One hill at a time

My head and heart are spinning. I have these moments where it feels like there is just too much to process. But I am going to start this post by saying God IS good…all the time…in everything.

I learned recently that a dear blogger friend was claimed by this beast of cancer. Jellebelle was a beacon of light and encouragement. Her writing was raw and authentic and we had a connection through the digital divide. She received my very first tree pendant and we even bridged the virtual gap over a bowl of Pho in Seattle. I’m glad I was able to give her a physical hug. Her spirit in this world will be missed.

I can’t put her passing away together with the PINK media onslaught that is October. My Facebook feed is filled with the most ridiculous awareness campaigns that are so disconnected from doing anything effective. Philips is lighting up monuments pink. The NFL has their “perfect catch” program. Corporations slap a pink ribbon on the products to sell more and then donate an extremely small percentage…even then:

60% of funds raised and donated in North America are being put back into awareness campaigns. Currently only 5% of funds raised and donated in North America are being used towards prevention research.
– Pink Ribbons Inc

Seriously, the dramatic need for AWARENESS is over. These numbers should be reversed with the bulk of the funds generated going to RESEARCH…and an actual cure rather than just better treatment. 40,000 women still die every year in America and that needs to change…but it wont the way things are currently working.

To top that off I just returned from 3 (good, intense) weeks traveling to New York, Croatia and Slovenia. It was a whirlwind of friends, food, wine, laughter, tears. It was also the first time I had seen my husband in 9 months. Emotional roller coaster is an understatement. No wonder I am feeling a bit exhausted at the moment.

In light of all this I go back to God is good. In the storm. In the emotions. In the unknown. In provision. It is hard for me to continue to let go and trust but the more I do the easier it is because I see His faithfulness.

Here is an image from Slovenia that centers me right now. There is a lot I wish I knew…but I do know my trajectory over the next hill and I have faith that I will be able to tackle whatever lies after. And I should look up and enjoy the scenery while I can. :-)




Chemo Hair


Last September I wrote a post about how I didn’t recognize my life or myself in the mirror. I wasn’t sure how my hair would return after chemo…often it can come back completely different than it was before. In a strange way I challenged God that if my hair came back differently then my life would also be different. If it came back the same then my life would look similar. I’m not sure what he thinks when I come up with these things…they sound pretty ridiculous in hind sight.
But, my hair has come back better than it was before! It is the same texture but a richer color and a bit thicker. I am thankful and I also have hope that my life will follow the same path.

Originally posted on Burning Brightly:

There are a lot of things I don’t recognize about my life right now. As I think back over the past 6 months it feels like everything has turned upside down and twisted itself inside out. I look in the mirror and see my face with thinning eyelashes and eyebrows – I did manage to keep some of them during this. :-) With the right makeup and a wig I can look more normal but I feel like I am hiding what is underneath. I have adapted to the bald look…I appreciate that I have a nice head…I hate the stares from strangers because I have chosen to not cover it up. It takes courage to walk out in public as a bald woman, knowing you didn’t choose this but it happened none the less.

Yes, while I have adapted to the bald look it is still not me…and right…

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I’m not going to fake it

“Principles are what people have instead of God.
To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God’s or your neighbor’s sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there’s no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child.
Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them.
‘Principle’ is an even duller word than ‘Religion’.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

This quote came across my Facebook news feed this week and I had to re read it a few times as the message sank deeper into my heart. At first pass I thought…What?! Aren’t principles good? Shouldn’t we stand for right and wrong? Shouldn’t we have those lines that we wont cross?

The second read I thought well, I guess principles are our own construction of right and wrong. They can become rigid. A list of shoulds and should nots to adhere to. Fundamental behavior rules that we accept as true as we construct our own moral framework. We replace God with our own ideas of how to act. And when something falls outside that framework we judge it and cast it off without looking deeper into the heart.

