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 grace.photo

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,

Lynnea

Surviving on Grace

2 Corinthians 12:9 is a popular verse for Christians and one that I have received comfort from and have been convicted by this year.

” My grace is enough, it’s all you need
My strength comes into its own in your weakness”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Message)

It is easy to say but I know that I haven’t always lived my life trusting that God’s grace REALLY is sufficient for me. And what does that even mean? We can limit it to something we only need to cover our sins. I have heard people use this to justify passivity…maybe there is an action you feel called to take but it’s OK “God’s grace” is enough for me so I don’t need to do that. Or, we say his grace is all we need and continue to pursue our own agendas and plans…then when we get to a crisis moment we find a way to solve it or hide it as fast as possible because it is painful and uncomfortable. We really are WEAK and often rather than allowing God’s grace to truly be enough we find a way to avoid the situation. I know I did…until I found myself in a place where I couldn’t avoid or control or escape. It was a strange/scary feeling to look around for my available options and find that I had none except truly landing on God’s grace. It kind of felt like this scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

You know what? Grace really is sufficient…but it is not magic…it requires a real leap of faith by leaving the ground you have been standing on. And it typically means you need to wrestle with God through the hardship until your eyes and trust are fully on him and his purposes. It’s not always fun but it is freeing.

I think we spend a lifetime working out what it means to trust completely in grace but I am going to describe what it meant for me on Monday evening. Nothing glamorous but honest:

“There are a lot of things I would change about my situation if I could. I am not pretending things are fabulous…in general I live with a constant ache in my soul and I have absolutely no idea how things are going to turn out. I have peace, hope and trust but there is a war in my heart every moment of the day about which side is on top. The evenings are the worst. The darkness. The quiet. A TV show has brought some raw/hopeless feelings to the surface and it feels hard to breathe. Who knew that empty space can feel so oppressive? I have chosen to not have any wine this evening which means I feel the full spectrum of emotions. It’s time to get ready for bed. Lord, how do I even move? Honestly, I don’t know how but I move off the couch and head upstairs. I feel tired from not sleeping the night before and weak from being emotionally drained. I hit my knees…I don’t always pray on my knees but I was broken…

Lord, do you see me here? Do you see my pain? The hurt in my heart that I want so badly to be healed? Can you really touch those raw deep places? There is so much I want to change! I hate this! Is your grace REALLY all I need? These are the moments when it is hard to believe because it hurts so much. How do I trust? [something shifts in my spirit] I trust because you have been faithful beyond what I can imagine this year and even though it is hard to trust I believe you will continue. It really hurts but there is no place I can go where you can’t see me…even though sometimes I feel completely alone. I continue to offer you my heart to heal and restore. I don’t want to pull it back and “protect” it due to fear, anger and bitterness…but I also know that I can’t do that on my own. All I can do is keep coming to you asking for your transformation and healing…it is happening…just slowly. Thank you for loving me as much as you do.

I lay awake in bed most of the night. Even though I am exhausted I can’t sleep due to my medicine and emotions. A CRAZY spring rain storm passes over my house at about 1 am. It was ridiculously loud. I wasn’t sure if it was hail or rain pounding on the windows but it seemed to feel like the storm in my heart. Tossing and turning…Ugh I need to be up in 5 hours for work. Eventually I must have fallen asleep but I wake up more tired than when I went to bed. Lord, I don’t have the energy or the focus for today and I have a training in statistics…this is where I know I need your grace.

I left my house to head to my carpool. The rain had washed everything clean. The birds were chirping and there was even some blue (ish) sky :-). Spring smells of wet dirt and flowers filled my nose. I took a deep breath and it was as if God spoke back to me “Lynnea, your storm will eventually pass. There will be flowers, new life and springtime. I see you and things are changing even if you can’t see them yet…hang in there.” Me back to God after a deep breath and resetting my spirit “OK, this is not a fun process and I don’t know how I will survive it…but only by your strength every day. I trust in your promises. And you need to help me get through work today…I’m exhausted and you know I hate statistics.” End Story.

I feel like part of my purpose in this season is to break down some of the “Christian-ized” perceptions of how to walk through these difficult spaces with faith and hope. God’s grace IS sufficient. Right now. In the present. Not tomorrow or next week. NOW. It doesn’t mean that things will be magically easy. It means that it is an opportunity for God to transform your heart if you let Him. There is real hope. I believe in a God of redemption who will bring beauty out of the ashes of our broken lives. And I am proclaiming that even before I know what the beauty is in my own life…I’m still standing amongst the dying embers. I trust God’s promise that I will not go down or be burned up. That he is working all things out for my benefit even though I can’t see it yet.

