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!

 

 

Forgive

I find my voice better through writing instead of speaking. Forgiveness and loving others is currently something I am working through. It’s not been easy. Just when I think I’ve got it, I find myself stumbling again.  Here’s my random thoughts on what I’ve been working on this past year. I hope it makes some sort of sense.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

“Forgive.”

Keeping no records of wrongs means to forgive. To give a clean slate. To start over. Okay, I can do that. I can start over. But I can’t seem to get past verse 5 in 1 Cor 13: 4-8.

It’s the forgetting that is difficult. The reminders, the wounds not yet closed, past pains still fresh. Echos of past offenses rearing their ugly heads no matter how much I shout them down.  I rebuke the reminders that the Devil loves to dig back up and telling Him it is all on the Cross. Sometimes the shouting works. But there are times I find myself on my knees, his shouting louder than mine, crippled by past pain.

When the storm seems too rough, and the pain is too great, I want to run. I want to put on my running shoes, pack my bags, buy my ticket and bounce.  I want to rip up the roots that God has so carefully planted and take off. Vanish. Instead, I run to God, chaining myself to the Cross because if I don’t…I’ll run elsewhere.

Instead I let the waves hit and cling to the only hope I have in front of me, and remind myself :

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

“Forgive.”

Forgive in spite of pain, disappointments, broken trust, wrongdoings. It seems like so much, difficult for my human heart to comprehend. I want to self protect so that no pain is ever experienced again. God calls me to put down my shield, to be open, to love. To forgive. He applies His healing salve to my wounds that I thought my shield was preventing.

In those moments, I turn to the Lord and say,

“God how can I open my heart to those who have caused so much pain? How can I let them in? How can I let them get close again?

God gently reminds me,

” Baby girl (His name for me), I do that with YOU. With everyone.”

He reminds me of the Israelites, Gomer, Peter, David, Judas, Jacob, Adam, Eve…the list is truly endless. All of our names are on that list. God gives us so much grace and mercy. He could treat us like we treat Him.

I’ve  hurt my Father. I’ve turned away. I’ve put others things above Him. Yet, he waits. He’s patient and waits and when I’m ready, when my striving and wandering are done…He’s there. His arms are open; He showers me with His mercy, grace and love. He forgives.

He’s calling me to do the same.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude,  it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”

” Forgive.”

Forgive as God has forgiven me. Love like He loves me. Give clean slates to those who have hurt me.  God says that love covers a multitude of wrongs. I really hope it can. I need it to. I don’t want this to hold me back.

 

 

 

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.”

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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:

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but remember this:

joshua

so that I do this:

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

I’m getting there.

FEAR

I saw After Earth a few weeks ago and actually loved it.

Surprisingly Good.
Surprisingly Good.

I’m usually hesitant when it comes to M Night Shyamalan’s movies (I still haven’t forgiven you for “The Happening”. Plants?! REALLY?!), but it was a free movie ticket from work. I really, really enjoyed it. There were several amazing moments from that movie, but the quote below is one that stuck with me:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”  Will Smith in After Earth 2013

I love that quote. It applies to so much that is going on in my life at the moment. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. Fear of having control. Fear of losing control. Fear of practically everything I can’t see coming. I tell people that I am spontaneous and love to do things without much thought…LIES! I am those things, but I usually have a planned safety net, ripcord for my parachute in case I jump into something really stupid. I always have a plan A, B, C…you get the point.

Like I'd really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.
Like I’d really jump into something without one of these. I may be crazy, but not THAT crazy.

But now, things are coming and I honestly can’t see the outcome. I can’t make a plan A, B or C to evade what’s coming without messing up other things. I’m following God’s plan.  It’s a good thing, but it’s caused a lot of anxiety because I am giving up control. My fear issues have become so strong that it had me on my knees at my home church. I was up at the alter, trying to stand, but found myself on the ground literally shaking from it. I felt so paralyzed.  So badly I wanted to cast my fears on Him. So badly I wanted to release my control and hand over everything. Instead, all I managed to squeak out in prayer: “I’m scared.”

God answered right away:

God:  I know you are scared. I need you to breathe. That’s it, deep breath in; deep breath out.

Me: I’m freaking out. I can’t breathe.

God: I know you are. Keep breathing.  Remember, you can be scared, but you have to keep moving despite the fear.

Me: I can’t do this.

God: Yes you can. You can do this. Trust me and let go.

Me: God, I can’t…

God: Do you trust me?

Me: Yes.

God: Let go.

After that conversation, all I could do was be still. You guys, you have no idea how hard it is for me to just be still. My mind races constantly. In that moment, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.  I could barely sing. I was just still.