The third time through I stopped at “Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them”. He didn’t forgive these people who had beaten, humiliated, and executed him because he SHOULD. Because a moral code told him to. He forgives them because he honestly LOVES them. He can see in their hearts. He can see beyond the behavior to the pain and the wounds. He can see their need for a savior. And even though they are taking his life he responds with compassion and forgiveness.

WOW…that is some kind of love and it’s there for all of us.

This is the point where I’m like Yea! Thank you for loving me that much! Thank you for your grace and compassion and forgiveness!!

And then there is a voice inside me that goes “Because I love you…go love others with the same sacrificial love”

Eeeerrrkkk (squealing brakes :-) ) It’s one thing for me to receive that love but to offer it to hardest to loveothers? That costs something. That costs A LOT. That costs EVERYTHING. However, if it’s been freely given to me…shouldn’t I freely give it? Yes. But let’s not pretend it’s easy. I have been in a very difficult healing and forgiveness process and I will admit to days where closing my heart and giving in to anger/bitterness seemed like the easiest way forward. My heart was hard. My pride was hurt. My sense of justice was screaming. My principles shattered. I knew deep in my soul that love and forgiveness were the only way to bring freedom into my life but I didn’t see how it was humanly possible. And honestly it wasn’t humanly possible but I had hope it was divinely possible.

So, this was my prayer “God, I’m hurt and angry. I confess to an extremely hard heart and not much hope for true forgiveness. I know you ask me to love this world like you do. To offer compassion and forgiveness to hurting people. There is nothing in me that wants to…BUT there is a small crack in my heart for you to work. I need you to honestly do this because I can’t and I’m not going to fake it.”

Deep in my soul I felt something like this “Thank you for keeping a crack open…I’m not asking you to fake it…I can and will do this. Trust me.”

It doesn’t happen immediately. In fact it is a slow, agonizing process but that crack is widening. Much like a rose going from a tight closed bud to a flower in full bloom. Every day brings almost undetectable changes but add them up and transformation is more obvious. The hardness is softening. The ice is melting. A miracle is happening. Authentic love and forgiveness are replacing anger and self righteousness. The impossible now feels more possible. And all I can say is Praise the Lord…I’m not faking it!!

Happy Monday,


So, what about the ants?

I often get asked about my faith and why I believe what I do. How do I know God exists? Isn’t “religion” an old fashioned idea? Aren’t we just physical beings responding to programmed biological impulses?

It is difficult to answer these questions because faith is so personal and nothing I can ever PROVE. So I speak from my experience.

- I believe God exists because I can’t look at the beauty, diversity and complexity of this world and think it happened by accident. All the details. Everything working together. I don’t necessarily believe the earth was created in our equivalent of 7 days but ultimately I’m OK with not knowing. I’m thankful every time a sunset or an alpine lake takes my breath away…or I’m in awe of how intricate the human body is because it helps me to remember how awesome God is.

- I do not believe we are just physical beings…balls of hormones and biology wandering this planet with only a need to evolve and pro create. For me that is too simple and is actually a cop out from taking responsibility for your own behavior. “Biology” made me do it. I’m programmed that way I can’t help it. That might be part of the story but I think we are so much more than that. I look at this world and I see pain and heartbreak…joy and passion. Why do we need community or crave relationships? Honestly, I believe there is a deep longing to be loved and accepted in each one of us…we just have different ways of going about meeting that need. Relationships. Success. Sex. Since we live in an imperfect world this need will never fully be met and that can cause pain. And again everyone does something different with this pain. They can bury it…pretend it doesn’t exist. Numb it with work or alcohol. But I believe this basic need is there in all of us and I believe it can only be met by a relational God.

- Isn’t religion an old fashioned idea? Well, you’ve got me there. I don’t like “religion”. Because, honestly, I don’t often see a lot of love and acceptance in the message they share. I hear rules. Do’s and don’ts to get into heaven or stay out of hell. Judgement. It often doesn’t resemble the Jesus I know. But if you want to talk to me about how to find freedom in love, compassion, kindness, grace and mercy…that’s my religion. That’s what I gunny-optimistic-ant-comic-pebble-magnifying-glass-human-fine-idea-picsstake my life on.

