Stepping Out

I haven’t always known how to react when Christians say definitively that “God told me to do ______” or “God led me to do _____”…you can fill in the blank with many different things. Move to Africa. Choose this vocation. Marry this person. Attend this church. Reject this theology. I admire their conviction but wonder how they can be SO certain. Because God speaks to me in whispers at a deep heart level. In songs or words that inspire me. It is a place where I can only hear if I am still and honestly even then He is not extremely clear. There is a lot left up for interpretation and my understanding can be skewed by my broken humanity. He has never picked up the phone and told me, directly, to do anything…EVER.

Since the spring of 2013 I have been feeling like I should go back to Seattle.

Was it God leading me? Was it me not wanting to be alone and missing my family? Who knows, but it was this gnawing thought in my heart and mind. The idea of going back was tempting but there were some mountains keeping me in place here in the Netherlands.

  1. I have a great community in Groningen. Friends that have become family…and deep relationships I have forged in my time here. Thinking about good byes (or even see you later’s) was heart breaking.
  2. I hate moving…with a white hot burning passion. I hate moving across the city…but across continents is on a completely different level. This is more than just packing a few suitcases and going. When we moved here Philips relocated our things and since then I have collected more. What do I do with it all? Ugh. Even asking the question sent shivers up my spine. Plus it is EXPENSIVE. Do I have the resources? Can I do this alone?
  3. Health care. Can I just move back to Seattle as a cancer survivor without a job and get on an exchange plan? I know they can’t deny me but what about coverage? What specialists do I need? All my medical documents are in Dutch and they need to be translated. I am on a couple maintenance prescriptions…how to I reestablish them? I don’t even know the cancer care system in the US…I only know the Dutch one…where do I even start? To say this is daunting is an understatement.
  4. I did not want to face some heavy emotions. I am looking forward to being with family/friends again but there are some extremely difficult things waiting for me in Seattle. It was much easier to avoid and not think about them in the Netherlands.

So…in the Spring of 2013…looking at this long list of things and recognizing that the inertia of my life was more towards staying…I crossed my arms and told God (seriously, who am I?) that if He wanted me in Seattle…HE needed to move me back.

Sometimes I wonder how He reacts to these demands of mine. With rolling eyes or exasperation. Wondering when I will ever learn…

Honestly, I don’t think so. I think it was more of a gentle “OK, if you’re willing…I will show you. Have faith that I know what you need. Trust me”…but again an e-mail confirmation would have been nice. :-)

I was hoping for an easy, safe internal transfer with Philips back to Seattle. Something Faith MLK Jrwhere I could see a defined, secure path. I should know by now that God’s path is often not defined and you can only see the security in hind sight. It requires faith which can be incredibly uncomfortable.

I took a leap of faith this spring…a year after I made that demand of God. In April I wasn’t certain whether my cancer had returned and the overwhelming anxiety of those few weeks confirmed that my place was around my family… it was the push I needed to finally take a step…to face the mountains… and make the difficult decision to move. So, on May 23, 2014 I booked my one way ticket back to Seattle. I was afraid. I was insecure. I was uncertain. But I was also HOPEFUL. Because when I step out in faith…I am giving God the opportunity to show up in my life and that is exciting…or should be exciting.

But what if He doesn’t? These doubts are real in our broken world.

He provided for my tattoo but this is so much bigger. The fears start to erode the trust I have in God’s provision…and the mental attacks on whether this was the right decision grow stronger. Lies about how I am not good enough batter my heart. Trauma from past hurts haunt my thoughts. Is this really what God is asking me to do or am I pushing too hard? At this point I would settle for ANY concrete confirmation that this is the correct path.

For 2 months I prayed for protection and trust. I held on to the promise that God knows what I need better than I do and is absolutely FAITHFUL. I closed my eyes and accepted that I have no clue how this will all work out. But I do trust that something will work out.



Choosing the adventure

It was not easy for me to make the decision to move back to Seattle.

I like my life in the Netherlands. I have great friends and colleagues. I like my work and developing coffee appliances. I feel fully supported by the health system and have gotten used to not worrying about costs or coverage. I enjoy the freedom of visiting interesting cities for a weekend. I have grown quite fond of the relaxed lifestyle and spending hours sitting at a café drinking coffee/beer. I love my apartment and am settled in Groningen.

There are definitely some difficult things but my life here is very comfortable and honestly…really good. I could have chosen to stay.