I don’t have a lot of practical tips because grace is God’s arena, but we can make ourselves more available…take some space to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are there emotions I have a hard time facing? Failure, Rejection, Fear, Pain, Boredom, Sadness, Uncertainty, Anxiety
  2. Do I use anything to distract myself or numb these emotions? These examples aren’t all bad in themselves but we can use them to avoid the hard things in life: TV, work, Facebook, alcohol, sex, exercise, kids, relationships
  3. It is in these places where we say with our actions and choices whether Grace is sufficient.  Are you truly trusting and relying on God or yourself? It is always in the difficult places we come face to face with our true hearts. It is easy to proclaim grace is sufficient on Sunday but what about the dark corners of your life? In what areas do you need to take a “leap of faith”?

Here’s to surviving another week,

Lynnea

Find your center

I think one of the hardest things to do in difficult season…or maybe in our busy, noisy, distracted western lives in general…is to find our center. This sounds all Zen but from what I can tell it comes down to a single question. Who are you? Who are you when no one is looking? Who are you when you are free to make choices without external expectations? And are you OK with that person regardless of what other people think? It is easy to get pulled in a million different directions by responsibilities and life and to lose ourselves amidst the chaos. When a crisis hits we then become swept away by a tidal wave of fear or grief and get kicked around by the waves. The wind and waves of life are inevitable and unless we know what our center/anchor is they can move us from where we want to be without us realizing it.

I picture it kind of like a buoy in the ocean. When the wind and the waves come it will be a rough ride for a while but if your anchor stays in tact…you wont shift very far. If the anchor breaks or you never had one to begin with you might wind up in uncharted waters or on the beach. Either place you are no longer where you want to be and ultimately ineffective.

navigation buoy

My center is defined by my faith.

Who am I? Well, I am Lynnea. Nice to meet you. 🙂 I am absolutely known and loved by my God. Even though I’ve done my best in this life, I screw up A LOT and rely completely on God’s grace and forgiveness to bridge the gap from me to Him. I trust that as I wake up everyday He will help me to become the best version of myself but it will be a life long process.

This might sound overly spiritual but by defining myself this way my anchor is stable despite my circumstances. My choices then flow from this anchor point. I am currently attempting to:

  • fight for love and forgiveness/fight against anger and bitterness even when it is difficult…it sometimes seems impossible
  • try to be authentic even when it is scary – example: this blog
  • fight to keep my heart soft and vulnerable even when fear of pain can tell me to keep it safe and tucked away
  • live my life according to the principles outlined in the Bible…even when it doesn’t make sense to people around me.
  • practice thankfulness
  • daily recognize that I will continue to fail miserably in all these things but it does not keep me from continuing to try

I don’t do these things perfectly by any means…and actually I can’t do any of them without God’s grace…but as I fight for them he is faithful to provide the strength and transform my heart. Notice that they are all internal not external activities like: wife, engineer, success, intelligence, etc. They are all good things and am thankful that they add to my life but I don’t find my center in them anymore. (I’ve tried in the past…it doesn’t work) They can easily be stripped away and then I find myself beached.

Also notice that I use the verb fight a few times because life has a way of making these choices difficult. I have to fight against my own selfishness. I have to recognize that even though circumstances can be excruciating…the only control I have is over my own reaction. I can respond from my wounded places or fight to attempt to respond from a life giving place (very very hard – but ultimately worth it). Fight against a culture that will abandon something once it “no longer works for me”…but really believe/hope that God will keep his promise to work all things out for my benefit.

It’s not always easy and requires intentional choices but living in our center is where we are the most FREE.

OK, now how do you find your center. Excellent question. I don’t believe that everyone reading this is Christian so I will try to keep the tips more general.

Practical Tips:

  1. Can you answer the question “Who am I?” If not maybe carve out some quiet space for 15 minutes a day to either write or pray about this. And if your first response is a role you have (wife, engineer, artist) maybe try to dig a bit deeper. What kind of a person do you want to be? What makes you want to be that person?
  2. Take a hard look at your choices and actions. Do they reflect the answer you gave to question 1? Or do they show something different? Sometimes we can mentally define ourselves one way but our choices show our true heart.
  3. If there are behaviors you want to change set your intention. Maybe tell someone. Write it on a piece of paper or put something somewhere to remind you. (Similar to a tip on Practicing Thankfulness)
  4. Go for a walk without head phones/music. It’s springtime and (hopefully) sunny…new life is everywhere. Listen to the birds. Some how walking always helps me to refocus and clear my head.