So, what about the ants? A response that I have gotten is for me to look at the ants. They just go about their business purely programmed by biology. They don’t love. They seem to survive just fine executing the tasks they were created for. They create armies and wars. Aren’t we just big versions of that? Aren’t you putting too much significance on our existence? Interesting argument. Honestly, I don’t know what the ants have to do with me? I can’t speak to their experiences. They might survive purely on biology. I have no idea but either way it has no bearing on me. I can only speak to my human experience. And my human experience involves emotions. Hearts longing for love and acceptance. For intimacy. We are relational people. And I believe that need for intimacy is ultimately met in a loving, relational God. But I’m not asking you to agree with me.




Making sense of the senseless

Our brains are amazing things. They are the command center for our entire body…taking information in the form of electrical impulses from all the senses and synthesizing it into…sound…touch…taste…images. We can manipulate complex arguments and form opinions. We take the information we receive and fit it into our framework of the world around us. As we see and experience new things (hopefully) that framework adapts and changes.

But then there are things that happen that just don’t make sense. Realities that I can’t fit into my framework because I can’t get my brain around it. How do 3 teenagers go from being bored to taking an innocent life? Bored!? That is so delusional and self consumed with such an extreme disconnect from the reality and consequence of their actions. Senseless. My heart breaks for Christopher Lane’s family.

There are days when I feel like I view the world through the emotional equivalent of 3D glasses with each eye letting in a different image. One eye lets in the beauty, hope, redemption and love. New Life. A breath taking sunset. Forgiveness. While the other eye lets in pain, heartbreak, wounds and suffering. A senseless killing. Selfishness. Evil.

My brain attempts to make sense of this information. To merge both images into one. I can’t do it. I don’t believe things will ever make sense this side of heaven. And I’m going to leave it there recognizing that some things don’t fit.

I believe God exists…a good, loving, merciful, graceful, personal God.

I believe evil also exists…evil that wounds, kills, hates and enslaves.

I also believe that even though I don’t understand how everything works around me, I want to be a person in this world that chooses love, hope and redemption…amidst the chaos and pain.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful song from David Crowder Band.

…And I don’t know what to do with a love like that

and I don’t know how to be a love like that.

When all the love in the world is right here among us

and hatred too

So, we must choose what our hands will do

Where there is pain…let there be grace

Where there is suffering…bring serenity

For those afraid…help them be brave

Where there is misery…bring expectancy

Surely we can change something…

Surely we can change something.



1 year post chemo

Last year on August 15th, 2012 I took the last pill of my final chemo regimen. I. Was. Done. I was bald. I was exhausted. I was relieved. My heart was raw. I was ready for my

1 year post chemo least my hair keeps growing. :-)

1 year post chemo mop…at least my hair keeps growing. :-)

body to heal. I wanted to move on to and through radiation as fast as possible and get on with finding my “new normal”. It is interesting to reflect back on what life was life last year and how much has changed. I am still searching for my “new normal”…I don’t know why I thought it would be so easy to find. It turns out to be very elusive. Shy. Skittish. I get glimpses and I keep trying to coax it out into my life so I can fully embrace it. The moment I feel like I am starting to establish a routine and rhythm something shifts..AGAIN.

Chemo shut down my hormone production and pushed me abruptly into menopause (read: NOT fun)…a state that continued for the last year with Tamoxifen. And honestly, I thought this would continue for the next 4 years I am taking this medication. I had resigned myself to the hotflashes and night sweats but was actually thankful to not have to deal with all the “other” normal lady stuff for a while. Apparently my body was getting tired of being chemically repressed and staged a coup. It has been a 1.5 month process of guerrilla warfare that has left me confused by symptoms and often in a lot of pain. You don’t over throw big pharma so easily. :-) But now that the dictator has been overthrown I feel like I have an unpredictable rebel government in it’s place. Only time will tell which one is better…but I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. I’m just caught in the crossfire.

So, my normal has shifted…again. I’m getting better about just rolling with it.



