

I took a deep breath, wiped my tears and returned to my book. Roxci hopped on my bed after a while, convinced that I no longer had my running shoes on.

It’s amazing what things you are able to recall from something as simple as picking up an old chewed up book. And for the record, despite all that has happened, I am so glad I left.

I remember buying the book,

To Be Someone

on a whim while browsing the discount section at Borders one afternoon. It was 7 bucks, had a girl on the cover with headphones on her ears (practically me everyday) and after a skim of the back cover, I had to buy it. I remember the anticipation and joy of getting home just so I could dive into my new adventure. I loved and still love books. Especially the feel and smell of a brand new book, someone should bottle this and sell it.

Without giving too much away (it’s a great read and wouldn’t want to spoil it in case you decide to pick it up) the story circles around a friendship (Helena and Sam) that was ended by cancer and how the main character, Helena, tries to move on. She makes plans, she goes a little crazy, and she almost gives up.

When I bought this, I had no idea cancer would be the subject of the book. I remember reading

To Be Someone

and facing my own fears about losing my mother.  What would it be like to possibly live on without her? Would I go nuts too? Would I give up?

A month after I moved to Fresno, my mom got the all clear from her doctors that the cancer was gone. I was excited and so relieved. I wouldn’t have to experience the pain of losing someone you loved. I wouldn’t be Helena. My mom, my best friend, my Sam, would be fine. She’d watch me walk at my graduation, she’d walk me down the aisle… she’d be here.

That was my plan.

Clearly plans change, and the unexpected happens. Life takes you down roads you wish you’d never have to go.

As I look down at this book

To Be Someone

I think of the road my life has taken these past seven years. As my road changed unexpectedly, sometimes I would run in fear and often in the wrong direction. It’s amazing how fast you can run when you are scared and when the unknown is way too scary in your mind to face. You remember the cracks and ditches that loss has left in your road and you do everything in your power to avoid getting any more.

After a while, you get tired of running away. You realize that you can’t control everything; roads warp and change with time. You can only avoid so much and you have to start trusting that one who created your road will always be there, no matter how many cracks and ditches form. He’ll fill them.

You learn to walk down your road despite fear and pain, and that I’ve learned, is called courage.

cour·age
ˈkərij/
noun
the ability to do something that frightens one.
“she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”

strength in the face of pain or grief.
“she fought her illness with great courage”

synonyms: bravery, courageousness, pluck, pluckiness, valor, fearlessness, intrepidity, nerve, daring, audacity, boldness, grit, true grit, hardihood, heroism, gallantry; informal: guts, spunk, moxie*, cojones, balls.

*I’ve always loved the word moxie. I want to be a woman with moxie. Tons of it.” 

This past year or so I’ve worked to be someone that holds these traits. To be someone that sees the Jordan ahead of me and can step out into the river knowing that the water will stop. To be someone that feels this:

fear1

but remember this:

joshua

so that I do this:

leapoffaith

To leap and enjoy the unknown. To do it afraid. To be someone, with moxie.

I’m getting there.