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I was pretty wiped about from that encounter, as well as the epic dance fest at my friends wedding the previous night. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and sleeping. I felt like I was hit by a semi truck.

I talked to God later on that day, informing Him that I do not want to be scared anymore. I refuse to be ruled by  fear. From that conversation, God instructed me to read Hinds Feet on High Places again. It’s an allegory that follows the character Much Afraid, as she makes her way from the Valley of Humiliation to the High Places. Great story. Right now, I really feel like Much Afraid, and God has informed me that I can no longer remain that way.

You can check out this book here.
You can check out this book here.

On Saturday,  I listed out my fears in my journal and laid them before the Lord. There are so many, and almost all of them are things that are coming in the future.  These fears pop in my head on a daily basis and when they do, God reminds me:

“Hey! What did I tell you about worrying about things that have yet to come? Let me handle it. Focus on today.”

Oh boy, I am trying. All I can do is really try.

My best friend and I hung out on Sunday to make God boxes. It was a great chance to just hang out, talk about our lives and be creative.  We will be using these for our prayers, fears, troubles, wishes, hopes, and dreams. Once they go into that box, they are God’s. This is what I ended up with:

You can find out more about God Boxes here.
You can find out more about God Boxes here.

I am ending this with a prayer request. I have a job interview coming up  with the VA home in July that ultimately sends me home. I’ve been praying for this interview since September and well, it’s finally here. It will be right before my vacation, which adds a whole bunch of complications (in my mind anyway), but it is what God has planned. It’s funny that God put it there, because He knew the dates would make me nervous. And He was right! This is the biggest step in my faith/ trust walk with Him and I am going to keep moving.

Thank you all for reading, praying and commenting whenever I post.  Your words are always encouraging to me. I love you all…seriously.

Being honest

Dear God,

I realized today that I am really, really angry with you. I know you’ve known this as I’ve tried to give you the cold shoulder for the past year, but now I am past that. I’m coming right out and saying it: I’M REALLY MAD AT YOU.

I also don’t trust you. There. It’s out there now. I’ve admitted to myself, to everyone, that I don’t trust you.

This makes it hard to love you. To be totally and completely sold out to you.  When there are anger and trust issues present, love is a difficult thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love you. I can’t live without you. But loving you is no easy task.

Sometimes I feel like the kid who’s told to go to bed early.

My anger  and lack of trust stems from my plans never really matching up with your plans. You think I’m strong enough to be without my mom; I think you overestimate my ability to handle it.  You think I can grow without my home church; I think I’m not strong enough.  I want to leave Arizona; you want me to stay. You want me to get ready for a relationship; I really don’t know how to do that. You want me to find my voice; I still don’t know where to look for it.  You want me to be light in a place of darkness; I don’t even know how to turn the light on.

You keep pruning me, watering me and trying to make me grow. Of course, I protest:

“I’m getting growing pains, Lord. STOP IT!!!”

” Isn’t there a hibernation period for your plants? Don’t they have semi-annual, annual, perennial? Can I be one of those? Please?! ”

“I’m totally fine with that wonky leaf hanging off my branch.I like the color yellow. Leave it alone; it’ll turn green someday.”

Yet you ignore me and keep doing what you do. You keep clipping, shaping and watering. I yell at you, and you listen, but the pruning continues. I cry uncle and say enough is enough, but you keep adding more. And this Lord, is why I am angry with you, having a hard time trusting you and even a harder time loving you.

So now that I’ve laid out all my issues with you; what’s next? How do I overcome these issues that I know are present? How do I  follow, trust and love without protest?

I know the verses:

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

Deuteronomy 6:5- Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. 

And of course the one I struggle with the most:

Proverbs 3:5-6- Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Seek him in all you do and he will direct your paths.

I know the verses. I have these memorized. I know what I you say to do. Why the heck is it so hard to default to those three verses? Why do I protest? Why can’t I submit? Why do I respond out of anger; why can’t I accept the trials you give me with love?

And the biggest question of all: Why do you continue to put up with me?

Grace

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace
It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

This is probably one of my favorite songs by U2.

Grace. It is something we all have through Jesus. Everyday I am thankful for that. Grace overlooks my humaness. It means that I can fall ( and I do that QUITE often) and be forgiven. It keeps me clean, even when I feel like garbage. It means that I am saved and bound to spend an eternity with Christ.

I'm in it for the wings...and the sword. I've always wanted a sword.

Because I am a daughter of Christ, I am supposed to be like Him and offer that same grace that he offers me and forgive others. I’m struggling a bit with grace and forgiveness this week. So, I looked up a few verses on these so I would know how the bible says to handle it. Here’s what I found:

I am not to fight sin with sin. When others slap one cheek, I am to offer my other (Matt 5:39).

