3 years…and I wouldn’t go back

3 years. Has it ALREADY been 3 years? Has it really ONLY been 3 years? Trying to quantify the feeling of passing time is a strange exercise and one without a solid resolution.

It has been exactly 3 years since my world was turned upside down with a breast cancer diagnosis…and this year has been the strangest cancerversary yet. Everything just kind of felt wrong. It was strange being in Seattle. It was strange to not be in Groningen 9a49bdbf4ad87eeb1f18333b415ca942surrounded by the friends who were my support during the treatment and beyond. I have marked this anniversary the same way with the same people the last 2 years. We ate enchiladas…drank some wine…laughed…poked a little fun at cancer with boob cookies for dessert…it was fantastic.

It is my moment to remember what life was like before cancer and reflect on all the changes since. And there are many good changes to come out of this difficult season. I honestly wouldn’t go back to where my life was or the person I was before.

But I didn’t want the celebration itself to change. It was one step too far. Moving back to Seattle and starting a new job had already forced so much transition into my life that I was at my limit of letting go, grieving and embracing new things. Out of everything I wanted this significant event to FEEL the same.

It didn’t. I didn’t know who to invite…my network of friends and family here is much larger and a simple dinner quickly turns into a banquet. I was anxious because I didn’t have the energy to manage it all. Work has been crazy and the thought of pulling something together was overwhelming. I couldn’t find all the right ingredients to make everything the same as it was. It was all just wrong and made me miss life in Groningen.

I almost didn’t do anything because it seemed easier just to avoid it…but that felt wrong too.

So, I planned something small. Just a few friends for dinner last night. It wasn’t the same as past years but somehow seemed perfect for this year. All the pieces were there with a slightly different feel and in the end it just worked.

As I reflected today I realized that I was so focused on the details and the feelings being the same but there was a profound difference that would always shift things…Jonathan was there. It would never be the same and maybe that’s the point.

We are in the midst of a healing, rebuilding season and this week has required a significant amount of communication as we navigate difficult emotions and triggers. The 534f48031057a39370df47fd0fce75a1diagnosis was traumatic for both of us individually and since we were separated there are a lot of things we haven’t talked about. There were hurts and frustrations we didn’t even know we had…or we knew we had but didn’t know how or when to talk about them.

But we pushed through the difficulties, continued to communicate and eventually reached a really good place. As we were preparing for the dinner I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to fit an hour run into my schedule beforehand. I had a long list of cooking and cleaning tasks swirling through my head. It might seem silly but the details of hosting dinners are still hard for me to let go of. I normally maintain a pretty tight control even for a small group. Jonathan had been very good with helping and told me not to worry that he would handle all the cleaning while I was gone. I just had to let go and trust that it would happen. So, I did. I went for a fantastic run in sunny, spring time conditions. And the house was clean when I got back.

A simple moment like this felt like new territory for us and seemed to show real progress.

So, I am thankful that this dinner wasn’t the same as it has been previously…it shouldn’t be the same because my life isn’t the same. It needed to evolve…and it makes me wonder what this cancerversary will be like next year. 🙂




The Blessing of a Difficult Good Bye

These past few weeks have been difficult as I navigate the stream of good byes andHow-Lucky-I-am-Winnie-the-Pooh-670x1024 “lasts”. I have a hope and expectation for the next season but closing this one takes a significant amount of energy…there is a grief to it. A sadness that things are about to change completely. A pain that I won’t be able to continue the relationships in the same capacity. It is hard.

But this process is showing me how truly blessed I am.

I have invested my heart in relationships and have been surrounded by extraordinary people. My circumstances forced me into a more vulnerable place…a place where I needed to reach out and rely on so many in my community. But that vulnerability forged a depth to my friendships that make this move VERY hard. And for that I am extremely thankful.

Somehow, I think it would be more sad if I could just pack up and leave without difficulty. CS Lewis said it best:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis, The Four Loves

There have been many tears and long hugs. Laughter as we reminisce or enjoy a meal. My heart is a bit weary but full of gratitude. I will never have appropriate words to describe this season or how much people mean to me…even though it’s hard I am thankful I invested.



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. 🙂




The hidden beauty of pain

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)

I have heard a lot of painful stories in the past week and as much as I want people I love to not be hurting…there is nothing I can do to take it away. So I just sit with them in spirit.

I have no evidence or academic understanding for what I’m about to say, it is purely observational, so please take it for what it’s worth. But after walking through this past year I am convinced that the depth we allow our hearts to plunge into the pain and sorrow of life we have the same depth and capacity to experience joy. Meaning if you really face the full force of the emotions as they are swirling around you…no escaping…no numbing…maybe curling up in the fetal position and praying for the day that life does not hurt this much…but standing face into the wind waiting for the storm to subside. Eventually it will and when the storm does calm and the sun does rise you will have the capacity to experience joy to the same depth you felt the pain. Your emotional bandwidth increases (Just in case you forgot I’m an engineer. 🙂 )

But this is the place where people can make a mis step. Facing and experiencing the pain is scary and it hurts…both physical and emotional. Most people don’t like it and would rather avoid it…this is the birthplace of addictions and unhealthy ways of coping. Because if you choose to numb the pain I am convinced you also numb the joy…and then ultimately just become numb. Your emotional bandwidth decreases.