But there was something deeper in my spirit moving. It was as if God was presenting a choice between staying in the Netherlands and returning to the US. I know that I had complete freedom to choose either one.

I could stay with what I know and what is comfortable. I could continue to travel and explore. I could continue walking along the secure path in front of me.

OR…I could risk.

In that same deep place in my spirit I have a feeling that there is somethingGod Adventure bigger and more beautiful waiting in Seattle. Not necessarily from a travel/life perspective but from a hopeful, heart transformation, redemption perspective. Something more meaningful. The potential for pain is high but also the potential for beauty. It will require a tremendous amount of courage to face all the unknowns and there is no guarantee it will be worth it. But that’s risk right?

And it is my choice.

I have NO IDEA what my life will look like in Seattle. There are many things I am looking forward to and many things I am not. But I bought my ticket and I’m choosing the adventure a midst all the uncertainties. I feel God inspiring me to a life bigger than the comfortable one I have in Groningen. So, this decision is a step of faith.

Only time will tell how it all plays out but you guys are along for the ride. :-) God prepared me through my journey with the tattoo. I risked a lot by fixing a day, facing my fear and trusting God to fill in the practicalities. I am so glad I did because it worked out better than I imagined. Now God is building on that faith experience. I am risking much more with this move but I trust that God’s faithfulness will continue.

In the end…life is too short to stay comfortable… I’d rather choose the risk and adventure.



An Open letter to Employers

Dear Hiring Manager-

Chances are you are reading this because you searched my name and this blog came up. Or, I might have sent you the link as a preemptive explanation for what this web space means to me. Whatever brought you here, if you are interested in me as an employee please keep reading.

When I began thinking about transitioning to Seattle from the Netherlands it was obvious this move would involve seeking out new employment. I also understood that as I apply for jobs there will be recruiters/managers conducting their own internet research to gain more information about me. It is a reality of the digital age we live in and within this blog there is a treasure trove of information.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I can’t predict how my words here will influence a hiring decision. For a moment I considered taking the website down. I can’t control how people will view my process or my choices. I am sensitive to the fact that, with healthcare the way it is in the US, my being a cancer survivor can be a factor. I firmly believe it is in my past but understand it can be seen as a liability.

Eventually, I decided to leave it up. Everything I have written here is ME and gives a much better picture of who I am than my technical skills or experience will ever show. Rather than deleting it I am choosing to highlight a few characteristics that are (hopefully) evident in this blog and why I believe they make me a better employee.

1. When life gets tough and unexpected things happen, I choose to grow not complain. I take responsibility for the things I can change and let go of the things I can’t. Even with the best planning development projects are dynamic and it is important to be adaptable, find solutions and continue to move forward.

2. I have the courage to be authentic. I have let go of pretense and pretending to be anything but myself. Life is too short for anything else. This allows me to operate with confidence and offer creative solutions more freely.

3. I connect with people. People with diverse backgrounds, cultures and personalities. I will always attempt to understand, embrace and encourage personal differences which helps me to strengthen cross functional teams. I treat people the way I want to be treated and recognize that everyone has a story to tell.

Thank you for your time and if you are still interested in further discussions I look forward to hearing from you. If you don’t feel that I am a good fit for the position or the company I wish you luck on your employee search.




End of a Season

One thing I have learned to embrace these last few years is…transition. And I am now in

Sea-clogs coming to Seattle

Sea-clogs coming to Seattle

the midst of another major one. After 4.5 years of Dutch living this Seattle girl will be packing up and moving home in September. There are so many things I love and will miss about the Netherlands/Europe but it is time to be closer to family. Expat living can be difficult even under the best of circumstances and I’ve had a few extra challenges. But I would do it all over again. I appreciate the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the lessons I’ve learned and the way I have grown as a person…I am returning to Seattle a very different Lynnea. And I know Seattle has changed too. We will need a period of re-acquainting.

This summer will be a bit of a limbo land as I close things here and anticipate what’s next. (Which I truly have no clue) It is overwhelming. How do you say good bye to a place that has become home and people who have become family? I don’t know…but I have 2.5 months to answer that question. I imagine it will be a mixture of laughter, tears, gratitude for how my life has been profoundly changed and…lots of Belgian beer. :-)

And once I am settled hopefully this video by FStopSeattle inspires you to come visit…it truly is an incredible city.




Journey with a tattoo

Well guys…I did it!! And I will admit to feeling extremely excited and damn proud of myself. :-) I’ve decided to make the finished product public to maybe inspire other women to take this particular healing route. I needed stories of brave women before me to help my decision and am proud to do what I can in return. But I have been on quite a roller coaster.