Since God has forgiven us, we must offer the same to others (Matt 18:35) (Eph 4:32), (Matt 6: 14-15)

Once I have forgiven someone, I am supposed to release them from their fault (Mark 11:25-16)

If someone continues to screw up, I am to forgive them again and again. (Luke 17:4)

So after looking at all this, it’s pretty clear…I have to have grace and forgive. It’s mandated that I do so. God won’t forgive me if I can’t offer that same grace to others. So, I try to model this in my relationships with people. But, I am human and that often gets in the way of me giving grace.

In my brief prayer time, I had a few questions for God on this subject:

1) We only have two cheeks.

What do we do when the other has been slapped? Can we start slapping them back? There are times that I encounter people that make me  want go on a slapping spree. Or give them a high five…in their face.

Image

2) You say that if someone offends us seven times a day, we are to forgive them seven more times.

But, what if they are on their eighth offense? Are we allowed to bonk them?  Just one good whack? Can I tell them what I’m really thinking no matter how mean it would be? It would make me feel better.

Image
It's therapeutic...really.

3) How do I give someone more grace when I feel I don’t have anything left to give? 

Of course I did not expect God to approve of my solutions for questions 1 and 2; I was just venting my frustrations. But as for question # 3, I really want to know:  How do I give more grace when I feel there is none left to give? How do I find the ability to forgive when there are people out there who are continually hurtful? Am I weak because I keep forgiving?

I ask myself “What would Jesus do?” and I know he would forgive again and again, just as he has done for me. But I am not Jesus. I am human. When I am fed up,  I want to invoke “Shaccola” (my friend Claudia’s name for my inner black girl) and just let the claws come out. I want to spew every angry, hurtful thought that crosses my mind when I am angry. I want to bonk people in the head. In my anger, I can almost be ugly and animalistic.

I'd advise you to run...

When it’s all said and done, I know that being ugly won’t make me feel any better. I know acting outside of grace will just make things worse.  Nothing good comes out of things said or done in anger.

Well...except this.

Somehow, I have to find it in me to have more grace. To be loving,  even when I really just want to whack someone upside their head. God has extended so much grace to me, I owe him my life to do so with others. So, when I am angry and feel like I rather push someone into a pool than offer any more grace, I will refer back to the verses listed above and remember the last lines my favorite U2 song:

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

That’s all from me folks. Off to enjoy the start of my weekend.

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* (This was written to go with the photo of my tattoo if it is chosen to be displayed on http://www.fyeahtattoos.com)

I’ve been missing my mom a lot lately, and I think that is what is causing me to want another tattoo. I got my first one about a month after she died. I did it in her memory and when I see it, it makes me happy.

For you, Mom.

I got the idea for this tattoo around Thanksgiving about three years ago. My mom was staying in Fresno with me for the holidays and trying to help my mother like Fresno a little more, (she practically had kittens when she found out I got into graduate school at Fresno State, and spent the months prior to me moving there trying to convince me of what a crime-ridden dump it was), I decided to take my mom to see Christmas Tree Lane.

Can you imagine the light bill?

Every year, the rich and old residents of Fresno decorate their houses on Van Ness Street with lights and giant ornaments. Some of these guys get really creative, and there’s been scenes with the Eiffel Tower or Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Knowing how much my mom loved Christmas time and elaborate light shows, I was sure this would cause her to warm up to Fresno.

To get to Christmas Tree Lane, I took my mom down Cedar Ave, which if you are going south, can be pretty ghetto. I made the mistake of driving south on Cedar, which really didn’t help my case of Fresno being a nice and safe place to live.  My mom made note of  how ghetto the area was several times while we were driving and to emphasize her point, she kept clicking the lock on my car to make sure it was locked. To add to this, mom instructed me to speed through the yellow lights, so that we could get out of the ghetto faster. I really started to regret my decision to drive down Cedar Ave when over to my left, I noticed this church sign:

The sign that started the obsession

It was perfect and oh so clever. It’s the word PEACE that turns into a shape of a dove. It would be perfect on my left shoulder. I had to have that on my body!

Mom smacks me hard on the arm. ” Hey! You’re not supposed to stop!”

I groan and rub my arm. “Mom, it was a red light.”

“Well, it’s red NOW.” She peers over my shoulder to see what caused me stop and smacks me again.

“OW! Mom, stop doing that!”

“No tattoos.”

I look at her in shock. It’s crazy that our parents can know us so well, so well in fact without me saying anything she knew exactly what I was thinking.

“How did you…”

” You better not put that thing on your body. I don’t care how pretty you think it is. I don’t care that you’re 25 and living on your own. I better not catch you with that thing on your body while I’m still around. I mean it. You’re not too old to be bent over my knee.” I rubbed my arm and begrudgingly agreed not to get a tattoo. We made it to Christmas Tree Lane without getting shot (as she claimed would happen) and she really enjoyed it.