Happy Wednesday and here’s to surviving another week.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Lenten Check – In

We are now at about the half way point in the Lenten season. There are 3 more weeks until Good Friday and I wanted to send out a little check in note. If you chose to add something or abstain from something how is it going? In the past I have found Lent decisions to be kind of like New Year’s resolutions. I’m enthusiastic about it for a couple weeks or so and then it becomes less intentional until I forget about it. 40 days can be long. And if I break a fast during Lent I can feel an extra layer of guilt because I let God down or just give up because “Now that I’ve broken my commitment I suppose there’s no use continuing for the rest of the time”. This is where I have to remind myself that it was never about me to begin with. It was never about what I did or didn’t do or if I did or didn’t do it perfectly. It is about Jesus and the grace offered to us on the cross and the freedom in his resurrection. Period.

I did something different for Lent this year…normally I wouldn’t talk about it but I think it may be helpful for some people out there. My personality tends towards perfectionism and I can very easily be caught in the trap of legalism and somehow thinking that I am “earning” my way. It is easier for me to live in a black and white world with rules that need to be followed and consequences if they are broken. It is much harder for me to accept and rest in the gray/grace filled world God offers. This year for Lent I gave up alcohol…but not completely. Most of the time I choose not to drink but I have allowed myself to pick one day during the week to have drinks with friends. Some people may not think I am actually observing a Lenten fast…I do…and honestly that’s all that matters. When I choose to abstain from alcohol I am absolutely reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice and my dependence on him. When I choose to have some drinks with friends (and if I’m honest I felt a little guilty about it at first – like I was doing something wrong) I am reminded of the gift of grace and that it is absolutely NOT about me. The word that best describes this season for me this year is Freedom and it has been such a blessing.

So, I can say this…wherever you are at…maybe you are diligently observing your Lenten commitments…Maybe you started strong and lost focus…Maybe you never made any commitments. It’s not about you and it is never too late to start. There is nothing magic about the full 40 days. It is about making an intentional effort to prepare your heart for Easter. You can start (or restart) now… It is ultimately about recognizing the price Jesus paid for your life and the freedom that brings.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Let’s get on with it

I want to thank everyone who has been thinking and praying for us as I finish up this last cycle of chemo. I have been asked “What did you do to celebrate?” quite a few times and the honest answer to that is: nothing…yet. There is definitely a nice dinner and bottle of wine in my future but I am not currently in a place where I can fully enjoy it. Mentally it is nice to know that I wont have to go back in for another flush of chemicals but physically I am still riding out the side effects of the infusion. And truthfully I’m not riding them out very well. It was easier for me to give my body the rest it needed when I knew I had more chemo in my future. I wanted to recover my energy and strength before getting kicked by another round. Now that the last one is behind me I want to slam the book closed on the “chemo chapter” of my life as fast as possible. I am beyond ready to begin reclaiming my life from being a chemo puddle. This feeling of “getting on with it” is so consuming and unless you’ve personally had the giant cancer/chemo pause button hit on your life…is impossible to understand.

A little crass…and I do feel patience is a virtue. But somehow it fits. 🙂

However, I have learned that my body doesn’t go from 4 months of poison chemo –> normal activity in a week. Shocked? I’m not either but I desperately wanted it to be true. Yesterday, the weather was great and I had been gradually feeling better…so (1 week after my final infusion) I went for a 6 km run/walk around the city, stopped in on a friend with a new baby…came home showered and ate lunch quickly…hopped on my bike for a 12km round trip ride to my physical therapist…stopped by a cafe on my way home and read for 2 hrs…did some shopping and then made dinner. Today, my body told me that that was too much too soon and I earned a little extra couch time. OK, fine. I give.

Anyone who knows me well is probably rolling their eyes and shaking their head because, honestly, it’s not surprising…please resist the urge to tell me to take care of myself. I REALLY do get it and promise will be more conscious of giving myself grace and attempting to be more accepting of the process. 🙂 I am just so ready to feel like myself again…

Blessings,

Lynnea