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

How are you smiling?

Today is Easter Sunday. A day when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and how he defeated the power of evil by rising from the dead. Through his resurrection we have hope for a new life. A new, full abundant life. A life of love and freedom. A life of peace and joy. And it’s not just for the future in heaven but available to us right now…in THIS moment. It’s an awesome day!

A good friend of mine who I haven’t seen in a few weeks came up to me at church and told me I looked fantastic…like I am enjoying life. Laughing. Smiling. I said thank you and

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

we proceeded to catch up for a bit. We talked about life and I told her what has been going on for me the last few weeks. Her next amazed question

“How are you smiling?”

You see what I filled her in on is…my cancer might be back. A few weeks ago my Dr. confirmed there is something in my hip bone and I am currently waiting on the results of an MRI I had last week. I don’t know what it is. I know it is in a place where I feel something like a bruise but it has been more annoying than painful. The last few weeks have been a process of getting scans and waiting…waiting…waiting for results. It could be benign. It could be malignant. I don’t have any answers.

I wasn’t going to go public with this process until I knew more information and could tell a definitive story. Posting information like this makes people concerned and I don’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily.

But I was convicted this morning that I need to share this. Right now. In THIS moment. The moment where everything feels uncertain again. The moment where my tentative future plans are once again abruptly stopped. The moment in the midst of the fear and anxiety BEFORE I know what the path forward is. Because THIS is the moment where I experience the power of Jesus most profoundly.

When my friend told me that I looked fantastic and seemed happy…it’s because I am genuinely good. When she asks “How are you smiling?” I think of Philippians 4:7 which says “and the peace of God which transcends understanding will guard you heart and mind in Christ Jesus”. I can’t explain it. I just know I’m not faking it. There is a peace deep in my soul that can only come from God. I am always a bit hesitant to proclaim this because I know everyone has a different experience of God’s peace and I don’t want to say it always feels like this. I have been through seasons of grief and sorrow where peace was much harder to experience through the pain.

But, right now…for me in this incredibly difficult moment…God’s got me…and I can’t help but smile.

My future in this life is completely uncertain…thanks to Jesus my future after this life is solid.

So…How am I smiling? It’s Easter Sunday…He is RISEN…a better question is How can I keep from smiling?

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

 

Preparation and Expectation

A lesser known fact about me is that my dining table is (almost) always set whether I am planning a dinner party or not. I enjoy it. It is a rotating design feature in my home and keeps my table from collecting mail and other clutter I can’t be bothered to put away. My life, somehow, feels a bit more ordered when it is set.

This is a common dialogue for a first time visitor:

Them: “Are you having people over for dinner?”

Me: “Nope, I don’t have anything planned at the moment. I’m sure I will eventually.”

Confusion…Them: “Then why is your table set?”

Me: “Ummmm…I like it like that.”

Them: “Strange…that seems very American

Me: “Not sure…I think it’s just me.” 🙂

Recently, I have been thinking about this a bit more deeply. “Why do I like it set so much?” I’m sure it’s partly due to the creative element. My rockstar mom has made almost all the napkins and table runners for me…so it’s partly feeling like my family is closer than they are.

But mostly it comes down to HOPE and EXPECTATION.

I don’t need to have a dinner party planned to know there will eventually be one. That sometime in the future friends will come over to laugh and share a meal together. I am preparing in advance with an expectation it will happen. And it always does. Sometimes it is my initiative and sometimes it is a spontaneous evening. I never know…but either way I am prepared.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 24 in anticipation of honoring Jesus’ death on Good Friday and celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is one of His final sermons and He is talking to His disciples about the last days…how He will come again in judgement and establish His kingdom on this earth. You can feel the urgency in His words as He compels his disciples to stay alert…to be vigilant and prepared…because no one knows the hour or day He will return in glory…and they don’t want to be caught off guard. There will be trials…they will be persecuted…many people will turn away due to the rampant sin in the world…but those who endure will be saved.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm til the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:12-13 NIV

I confess that I don’t think about Jesus’ return enough. Most of the time I think about how thankful I am that God loved me enough to come to earth and cover my sins with His son’s life. I think about the resurrection and how I no longer need to fear an ultimate death. I think about grace and love…broken chains…redeemed lives. I mentally stop at Easter Sunday…get caught up in the present day and forget that Jesus WILL return. And when He does, will I be prepared? If I live with the EXPECTATION He will return, would my life look different? Would I stay selfish or surrender easier? Would I love more? Forgive more fully? Serve others? Live with more generosity? Build my life on hope even with significant trials?