Finished scar cover tattoo

Finished scar cover tattoo

I shared this post last Wed about my decision to cover my mastectomy scar with a tattoo rather than pursue reconstruction. I just re read it and laughed at how confident and determined my words were. They sounded a lot more put together than I felt. In reality I was fighting an active battle against fears that were slowly chipping away at my resolve. I was leaving for Antwerp Thursday morning with my tattoo appointment at 1 pm on Friday afternoon. And…

I did not have a design I was happy with. Not even close. I had gone through a few iterations with my artist…her making a design…me providing feedback and suggestions for how to improve…her making another design…me providing feedback…repeat. The latest design I received on Wednesday REALLY wasn’t it. I just didn’t love it the way I needed to in order to go through with the tattoo. And I had no clue how to fix it.

My heart caught in my throat and I had a moment of panic. What was I doing? Was I pushing too hard? Maybe it isn’t the right moment to move forward with this tattoo. I like the idea but it is a big/PERMANENT decision. Maybe I need more time? Aack…I’m not ready. There is NO WAY I can do this in 36 hours.

Time was evaporating quickly. My plan was to be on the 10 am train. Was this all a big mistake? I had been thinking about this tattoo and planning it for so long…backing out would be extremely disappointing but maybe in a small way it would be relieving…then I wouldn’t have to risk anything. Not having a design would be a good excuse and I could stay safe. I could stay in the known without venturing out into this uncharted (potentially VERY painful) territory. I would never know how tough I could be but I also wouldn’t face the possibility of stopping part way because I couldn’t take it. Maybe I really wasn’t as tough as I thought I was? My mind was spinning.

OK. Stop. Deep breath. Deep breath again. And again.

What do I know?

I know that by the grace of God I have survived an immensely painful season in my life. Doors have opened for this tattoo, with this specific artist, on this specific day in a way that felt divinely orchestrated. So, if God is in this…I need to trust that it will all come together. And just like the emotional pain, by His grace, I could handle the physical pain.

So I packed for Antwerp…and prepared to meet my friend and catch the train in the morning. I TRUSTED. Even though I couldn’t see how all the pieces would come together…I had faith they would. And I guess, for me, that’s what practical faith is. It’s getting on the train and starting the journey. Believing things will work out even when I had no idea how.

Well…you can see by the finished photo that I eventually reached a design I was happy with. I had a little craft time on the train. :-) I brought printouts of the last design I liked (from Tuesday), scissors, glue, my sketch book and pencils. I was prepared to make VERY good use of the 4 hours between Groningen and Antwerp. By the time I got to Amersfoort (2 hours) I had a design I LOVED and would ultimately get. Thank you Jesus!

OK…first hurdle overcome. Next hurdle…convincing myself and my tattoo artist I can actually handle the pain of the process. Gulp.

I know how I looked when I first strolled into Original Sin’s shop for my consultation. I don’t have any tattoos and I had never even been in a tattoo shop before. I don’t know

Tattoo space

Tattoo space

what I was expecting. Yoga studio? Massage parlor? Zen atmosphere. Don’t know. But I’m sure my eyes were wide as I took it all in and tried to play it cool and pretend that my mind wasn’t screaming “What am I doing here?”. It was a bit of a beautiful creative chaos. The space is a big open room with a waiting area immediately when you walk in. Two work desks split the room in the middle and separate the tattooing space from the reception. Designs and drawings were everywhere. Piles on the desk. Pinned to the walls. Taped to mirrors. True to the Original Sin name most of the decor revolved around religious icons. Multiple Jesus statues and pictures on the wall. My artist, Vicky, greets me. She has awesome dread locks with gauged ears, piercings and (obviously) A LOT of tattoos. Her partner was this tough looking guy with a shaved head, spiked collar and a dark black face tattoo that runs down the bridge of his nose and onto his cheek. Again “What am I doing here?” This is so far outside my comfort zone.

But I summon my courage and start to talk to Vicky about my design. She was open to working with me but was managing my expectations from the very beginning. “You’ve never had a tattoo before. You are asking for a big one in a very painful area. I anticipate it taking around 5 hours and we will probably need to take this in stages.” I had absolutely no idea what it would be like. I just said “we’ll see” and booked my appointment.

