Life in between

life is hard

It has been 10 years this month since I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. I saw my doctor today and it was almost comical how non important this anniversary was to him. Not because he didn’t know it was a big deal but because it’s cancer and cancer can return. So while I as the patient mark each year as an important victory he remains ever vigilant in his treatment of a disease that could come back at any time.

In my head, I’d reach ten years and I’d have  party with my endo. We’d shake hands, laugh at the good run we’ve had, maybe have a beer and part our ways. Because this chronic illness stuff is tiring.

But it’s cancer and it could come back. I wish I had a search team that could shake the cancer cells out for good. Are they hiding in my lungs? Somewhere in my thigh bone? What about my lymph nodes? Are they hiding along with the cold my kids gave me?

Living with cancer feels like I have one foot firmly on the ground and my other foot is hovering over a cliff I know is there but can’t see. And I know I probably won’t fall but I could. So I do the only thing I can. I walk forward. I breathe in and I breathe out. I pay attention to what matters.

There are good days when I can do this. And there are days that I talk to cancer like it’s an ex-boyfriend I don’t want to see again but appreciate the life experience he gave me. Like, “Hey, cancer, you were here. You left your mark. Nice smiley faced scar you gave me. Are we cool?”

I sat in the exam room today and the endo and I went through lab results. He handed me orders for blood tests and chest x-rays. We went through the chart to see when my last bone density scan was and the date of my last full body scan trying to figure out when we should schedule them again.  10 years passed and another 10 will pass and I will still be getting chest x rays, body scans, bone scans and blood tests.

It’s life with cancer. Life lived between 6 month check-ups and 5 year body scans.

Cancer changed my life in good ways. I don’t think I was fully present in my life until the diagnosis. I’ve changed. I don’t want to waste my precious days on things that don’t matter. I’ve written a book. I’m writing more.

I wish I had come about all of these changes in a different way.

A post it note.

A good book.

Friendly advice from a friend.

I wish it hadn’t come in the form of a disease that doesn’t know when to leave the party. But, this is my life. It is the life I walk every day and I cannot live it in fear always wondering when my foot along the cliff edge will slip.

Because that isn’t life.

I know the cliff is there. I don’t get to choose a different path but I can get to keep walking. It’s been 10 years of incredible life giving change. If I’ve grown this much in 10 years. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next ten.

And that’s what I will focus on. That is where my hope is. That is how I persevere.

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What I listen to

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while I run. It helps the time pass even if it makes me a little slower and I always learn something.

What podcasts I dig right now and you should listen to:

 

The Liturgists. I love this podcast. They talk about relevant faith topics in depth. They are funny, thought provoking and mix the secular with the sacred. Any podcast that has Pete Holmes and Rachel Held Evans as guests is worth listening to.

Rob Cast. Rob Bell is formative in my spiritual growth. He doesn’t believe in the archaic 1950’s church that so many Christians today cling to. He talks about hard topics with grace, truth and love. Most of what he says I want to write down or tattoo it somewhere.

Everyday Prayer Podcast. I just stumbled upon this one. You might recognize the host Lori Neff from Midday Connection. She now focuses on spiritual direction and this podcast on prayer is creative and relaxing.

Faith Conversations. This is a podcast by Anita Lustrea the former host of Midday Connection. She continues a similar format in this podcast and hits on relevant faith topics with different authors and leaders in the faith community. This is a podcast that I listen to with my library app open so I can order the books I hear about.

What podcasts do you listen to as you go about life?

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What I have

There is a story in John that you might be familiar with. Jesus goes with his disciples off somewhere remote.

And people follow him.

The disciples are worried because it is a lot of people and there is no food.

Jesus asks Philip. “What do you have?”

Philip the literalist says, “I have nothing.”

Jesus turns to Andrew. “What do you have?”

Andrew, a truthful realist says, “I have this, but it isn’t enough.”

And Jesus says to all who are there, all the thousands who came to hear and speak with him, “Let me take these loaves of bread and baskets of fish and turn it into enough for each of you.”

It’s the miracle of the loaves and fish.

A story you probably saw in felt form if you spent time at Sunday School in the 80’s. We always focus on the miracle of the multiplication of the actual food. The physical sustenance that Jesus provided. It is a miracle but there is a deeper level that is just as miraculous.

The people were satisfied on a soul level. They all came to Jesus for a reason. They had a deep hunger or thirst for something they couldn’t find on their own. They wanted to meet him for something personal that kept them awake at night, or in pain, or in sorrow, or in confusion. How could Jesus, who was one man touch each of those thousands of people personally, at the same time?

Philip didn’t think it was possible.

Andrew only believed halfway.

But Jesus doesn’t do halfway.

He takes the little faith we have and explodes it into something bigger than we can even imagine. Into something we didn’t expect. Into something that we didn’t know we needed.

What if the miracle wasn’t that the people ate, but that they met Jesus and were filled. They were spiritually and physically transformed. What they needed and what He provided met in that moment and it was enough.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Jesus became in that moment the manna from heaven for their stomachs and their hearts. They didn’t grumble about wanting or needing more but accepted what was given in the present.

All it took was a little bit of belief that God would work a miracle that day.

And the people showed up.

God showed up.

And the world changed.

bread of life

What can’t you forgive? What do you doubt? What keeps you up at night?

Bring whatever forgiveness you have before God and let him multiply it.

Bring whatever faith you have before God and let him multiply it.

Bring whatever peace you have before God and let him multiply it.

You bring what you have and God will do the rest. Otherwise it isn’t a miracle, is it?

 

 

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Merry Christmas

 

 

 

EveryvalleyThis is our promise. This is our hope. This is the point.

