Anniversary of a Tattoo

I know this blog is quiet at the moment. There are a few sporadic posts as major anniversaries or milestones roll by. I forget how quickly time is passing and am legitimately surprised that it is a third of the way through May already.

May 9th is a significant day for me.

May 9th, 2012 was an extremely dark day. I was in the middle of chemo and received more bad news that blew my heart to pieces. Cancer was difficult, but on some level I knew I could handle it.  I am tough enough and knew I was strong enough. It was only a matter of enduring the process. I was now driving deeper into territory that was WAY beyond my capacity. It was as if a bomb had a direct hit on my life with absolute and total destruction. I was lost and forced to surrender because I had no capacity for anything else. God’s grace met me there and carried me through the next 2 years…allowing me to cling to shreds and fingernails of hope along the way. I had victories and failures and for a season tried to abandon my hope altogether but God was consistent in his pursuit and helped me to cling to the promise that He would bring beauty from the ashes.

May 9th, 2014 was an extremely painful but AMAZING day. It was the day of my tattoo. (There is a more in depth account here)  I didn’t realize it was the same day when I booked the appointment. It was just the next available Friday appointment for my artist. I walked into the “Original Sin” tattoo shop in Antwerp and allowed Vicky D to transform my scar into a work of art. But the process of getting there was a substantial test of faith. Somehow, I knew it was supposed to be this artist on this day but even 20 hours earlier, when I was boarding the 4.5 hour train to go down, I did not have a design I liked. I also had absolutely no clue if I could even handle the pain of the process. There were so many reasons to turn around and cancel. But God gave me a vision for this tattoo and I trusted it would come together…even when it legitimately seemed like it wouldn’t. Obviously, it did.

That is how God and Faith works. We have to TRUST into the uncertainty.

The faith building process with the tattoo gave me the courage to face all the challenges involved with a transcontinental move home. God was faithful.

Reading some of the words I wrote a year ago are encouraging my current rebuilding process. I have absolutely no idea how everything in my life will come together and work out. But I have seen God move in mighty ways along this journey and will continue to step out in Faith/Trust that this is the path I am supposed to be on.

This pain will be temporary and I will have a piece of art to last a lifetime.

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 still believe this.

There are many more thoughts stirring and I believe I will reinvigorate this space and start a new series in the coming months – “Moving Mountains”. If you are the praying sort, pray for vision, wisdom and courage because there is a much larger God story to this “cancer” blog and I feel that it should be shared…But it requires a level of vulnerability I’m not quite ready for.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Settling in to “home”

Soooo…how does it feel to be home?

In the past 3 months I have been asked this question countless times…you might expect I would have perfected my answer by now. But every time I stare back blank. Frozen. Like a deer in the headlights. How can I possibly summarize the myriad of emotions I experience on a daily basis?

Most often I am truly glad to be back but at this point the reverse culture shock has hit hard. The first weeks are always a whirlwind of seeing people and getting my fix of everything I’ve missed from Seattle. A bit euphoric. I visited friends. I bought theater tickets. I ate at A LOT of fantastic restaurants. I had coffee and soaked up the skyline and mountain ranges at sunset. I unpacked and settled…trying to make my new space home. Everything felt like it was in constant motion humming along.

I didn’t really stop. I didn’t really process. There was too much to do. Slowly the task list IMG_2876decreased, the excitement wore off and I began to settle in to a more predictable routine…but it just doesn’t feel right. In 5 years as an expat I have adapted to European life and now as a repat my “home” feels foreign. I knew to expect this culture shock moving back…but expecting is different than experiencing. The holidays have been the most confronting for me.

It is a time of year I absolutely love. I love decorating my home and creating a cozy atmosphere. I curl up with a book next to my tree to enjoy the soft glow of the lights. I love advent and preparing to celebrate the hope that came into the world at Chrismas. My music playlist is full of the classics and some modern day crooners. There are few songs that move me as much as O Holy Night and Ave Maria. I appreciate the peacefulness of the season. And I fit really well into the Dutch Christmas culture. It is more simple…less frenzied. I belonged there. It was natural.

This Christmas (I’m sorry…Holiday) season in Seattle has been extremely difficult. A place that is supposed to be “home” in a season I love so much feels overwhelming. home for christmas cropAngry. Aggressive. Disorienting. Competitive.

We had a holiday decorating COMPETITION at work that was so intense it threatened to kill my Christmas spirit completely. People were constantly talking about it and trash talking with other groups. It took a decorating process I normally embrace whole heartedly and pulled the soul out of it. The expectations were high and participation was compulsory “voluntary”. Many hours, forced participation plus a 2 page rule list we needed to follow. I tried to keep my perspective and not get so wrapped up (heh – pun intended, at least I still have my sense of humor right? 🙂 ) but it was difficult…and being new you feel an extra motivation to participate and be part of the team.

Add to that “volunteer” events with a consequence if you don’t participate, plus a constant barrage of petitions for money and donations. Add to that family functions and shin digs with friends. Everything turns into a whirlwind of pressure and expectations in a hurry. Individually, these things are great but having them piled on top of one another has given me a holly jolly disorder.

I know that this will pass and I am more sensitive since I am in the midst of such a major transition. But, seriously, Christmas here in the states is crazy. It’s not the liberals that have a war on Christmas but the entire consumer centered culture and ever increasing expectations. Hopefully I will be better prepared to resist next year.

Soooo…how does it feel to be home? I’ll let you know in January. For now, I will just take a deep breath and curl up under my tree. I will try to enjoy the special moments/memories and block out the chaos. I will enjoy family and focus on the true reason for the season…the hope Christ offers to all of us. The hope for healing. The hope for restoration. The hope for transformation.

Blessings and have a fantastic Christmas,

Lynnea

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.

Sincerely,

Lynnea

 

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.

 

Blessings,

Lynnea

Why I’m NOT a Breast Cancer Survivor

This is a post from last year but relevant today. I still don’t consider myself a Breast Cancer Survivor. I do, however, consider myself a knock down, drag out, bad ass survivor of life…who happened to get breast cancer 🙂 Let’s change the way we talk about this disease.

Burning Brightly

…and I’m OK with it so everyone else should be too. 🙂 Even now that I have completed all the treatments and have been released into the maintenance (Tamoxifen) stage I still don’t consider myself a Breast Cancer survivor. I do, however, consider myself a survivor of life.

What is a survivor? According to dictionary.com a survivor is someone who:

  1. A person or thing that survives (Ummm, really?! thanks for that)
  2. A person or thing that continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks. (OK…that one is better)

The world is immersed in “Pinktober” right now and we are being blasted with pink ribbons and breast cancer from all sides. I don’t like pink…I’ve written about that. I don’t have a problem with the ribbon per se, but I do have a problem with the “Pink Ribbon Culture”. In order for all those companies to sell…

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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.
Blessings,
Lynnea

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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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.
Blessings,
Lynnea

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

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 partner. She was one of the…

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