I will KEEP remembering

This blog has been a bigger blessing in my life than I anticipated when I began writing. Sharing my journey has helped me make real connections with people going through similar trials. It has helped me know how many people are supporting me around the world which makes me feel less alone and isolated. Another thing I have appreciated, as I hit the 1 year anniversary of various milestones, is that it has captured my thoughts and feelings through this year. I can look back and read posts about my surgery or feeling scared before my first chemo infusion. I can relive some of the grief from lost dreams because I have chosen to be honest in this forum. Being able to look back helps me to look forward and that will be the topic of this Storm Survival post.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post titled: I will remember. That was not a good season. That was an especially bad day. I was just starting chemo and it was going…well as good as chemo can go…but life outside of cancer had just become excruciating. I was broken. I was overwhelmed by everything that was coming at me. I didn’t have the capacity to deal with or process things that I needed to. I spent a lot of time in bed or on the couch in a daze. Breathing seemed to take too much effort. But I chose to write a post about remembrance. I believe in a good and faithful God, who is bigger than my circumstances, who has worked miracles and loves me more than I can imagine. A God of redemption. When my life was falling apart I chose to lift my eyes and remember the works and miracles of the past. His character hasn’t changed just because my life circumstances are hard.

I re-read that post…remembering all the pain I was feeling in that moment…and thinking some things have changed…some things haven’t. I had no idea what was in store for me over the next year when I wrote that. I had no idea what would still be stripped away and what I would need to surrender. I had no idea that God was actively training my heart to rely ONLY on him because the biggest tests were coming and I would be forced to my knees like never before. I had no idea that I would be able to point to practical examples of God’s protection of me. That I would be pushed completely out of my capacity into his and he really would sustain me…through the most difficult season I have ever faced…and am still facing.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. Only by God’s grace I am a better version of myself. This year has been scorching but it is solidifying who I am as a woman and a child of God. But the act of remembrance is one I need to renew and struggle with every morning. It wasn’t just a nice thought a year ago but the beginning of a continual process of calling to mind God’s faithfulness when my life circumstances want to pull my eyes down to my own hardships. This is an excerpt from my post a year ago:

Psalm 77
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion? ”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

At this particular moment I feel like I am living in the first half of this psalm (vs 1-10). Where my spirit is grieving and weary. It is difficult to be comforted or to find the strength to carry on. Sleep is hard to come by and it is impossible to know what to do. Except remember. I will choose to remember the ways God has worked in my life and the power/miracles he has displayed throughout time. This is not overly spiritualized my heart is still heavy…but I know my God. I know he is the giver of life and redemption. I know he can move mountains and pray fervently for transformation and provision.  And with this remembrance comes the peace of knowing it will not always be this way.

Once again…Psalm 77 by Kristin Serafini

I would love to say that after a year all my struggles are in the past. Unfortunately that is not the case. I am, however, in a different place. I have my moments of grief but I don’t feel like I am trapped any longer in the overwhelming, emotional cycle of the first 10 verses. It is easier for me to see and hold on to how faithful God has been through the generations and in my life. Again, note that I said easIER…because I still have to fight against my pride and desire to control things. It is not easy for me to truly let go but I am learning every day that that is the only way to true freedom. There is a mountain being moved in my life. It is still in process and in general it isn’t fun but God REALLY is moving a mountain. So I will keep remembering…I will keep clinging…I will keep hoping.

Practical tips:

  1. I have a list of the very real, very practical ways I have seen God provide and protect me this past year. When I doubt, when I am scared, when I am losing hope I read it. I remember the faithfulness of the past and wait expecting the same for the future…even when I can’t see the path yet.
  2. Sometimes “remembering” is hearing someone else’s testimony about how God has transformed their heart and life. Everyone’s story is different but hearing the ways God has worked helps keep me going. There are so many but here are a few I would recommend “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom (This book will give you an amazing perspective on what Thanksgiving is), “Blood Brothers” by Elias Chacour (Finding God’s hope for reconciliation in a difficult region), “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken (Read this one with a box of tissue…but definitely read it)
  3. Once again with the journaling. 🙂 Nothing tells you how far you have come like a record of where you have been.
  4. No other practical suggestions except do what you can to get up every morning…it wont always be like this.

Here’s to surviving another week,

Lynnea

 

You are not alone

I wrote a post last week about my observations of how we can increase or decrease our emotional bandwidth based on the way we move through life’s storms. If you missed it check it out here. The basic premise is that if you face the hurt and pain life throws at you head on without escaping or numbing…but standing face into the wind…you increase your ability to experience joy. Again, no academic backing to this but a lot of life lessons.

What I didn’t write about is HOW we stand in the storms. I am going to start a series on my blog called “Storm Survival” where every Wednesday I will write about what this has looked like for me practically. Its easy to say “stand” but a whole other thing to actually do it. And quite honestly “standing” is figurative there were several days I was actually curled up in bed because the thought of facing life that day was too overwhelming.