This Sunday…look beyond the resurrection…will you be prepared?

I wish you all a very blessed holy week. Remember Christ has died…Christ has risen…Christ WILL come again.

Lynnea

 

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.

Blessings,

Lynnea

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,

Lynnea

Photo: www.ilovedevotionals.com

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.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Allowing space to grieve

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Old_Man_in_Sorrow

Vincent van Gogh – Old Man In Sorrow

Grief. It isn’t pleasant but it is an inevitable part of our life if we choose to invest our heart and care about anything. In general our society does not deal very well with it. We avoid it. We judge it. We numb it. No wonder people choose to harden their hearts and keep them locked away. It is safer that way. Grief hurts. It is a natural response to loss. Losing dreams. Losing people. Losing your reality and adjusting to a new life. And the process of grieving is unique to each person.

I am in a course right now and we just completed a section on grieving. In general we tend to experience/judge emotions based on our family upbringing. If anger or tears weren’t acceptable then you might have a tendency to judge those aspects of your grieving process. For me, I want to hit the fast forward button and get to the healed part. I know the emotions themselves are OK and necessary…I just don’t like being in the midst of them. However, experiencing them, in their natural timing, is the only way through them. Big sigh.

If you are grieving yourself or someone in your life is, it can be difficult to know how to ask people to relate to you…or know what to say. The material I am studying gave permission to share these tips with “family and friends”…maybe sharing them on the blog is a liberal interpretation of that. I hope not because they are useful. I didn’t write them but I don’t feel comfortable revealing the source because it’s too personal.

To be helpful, those dealing with a grieving individual should…

  1. Normalize what they are going through.
  2. Not throw Scripture band-aids at the grieving individual (even with good intentions)
  3. Refrain from telling the person that they know exactly how they feel.
  4. Let them talk about it if they want to, while being respectful if they don’t.
  5. Keep from making assumptions about anything
  6. Encourage them that one day their pain will be manageable – And it REALLY will be
  7. Give them hope for better days, but be realistic about the time frame. (The first year is difficult the second may be a bit easier)
  8. Continue to support them over time without expectations.
  9. Call and leave messages without expecting to hear from the hurting one.

Basically, give them freedom and space to be authentic with their feelings without griefjudgement. Because grief can come from SO many different places. It can be having something irreplaceable destroyed or stolen. A miscarriage. Your security in your home or health might have been taken. Loss of a cherished pet. The key is being honest with the feelings and allowing them to pass through you because experiencing them is the only way to move beyond them. If you don’t…then they will continue to influence your life in negative ways. I go back to this post I wrote about the hidden beauty of pain. I truly think that we need to allow ourselves the space to experience the hard emotions in order to experience the positive. Otherwise we just get numb. And personally I would rather experience pain/joy than nothing.

So here are a few practical tips:

  1. Again I am going to come back to the journaling – write it out. If you tend to judge your feelings ask yourself why? Do you think you should be feeling something different than you are? Do you think you should be over it by now?
  2. Read “A grief observed” by CS Lewis if you need to normalize the pain you are experiencing
  3. Scale back on commitments if necessary. Give yourself some space but be aware if the space is turning into isolation and depression. You might need a professional to help you sort through your feelings. That is not weakness but courage to face the real issues head on and recognizing that you can’t do it alone.
  4. Know that there is hope. I am still in the midst of the storm but I feel the tide shifting. Things are hard but not as hard as they used to be. There is a small part of me starting to believe everyone who told me “I wont always feel like this”.

Here’s to surviving another week,

Lynnea

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