Checking in…

Well hello there blogging world…I am indeed alive. :-) I haven’t been writing as much recently for a variety of reasons and realized that I should at least check in.

In the past my blogging breaks have come when I am navigating a particularly rough emotional season. That is not the case here and I have appreciated the off line messages from friends making sure everything is good. And honestly it really is. Sometimes surprisingly so. I’m just exhausted. I have been trying to go back to work more full time and my energy at the end of the day is gone…especially when it comes to writing.

I had a surprising feeling last Monday morning.

Something I honestly haven’t felt in a while.

I woke up…HAPPY.

It caught me off guard and you know there has to be some divine influence for that to happen on a Monday Morning getting ready for work. :-) It was surreal, I paused for a moment, said a prayer of thanksgiving and thought…I didn’t believe this could happen…I’m HEALING. My circumstances haven’t changed and there are still many things I would like to be different but apparently that doesn’t matter.

This moment encouraged me that things truly wont always be so hard. That things are moving. That my heart is healing and God is transforming the pain into something life giving. I have spent many hours and journal pages writing about healing…physical healing…emotional healing…spiritual healing. It is an amazing process. I will write more on the blog when I get back to my storm survival posts. But even with all my writing/processing the idea of healing is still a great mystery to me and one that I have had to absolutely trust God with. I can’t even count the number of times I wrote this in my various journals over the last 2 years:

Jesus, I know you see the pain in my heart…it hurts. I know that I can’t heal it on my own. I need you. I trust you alone to heal me. I trust you to work all this out for my good and your glory.

I have trusted this in my core for the last 2 years and I will admit that sometimes it is extremely difficult to keep trusting…day after never ending day when it feels like nothing is happening. There were seasons when life seemed to be getting worse rather than better. Things aren’t working out on my timeline. But I keep (attempting to) wake up trusting and I have learned that God’s healing is never superficial. The moments when things felt like they were getting worse he was cutting cancer out of my life and scrubbing old wounds with antiseptic. I still have no idea how my life will work out practically but I am able to live with more freedom and love than I ever have in the past. And I wouldn’t give that back for anything.

Happy Monday,



Keep the Faith

These last couple weeks have been tough. I realize in the difficult times I tend to not write as much. I guess I’m not inspired. I feel a bit sorry for myself. I don’t have much energy…I try not to push myself too hard. I have been missing family a lot recently and feeling the full weight and isolation of living alone in a foreign country. The side effects of my medicine have been brutal as the summer temperatures climb and in general I have just felt suffocated by the things that are unknown and the things that are out of my control.

I have my bad moments. I don’t like them but it’s honest. I’m not endlessly positive…I can throw myself a pretty good pity party. I reached a point on Monday where I just needed to get out of town. Somehow being alone in an unfamiliar place is better than being alone in a familiar place. Through a last minute cancellation I was able to head up to a friend’s place on Ameland for a few days.

This has been just the right mental break for me. I don’t have any real answers to my questions but God is gently restoring my perspective.

I was incredibly encouraged by the story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew this morning:

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them (the disciples) and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits “A Ghost!” they said crying out in terror.

But Jesus quick to comfort them “Courage it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat and the wind died down.

Matthew 14:24-33 (parentheses mine)

Peter can sometimes get a bad rap in this story. The Message translates it as “Faint-heart, what got into you?” The NIV says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” I really empathize with Peter. At the beginning of the story it’s the 12 disciples…in a boat…in the middle of the lake…in the middle of a storm. Not a very nice place to be. I don’t know if they were sleeping but at 4:00 in the morning they were probably a bit groggy and then they see Jesus on the water. What the? I’d be terrified too!!

Peter tends to be the bold, impulsive one so once Jesus lets them know it’s OK he immediately asks to join him. My paraphrase of his question is:

Master, if it’s you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power…ask me to do something I would never be able to do on my own! And Jesus does.