I have a bit of a visual picture for this. Imagine standing alone in a field. Just you amongst the grass. There are no trees for protection. It is flat. A storm kicks up. It’s wicked. Crazy winds. Rain blowing sideways. And you fight with all your might to keep from being blown away. You aren’t sure how long it will last or whether you can keep up the fight…but somehow you manage. You dig deep and eventually…eventually the wind calms and the rain stops. You aren’t fighting as hard to keep upright and slowly the sun begins to rise. It’s the most beautiful sight not only because of the rays between the clouds and the rainbow of colors but because you know how bad it could be. Man, are you excited to be in the sun!! You close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it warm your face…soaking it in.

Now imagine you are back at the beginning of this little story…alone in the field. But this time when the storm kicks up you build a shelter to protect you from the wind and the rain. It makes it a lot easier to live through the storm without being blasted and soaked…you don’t have to fight as hard to survive. But when you’re in the shelter you can’t tell when the storm calms and the sun is rising. You wont see the beauty after the storm…you are just stuck with the 4 blank walls inside. Sure, you weathered the storm alright but you just traded that for the sunrise and warming rays on your face.

I, for one, would rather face my storms to then feel the sun on my face.

These are just my Wednesday evening musings. Take them for what they are worth. 🙂




Word for 2013 – Live

As we rolled into a new year I read several other bloggers claim a word that they want to represent 2013. I know that I’m about a month late but I’m putting my 2013 word out there…LIVE. Not to be mistaken with the 90’s rock band famous for “Lightning Crashes”. Like in “to live abundantly”. I chose a verb for my year because I want to remind myself that life is really just a series of choices stacked together that turn into days…days that turn into weeks…weeks that turn into months…months that turn into years…years that turn into decades (hopefully). But it can be broken down into intentional choices.

After I finished my cancer treatment it was easy for me to get trapped in the mindset of “waiting”. Waiting to see if the cancer comes back. Waiting for the side effects to go away. Waiting for things to change. Waiting feels passive. Living is active. Making choices to be the person God created me to be is “living abundantly”. So here are a few things that I will choose to shape my 2013:

  • Waking up every morning and taking a moment to breathe deep and be thankful for a new day and new mercies
  • Filling my home with good food, good wine, friends and laughter
  • To look at each day and recognize what I can control and (attempt to 🙂 ) let go of what I can’t to God
  • To not allow bitterness to color my life but focus on the blessings I have and the hope I have in Jesus for healing and restoration
  • To run and enjoy the outdoors
  • To embrace ALL the emotions in my heart…good and bad…no numbing, hiding or escaping…just being present
  • To plant a garden
  • To write 1 blog post a week 🙂

I am curious if you choose a word for the year? I’d love to hear it if you do.



life more abundant

The evolving concept of HOME

Last week I finally returned to the Netherlands after several weeks hanging out in Seattle reacquainting myself with the city that was home for over 10 years. It was good to wander familiar streets and reminisce…to share meals with family, old friends and new friends I’d only “met” digitally…to finally be home for Christmas after 3 years abroad. There were a few days where the sun came out (I was shocked!) and the Olympic Mountains seemed to tower over the Seattle skyline.

Olympic Mountains

One of the most beautiful photos I have seen of Seattle and the Olympic Mountains by Steve Ringman – Seattle times

I spent a couple hours parked just soaking in the beauty that surrounds this city…trying to memorize it for when I had to leave. There was a lot of familiarity and I was afraid that I would go back and immediately want to pack up and move “home”. I had moments when I did. Things are easier without the language difference. I have a lot of history there. I miss being physically present at Bethany Community Church. I really enjoy a lot of things about Seattle. But now is not the right time for me to move back…maybe someday. I surprised myself when at the end of my trip I was ready to come “home” to Groningen. It was a good feeling to have. That after almost 3 years here I really have friends and a community that I was excited to come back to. I wanted to come back to work. I wanted to get back on my bike…although I have a couple flat tires to fix first. I wanted to reconnect and get more involved with Vineyard Groningen. I was ready to come back to my life here in the Netherlands. I feel like a giant pause button was pushed on my life for 2012 and I was ready to get back to living and I felt a complete peace about doing that in Groningen.

Here’s to 2013 and getting back to living. 🙂 I’m not yet sure what I am going to do with this little ‘ol blog but for now I’ll keep it going and see where it takes me.



There’s no place like Seattle

I apoogize for the sporadic blogging. I know everyone is desperately waiting for the scattered thoughts that I choose to send out to cyberspace. 🙂 But after my desert walk about I had 2 days in Groningen and then left again for some time in Seattle. It has been good to be back. I haven’t been back for 2.5 years which feels like a blink and an eternity at the same time. Some things have changed…some things haven’t. There have been many new additions to families. Some of my favorite restaurants and coffee shops are gone…some are still there. (Disclaimer for my Dutch friends…coffee shops here are where you actually go to buy COFFEE not marijuana) There seems to be construction everywhere. The weather is exactly how I remember it. I still love the white lights in downtown Seatte for the holidays. Advent season at Bethany Community Church has brought a peace to my heart. And the microbrews have not disappointed. 🙂 This still feels like home and it is good for my soul.

So I will pick up blogging a bit more regularly in 2013 but right now I am giving myself the space for a giant exhale as 2012 comes to a close.

Happy Holidays,