Despite her threats and my throbbing arm, I vowed to get the dove tattoo someday but promised not to do it while she was alive.

I had planned on keeping that promise a lot longer than I did.

My mom died a little less than two years after that. At the time of that colorful convo, my mom’s cancer was supposedly in remission and we had no idea that it was growing back and fast. She didn’t tell us that she was feeling pretty sick, was in pain and losing a lot of blood. She never complained and lived this way up until April 2010 when she could no longer walk. By this time, all I could do was watch one of the strongest people I’d ever known lose her fight to cancer. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.

Mothers Day 2010

As hard as it’s been without her, my tattoo reminds me of a lot of good things about my last years with my mom.  At the time I wasn’t thrilled that my mom was staying with me ; who wants their parent in their college dorm? When I look back on it now, I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with her. When I see my tattoo on my left shoulder it reminds me of those two months I got to spend with her before she got really sick (without my siblings), the trips we took together and her cooking an awesome meal for my friends in dorms on Christmas Day.

Eventually, I plan on adding to the dove tattoo. I’m torn between a large tree going up my back, the branches circling the dove, or a cross with a rose wrapped around it with her signature underneath. I may do both :).  Although I kmow she wouldn’t approve and I know I’m getting smacked once I see her again (if they allow that in Heaven), my tattoo is something I’ve never regretted. And hey, I kept my promise :).

Starting over…

Italian Word of the Day (or week ) : Ricominciare

It means “starting over”

Today, after six years in action, I deleted my Xanga Blog.  That blog has cataloged the past six years of my life: my conquests, my joys, my struggles and my pain. It was time to say goodbye.

It’s time to start over.

In a few months, I graduate with my Masters. After that, I hope to be in Italy (hence the Italian word of the week/day).

My background is cherry blossoms in bloom in Milan. That’s where I am headed: Milan, Italy.

I plan to live up my summer in Italy.

Learn the language,

gorge on pasta,

and see the country all before I have to return to the real world.

That’s if I decide to return.

I’ve always wanted to go to Italy and am really excited. I’ve been dreaming about this for years. I love the culture, the strong sense of family, the food, the culture…the men :).

Ahem….

Anyway, the best part: I’m going alone. I feel like I can fully immerse myself and get into the culture if I stake out things on my own. Not that I don’t love my friends, but an adventure feels like more of an adventure when you venture out solo.

I am hoping this trip will help quench my desire to stop moving. I always get an itch to go. After a few years it seems, I get restless and I want something more. Something new. So I leave. I settle in a new place, make friends, work, make a life and then that itch comes. I can’t ignore it. So I move on.

I figure it I travel outside of North America and visit a place that I always wanted to see, maybe just maybe I’ll kill that itch. I know, it sounds like my idea will just awaken my urge to stay on the move. It just may. All I know is, I hope that by the end of this trip, I’ll will have figured out a place to settle down and just stay. I haven’t done that since I was kid. Once I left Georgia…I just kept moving.

I don’t want to move anymore.

I’m currently in Fresno right now, and as much as I love the people in Fresno…I don’t love Fresno.

It’s not a place I want to drop anchor. I don’t want to wake up in Fresno for the rest of my life. There’s hardly any jobs, not too many safe places to live, and the guys well…so far I’ve found two types.

Guy# 1- Wants to get married…like tomorrow. I am a bit of a commitment phobe, and I am starting to get over that, SLOWLY.  But it would be nice to have someone who would like go slow with me and not want to marry me… tomorrow.

Guy #2- Is a dog. They want to sleep with everyone and everything in site. And they want you to be okay with that.  Instead of, “I want to share my life with you”, it’s “I wanna share my STD’s”. Um…no thanks.

 

Besides…I think I am in love. In fact I know it.

Huh…it’s the first time I’ve admitted it to myself. Wow.

And I need to get over it…

The being in love thing is a LOOOONNNNGGGG story. It’s been such a long time, and these feelings should have been gone, but they are not, and I am kinda done with them. Basically, its one of those things that I know will not likely happen. I mean, its been a while. I’m too scared to say anything….and, ugh

Okay, like I said it’s a long story and the other purpose of my trip. I also know this is silly, but I am also hoping this trip away will help me see things in a new light and kinda help me forget things. It’s been an interesting couple of years and I need a break. I need a time to cool down, relax and have fun. I really can’t remember the last time I did that.

So I am doing it in May after my friends wedding.

Well, time for bed. I’ll update this thing as I get closer and closer to getting to Milan.

That’s all for now.

Ciao!