And then Peter jumps out of the boat excited to join Jesus…he takes some steps and then there’s a moment when reality catches up with him. Hey, wait a minute?! I’m walking on the water!! In a storm!! This is impossible!! And he shifts his gaze from Jesus to the churning water beneath his feet…that’s when he begins to sink.

Even with his sinking I have respect for Peter. The other 11 disciples stayed in the boat where they didn’t need to risk anything. Peter stepped out of security toward Jesus.

I feel like I am Peter in this story. I’m not walking on water literally. But in a season of my life where fears…and insecurities…and doubts…and pain were crashing against my heart like the waves against that boat…I saw Jesus standing there. I knew there was a way forward toward him but it was a path I couldn’t walk on my own strength…

Jesus, if it’s really you…ask me to do something I can ONLY do by your power.

Ask me to love when it is the last thing I want.
Ask me to trust when I don’t see the path but long to be healed
Ask me to forgive when it costs me so much.
Ask me to have faith that you wont let me sink.
Ask me to be confident that you will provide what I need
Ask me to have hope when things feel impossible.

Because in pursuing these questions I am no longer protecting my heart in the boat but RISKING…and it produces both fear and excitement…and life. I am being absolutely transformed.

I’ve spent the last few weeks focused on the fear and the waves at my feet rather than Jesus in front of me and I’ve been sinking. I’m thankful that he wont let me go down and is so gently shifting my focus back to him.

Sometimes Storm Survival is just recognizing the moments when your perspective is off…and shifting it back to where your strength/power comes from.



Dance of Healing

Two steps forward. One step back. Spin to the left. Spin to the right. Hop step…Two steps forward. One step back…

Just following the melody of the music. Just dancing to the unforced rhythm of

This blog has been a bit quiet recently partly because it’s summer (finally) and partly because I have been navigating another wave of sadness as birthdays, summer holidays and anniversaries pass. I can’t control it. I never know when it will hit. I’m learning not to judge it. I’m trying to just roll with it. It is not easy.

I am a linear thinker. I like to have a goal, develop a plan and then execute. This healing journey has been anything BUT linear. I feel like I have a goal but the path forward seems more like an obscure maze than a straightforward plan.

What can I do? Try not to fight so hard and just let it pass. Learn to trust more deeply that God knows what I need and WILL be faithful to provide. But it is hard and there are times when I feel like I am learning the same lesson over and over. Some days I feel like I can see progress…others I feel like I am going backward. I don’t like going backward. I’m attempting to see those moments as not actually going “backward” but taking one more step in this dance of healing. Someday I will reach my goal. Someday I will be able to look back on the big picture…on the beautiful dance God choreographed. But for now it’s just:

Two steps forward. One step back. Spin to the left. Spin to the right. Hop step….

Happy Monday,


Happy Birthday to me


This was a post I wrote last year for my birthday…in between chemo rounds 4 and 5. A lot of what I learned is still relevant for this year so here you go again. :-)
This birthday is hard…the hardest one yet…there isn’t a lot for me to say. I am so thankful for good friends in Groningen…but I am acutely aware of the people that are missing. I know there is hope and positive things on the horizon but I will give myself the space to be sad. In the midst of it I know God loves me so profoundly and feel like He has his arms wrapped tight around me. It’s comforting. A good cry, a deep breath and a glass of wine will be the plan for tonight. Happy Wednesday.

Originally posted on Burning Brightly:

Tomorrow is my birthday…the big 32. Big? I can hear the sarcastic snort from anyone older than me through my computer. :-) I know I’m still young but I feel like this year has

I’m a Cancer with Cancer…fitting :-)

aged me physically and mentally in ways that are difficult to describe. I’ve never been a big birthday celebration person. Most of the time a few friends at a pub and a nice dinner are more than enough. My birthday has always felt like a normal day and I let it pass with a mild interest and add another digit to my age. This year is different. This year I feel very profoundly that we don’t know how many birthdays we will get. That absolutely nothing in this life is guaranteed. My perspective right now is a bit colored by news I received this weekend of a fellow “chemo-cise” exercise…

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