When I arrived last Friday she was again trying to split up the design. I’m sure she gets naive first timers all the time who come in and ask for something they think they can handle and then fall apart. I was scared but I was also determined. Her suggestion “Maybe we just do the top now and save the trunk for later”. My response “I would like to get it all done today, if possible. I have no idea what I can handle. I’ve been through pain and like to think I’m pretty tough and I’m definitely very determined…I think I can do it.” She’s still not completely convinced but I think she could see my focus…so she gave in.

She printed out the transfer and placed it on my body. Alright…moment of truth. I laid down on the table and she started with the lower part of the trunk on my ribs. It was like an intense, burning, vibration. It hurt A LOT…but not unbearable. I took a deep breath, said a prayer – Jesus you need to do this – and settled in for the next 4 hours. After 5 minutes Vicky looked at me and said “You didn’t flinch or jump when the machine touched your skin. OK I believe you…you’re tough…you can handle pain…you’ll be fine…we will finish this today” And, by God’s grace, we did :-)

I walked out of there a little sore…but EXTREMELY proud of myself. I’m so glad I didn’t let the fears keep me from this awesome experience. I love this piece and it means so much more knowing everything I overcame to get it. I’m not going to lie…I feel pretty BAD ASS now.

Well good for you if you made it this far. Sorry it’s so long…there was just a lot to the story. :-)



Redeeming Scars

Tattoo double mastectomy

News Article: Pink Ink – Tattoos transform mastectomy scars into beauty. Photo credit: Tina Bafaro

Cancer changes you. Physically. Emotionally. It leaves permanent scars. Every woman who faces breast cancer follows a unique path on how to heal from it. I am going to write about MY path. I am not judging anyone else’s choices…but explaining why this was the best route for ME. I also know it’s a bit unconventional and want to share my process. Maybe my words can help someone else make their own personal decision. I couldn’t find much information online for women like me. (P.Ink was the most helpful) Women who don’t want to do reconstruction but also don’t want to leave their scars the way they are. Women who are looking for something a bit different and to create something NEW.

Well…information or not…I am scheduled on Friday for my first tattoo…to use my scar as a canvas for a piece of art.

I am excited. I am nervous. I’ve cleared it with all my doctors. I am ready. Here’s how I got here:

First let me start with…why reconstruction wasn’t for me.

When cancer is discovered and a mastectomy is the recommended treatment most often that breast (or breasts) are fully removed. In Dutch it is called a “Borstamputatie”…literally translated a Breast Amputation. Harsh but true. Typically, a woman is left with a blank space and scar where the breast used to be…so when she begins to think about moving forward a new breast truly is RECONSTRUCTION. There is nothing there. It is not “enhancement”. They need to build a completely new breast and it often involves multiple surgeries with many months of pain.

There are various ways to go about reconstruction and I will just briefly describe the one recommended to me so you get an idea. They suggested a silicone form for the breast…but you can’t just go straight from nothing to silicone…first they need to create a space for it. And that involves Tissue Expanders. Imagine a tire jack slowly lifting a car to create space underneath to change the tire. Tissue expanders work in a similar way. They are periodically filled with a saline solution to increase the volume and create more space for the implant. Women I know have described this feeling as having a rock in their chest they can’t remove and it can be very painful. Since I had radiation, there is a good chance my skin/tissue is so damaged that I couldn’t keep the tissue expander in place and there would be complications. They solve this by taking a thin muscle from my back (Latissimus Dorsi) and wrap it around the front to increase the strength of the area. Then they fill the expander over the course of 6-8 months (or longer) until I’m ready for my exchange surgery where they remove the expander and place the implant. There is always a chance for complications…and the recovery can take some time.

Many women choose the reconstruction route. The trauma of losing something so tied to what it means to be a “woman” is overwhelming.  It can affect self-esteem and confidence. Reconstruction can be healing and a way to reclaim something cancer took. There are many many reasons to choose reconstruction. Again, there is no judgment from me…more power to ya. Go for it!

However for ME…reconstruction is completely unappealing. My journey with cancer was literal as well as metaphorical. I had cancer in my body. I had cancer in my spirit. I had cancer in my marriage. I had no idea. But once it was revealed I have spent the last 2 years carving it out…blasting it with chemo…burning it with radiation…removing it from my life. God has gone to work on my heart and soul and I am a completely different person than I was before I started. I never had the level of grief some women face after a mastectomy. I adjusted quite quickly…probably because with my body type I can hide it well. If you didn’t already know you can’t tell. My entire wardrobe is still available and in general I feel normal. This definitely makes it easier. I also considered the physical recovery and how much I enjoy running and being active. It would be difficult to scale back on those activities and to have a high risk of decreased movement/increased pain in my left arm. I thought through all these things but the biggest reason:

I don’t want to replace what has been removed with something fake…I want to replace it with something NEW…something beautiful.