Merry Christmas! May your day be filled with the certainty the Lord has spoken.

 

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Do the hard thing

Running doesn’t come easy for me. I don’t have fast twitch or apparently slow twitch muscles. An every day run feels just as hard as the first run I took almost 6 years ago. No matter what, I go out day after day and do the hard thing.

I do it because I feel good after.

I do it because it releases the crazy from my head.

I do it because it’s good for my heart.

I do it because I love the moment I stop and feel the accomplishment

I do it because it is hard.

Today was no different than any other run. I’ve been sick and I went out not expecting much more than pounding my feet on the pavement. My 10:44 pace at mile one dropped to 10:09 at Mile 2. At mile 3 I was at a 9:57. And when I stopped, with chest heaving and legs burning I was at a 9:34. Not bad for low expectations.

I do the hard thing because that’s what I do. There is one area in my life that I struggle to live that way.

At church.

I’m struggling. I don’t agree with the state of the church. It is a point where my generational beliefs are clashing with denominational doctrine. Church is stuck somewhere in the 1950’s while the rest of the world adapts and changes with expanding consciousness.

It’s hard to live in this space. Unlike my run today, I don’t feel a rush of endorphins after I’ve been there on a Sunday morning, I just feel more conflicted. Because no one will talk about what we need to talk about.

The hard stuff. The stuff that has no immediate answers. The stuff we don’t always agree on.

We don’t go out and restore the community. Fight for social justice. Fling our doors open wide. We don’t wrestle with why there is such a disparity between the church and the way we feel.

Instead we show up on a Sunday and wonder where all the passion is.

I want to wrestle with the hard questions. It’s what Jesus did. He always questioned someone’s firm belief. A belief held by the synagogue and people since as long as they could remember. So long, sometimes they forgot why they think it.

You may know this story. Jesus was invited to eat with a Pharisee and he came. A woman heard where he was and she bought perfume. She mixed tears with the perfume and cleaned Jesus’ feet. The Pharisee was mad, because if Jesus was who he said he was, he would know not to consort with the woman.

Jesus answered of course in a parable and turned the tables on Simon, the Pharisee. And said. You, who have little to be forgiven for, haven’t honored me once since I came as your guest. Yet this woman sought me out and cleansed me in her remorse. She loves much and is forgiven much. Her life doesn’t separate her from me, it brings her closer.

Don’t you feel like the church sometimes is a gatekeeper for God when we should be the welcoming committee? We should lead as many people to his feet as possible. Not to fix them or change them, but to allow them a space of healing. Change. Reconciliation. Rebirth.

Beauty from ashes.

This is the church I want. I want a church that reads the Bible as the living, breathing, growing book it is. Jesus answered the hard questions of HIS day; who isn’t a part of the tribe and how can we bring them in. If you look back through the old testament, you’ll see the story hasn’t changed much, only the politics of who is in and who is out.

I will continue to show up to church. It’s a hard thing. The hardest thing. I look to people like Shane Claiborne or Pope Francis who don’t want to draw circles around who’s in and who’s out, but spread the circle so wide no one is excluded.

Spread-your-circle-of

I’m not sure what will happen to churches if we continue to be the Pharisees and we keep arguing about who God considers part of his tribe.

We know his answer.

We all are. So why don’t we act like it?

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Expect Light

Friends, this Christmas season is hard. A year ago my grandfather passed away just after midnight the day after Christmas. A fitting exit for a pastor of 50 years.

This, on the longest night of the year, these losses become stumbling blocks for us mere humans. The skies are gray. The sun barely comes up before it makes its descent back below the horizon. Heaviness keeps our feet firmly on the ground and distracts us from looking upward.

It is dark. But the dark doesn’t have to consume us.

This year. This advent I have chosen to embrace joy. Not only embrace it, but actively look for it every day. No matter what I face. My heart heavy or light. It has gotten me through a lot of dark days.

I choose joy.

Today I saw all my favorite people in the world come together to raise 1 million dollars for a worldwide refugee crisis. In four hours they raised 200,000 through a max of 25 dollar donations per person.

These are people who choose joy in the face of darkness.

But joy doesn’t have to be big to be felt. It can be as simple as spending time in silence. A sip of good coffee before the melee of family togetherness, a deep breath before the onslaught of 2 weeks of Christmas vacation. There is always space for joy. Darkness can’t crowd it out.

This has been a hard year. It’s been a year full of loss. For me. For our community. For our world. No matter what, I believe that restoration and reconciliation are nearby waiting for us to whisper them onstage.

Joy combats the darkness. Joy combats anger. Joy combats hurt. Joy combats everything. When we choose to look for it in the mundane hardness of everyday life our world changes.

Our hearts change.

The earth changes.

Today, on this longest of nights don’t expect more darkness.

Expect the light.

lightjohnEmbrace joy. Invite light into your corner of the world and change it.

 

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God Does

elizabethThe Lord has done this for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these words after giving a message on Elizabeth at church. Any time I open up the bible to a story I think I know well, I am struck by how little I really know.

This is where my husband usually quotes Game of Thrones

You know nothing Jon Snow.

Elizabeth didn’t receive visions from God that we know of. Time and time again her passages show us she reacts to the Spirit within her. When she greets Mary for the first time as expectant mothers, it is described as the Holy Spirit fills her. When she names John she knows the name he is to be given even though her husband has been made mute because of his disbelief.

The Lord has done for me.

What joy Elizabeth must have lived with. No matter the circumstances, no matter how bleak the outcome seemed she was filled with the certainty that God does.

What is God doing for you this advent season?

 

 

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