The first tool in my toolkit is the knowledge that you are not alone…honestly and truly God is with you…this just didn’t look like I expected it to look. And it definitely didn’t always feel wile-e-coyotelike it. I chose to believe His promise that He would never “leave me or forsake me”…unfortunately most of the time this is more obvious in hind sight. And before you have “hind sight” you just have to trust that it’s true and that is very VERY hard. If I look back on this year and my gradual decent into the deepest valley I have ever walked through I can honestly say “You truly never left me”. Because if the timing or order of events had been changed (and they easily could have) I probably would have dropped off a cliff in free fall into the valley…splat on the bottom.  The bottom of the valley was coming either way but the path I took to get there meant that I arrived upright and not Wile E Coyote flat as a pancake. But if I’m honest in the midst of the times when nothing made sense and everything seemed to be getting worse it was almost impossible to believe this was true.

I think sometimes Christians can have a very skewed perspective on how Jesus operates in our lives in the midst of these terribly difficult times.  If we say Jesus is our “refuge” and “comfort” that doesn’t necessarily mean you will all of a sudden feel better. Eventually, yes. Immediately? Probably not. I’ve watched people try to force themselves to be joyful and hopeful even when they aren’t just because they feel like as Christians they should. What does hoping in Jesus mean when things feel black? Or when you’re disappointed? There are many resources on this subject I am just going to tell you what helped me.

  1. Give yourself permission to be exactly where you are at with God. Angry, doubtful, disappointed, grieving…just honest. I promise He can take it.
  2. I read Psalm 77 everyday…I wrote about it here. This seemed to reflect the emotional cycle I was caught in. Anger/Anxiety for (v1-6) Questions about whether God was even there or if he would keep his promises (v7-10) Then a moment of pause remembering who God is (v11-12) When you remember who he is then you are reminded you can trust his faithfulness and power (v13-20). But since I am human I didn’t remember for very long and the cycle would repeat. On the hardest days I felt like I was in a tumble dryer because I was constantly going around and around. Not anymore. Things will always get better.
  3. A prayer I would pray in the morning. “Jesus you told me that you are the healer and redeemer of my heart. I believe that. It is only by your power. Only you know the depth of my pain. My heart hurts to a level I didn’t know was possible. You see it. You feel it. I trust that you will heal it. Please give me strength for the process and grace for today.” And then…I made myself get out of bed.
  4. I reminded myself that I would never be given more than I could handle on any given day. There were days when I thought I had been pushed too far and I thought that God had severely over estimated me…but it was never too much. It easily could have been.

Blessings,

Lynnea

 

 

 

I will remember

Well I survived receiving another chemo infusion. They got the IV started on the first time again…yippee! I’m going to keep asking for that because it is a tangible answered prayer for me. And I decided that I was going to skip the dry Dutch bread and cheese that they give you for lunch here and bring my own fabulous baked sweet potato fries. It was entertaining to watch people try to figure out what I was eating, because of course I had a little ketchup with them being an American. And once someone finally had enough curiosity to ask they just couldn’t get their minds around it for a few reasons…it wasn’t a sandwich for lunch…there wasn’t mayo for the fries…and who eats ketchup? I had a quick conversation with them about how sweet potatoes are SO much better for you than normal white potatoes and they seemed interested but who knows if it stuck. All I know is that I was very happy with my lunch and that’s all that really matters. Today I feel pretty good, no nausea, and I’m now in the balance of trying to never get too hungry or too full…and hydrate! At any given moment I have no less than 5 cups scattered around the house with various levels of water, juice, tea, and coffee.

My spirit was down going into this round because we received some extremely bad news that is probably worse than hearing you have cancer. The details of this are not for public blogging but it’s enough to say we’ve got some other stuff to deal with. So I must have a great excavator in my life that just doubled the pit I am now sitting in but here’s hoping we have hit bedrock.

In the midst of all of this I have been slowly reading through a book given to me by my new pastor and his wife at Vineyard Groningen, The Blessing Book by Linda Dillow. The 2nd chapter of this book has been especially relevant to me. The one I want to share with you today is called “I will remember” and it’s based around Psalm 77.

Psalm 77
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion? ”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

At this particular moment I feel like I am living in the first half of this psalm (vs 1-10). Where my spirit is grieving and weary. It is difficult to be comforted or to find the strength to carry on. Sleep is hard to come by and it is impossible to know what to do. Except remember. I will choose to remember the ways God has worked in my life and the power/miracles he has displayed throughout time. This is not overly spiritualized my heart is still heavy…but I know my God. I know he is the giver of life and redemption. I know he can move mountains and pray fervently for transformation and provision.  And with this remembrance comes the peace of knowing it will not always be this way.

Psalm 77 by Kristin Serafini

Blessings,

Lynnea