I believe in a God who will create beauty from ashes…that is moving mountains…that continues to give me HOPE even when I can’t see the path or the end. A God that is writing a redemption story in my life much bigger than this tattoo. I don’t want to go backwards. I am moving into a new future. Pushing into uncharted territory. And for me that journey involves covering my scar with a tattoo.

I can’t see very far down the road but I can see Friday. And this Friday is a VERY big day. I started the design back in March and had a good idea of the direction I wanted to take it. It is a tree (of course) and I’ve attached a couple of my inspiration pieces. I knew I needed to find a very good artist to execute my vision and saw a piece in a magazine from Vicky at Original Sin in Antwerp.  Somehow I knew immediately that she was the right person. (Side Note: I love that this redemption tattoo is being done by a shop called “Original Sin” – I think God has a sense of humor :-)) So I booked the appointment for May 9th. I just looked back in my blogs to try and remember what I was doing on May 9th 2012…and I didn’t realize it when I scheduled it but on May 8th 2012 my life took a nose dive…and this day 2 years ago was very VERY dark. How AWESOME to have this appointment to not only redeem the scar but redeem the day.

So, wish me luck for Friday. Now that I’ve told you I can’t chicken out. It is quite a big piece (~5 hours) in a very sensitive area. I know it will hurt A LOT but I’m ready. I have approached this like everything else on this journey…with a deep breath (or 10) and straight in. This pain will be temporary and I will have a piece of art to last a lifetime. I might need to take it in a couple sessions but we will see how it goes. I’m not sure how brave I’ll be to post an after photo…I will decide when it’s done.

Eek…so excited.


If you are interested in more information on mastectomy tattoos check out the Personal Ink – P.Ink Pinterest page here.

Tree of life pen and ink – by Marcia Carole can be found here

Praise the Lord for “Something Benign”

I wanted to write a quick update since I chose to share about my recent health concerns here.

Too Soon? :-)

Too Soon? :-)

I got my MRI results today and the words that continue to ring in my ears are “it is definitely NOT cancer”. It has been 1 month since my bone scan showed an area of increased activity and an xray confirmed there was definitely something in the bone. They were focused on a part of my hip that had been hurting for over a year but I had dismissed thinking it was tendonitis from running. It was difficult to calm the anxiety during the day and sleep became almost impossible. Cancer patients call it “Scanxiety” because we’ve already been on the receiving end of bad news. Often when we go for scans and wait for results we relive the trauma of the original diagnosis…

the way it felt when the earth dropped out from beneath our feet…

how time seemed like it was moving at warp speed and standing still in the same moment…

how we feel our dreams and plans for the future evaporate in an instant. Not because the disease will ultimately be fatal but because we are forced into an unexpected battle and immediately focus on the near term threat…

how even though we felt perfectly healthy a Dr is telling us we are sick and in the end the treatment will make us sick…

because we know that with this beast of cancer we are never really free.

It became an act of will to keep my mind from constantly wandering through all the scenarios and wondering whether I will re enter an active cancer treatment with chemo and radiation. The 5,000 miles that separate me from my family felt like an insurmountable chasm and at a certain moment the waiting here was too intense that I booked a last minute trip to Seattle. These past few weeks have been overwhelming.

But today my oncologist told me that the results of the MRI were a “Synoviale inclusiecyste” (a certain kind of cyst – this is where the Dutch/English thing can get a bit tricky and I need to do more research). My onc admitted that this was not her area of expertise and proceeded to call some orthopedic surgeons to see what it was exactly and what I should do next. It took a few phone calls and some persistent questions on her part but we reached a level of information I am comfortable with. An orthopedic surgeon looked at the MRI while she was on the phone and also confirmed it was benign and suggested I schedule a consultation with the “hip experts” for how to proceed.

So that is what I will do…in the next few weeks I will meet with a “hip expert” to discuss my options. The most common treatment paths are letting it go and seeing if time will take care of it or surgery. This saga is not over but I am much more comfortable waiting knowing that it is something benign and that it has nothing to do with the breast cancer. Deep breath out.

Someday soon I might be up for cautiously celebrating but right now I just feel like I need a nap.