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

A God that provides

I will confess upfront that I don’t know how to begin or write this blog post. So many things changed so quickly that every time I thought about writing I stopped…overwhelmed at the thought of attempting to summarize even a portion of what I was experiencing. The longer I waited…the longer the list got…the more daunting it felt…and then it was easier to just avoid. I’m breaking the cycle now and going for it.

I have spent these last few months in awe of the way God has shown up in this transition 27cebb510da807eaa58fdd5462145c4bprocess and how it has been confirmed over and over that Seattle is the place for me right now. Things I needed were abundantly provided for and (at times) it has actually been difficult to believe and recieve. I found myself holding my breath afraid that the slightest disruption would cause everything to unravel.

I don’t know if you remember this post from the summer about stepping into the unknown (It’s been a long time, I understand 🙂 ) but I’ll recap. I had been drawn back to Seattle since the spring of 2013 but due to some large obstacles, uncertainties and things I didn’t want to let go of I stayed in the Netherlands. I told God that “If He wanted me back in Seattle…HE needed to move me back”.  And boy did He ever…but it took me stepping out in faith and making a bold decision to move before I knew where all the pieces were going to land.

So, I booked my ticket and took a deep breath…apprehensively ready to face the checklist involved with in an intercontinental move. The big ones:

  1. Moving: Packing, Selling, organizing and shipping my stuff – UGH
  2. Job hunting from abroad: Updating my resume, searching for positions and with any luck interviews – DOUBLE UGH

I will be honest and say that I had resigned myself to the fact that I might find some job prospects from Europe and maybe even have some phone interviews…but practically speaking it would be difficult to actually land a job before I was physically present in Seattle. I did trust that God would provide the right place in the right timing, I guess I just assumed some practical boundaries on that timing. Silly me.

In preparation for the impending job search I dusted off my LinkedIn profile and began reaching out to old connections. I searched Craigslist and other job sites. I was internally connected to a few positions at Philips in Seattle but roles that didn’t seem like the perfect fit. LinkedIn, in its helpfulness, would send me opportunities I might be interested in…in China…and California…and a few in Seattle but again nothing very inspiring. One day there was a banner ad for an engineering position at Starbucks. Really? Why does Starbucks need engineers? It was something that seemed more like a click generator rather than an actual position.

My curiosity was piqued and through a little internet hunting I was able to find the original job position on the actual Starbucks website. Hmmm…this could be a legit job posting. I guess Starbucks needs engineers? Strange.

So, I tuned my resume and submitted all my info into their web based hiring portal – also known as the black hole of time and energy since the response rate from these things is abysmal.

To my surprise they contacted me. I guess someone does read these submissions. 🙂 After MANY Skype interviews over a few weeks…they made an offer for a role as a Senior Equipment Development…and I accepted…5 weeks before I was scheduled to leave the Netherlands.

It all moved so quickly but I felt complete peace about the role. I just didn’t really believe it was real.

This position is a fantastic fit for me…technical and relational. Starbucks is a very dynamic environment and, from my experience so far, they really do care for their employees. And it turns out, they need engineers…DESPERATELY. Next time you stand at the counter look beyond the barista and your foamy beverage…they touch a tremendous amount of technical equipment. And now one of the people developing that equipment is ME.

Coming home with a job was already a HUGE provision but this is where God blew me away. Do you remember me telling God that if He wanted me back in Seattle He needed to move me back? In making that statement I felt stubborn and selfish but I was also exhausted. Life had just knocked me out with a 1, 2, 3 combination and I didn’t have the energy (or desire) to make that step on my own. If this was a direction He wanted me to move I needed the door opened…I needed something.

Well…my new position at Starbucks included a relocation package that took care of EVERYTHING. Packing in the Netherlands, moving, unpacking in Seattle, flying, translating my medical documents. EVERYTHING. I was honest with them. They knew I was coming home either way but they wanted to do whatever they could to make my experience working here as positive as possible. Crazy.

God not only opened the door, He kicked it in off its hinges.

OK…I guess Seattle is where I need to be.

I never would have found this position if I hadn’t already made the decision to move back to Seattle.

I RISKED into uncertainty first and took a step. The initial 2 months after I bought my ticket were extremely difficult. But I trusted and it felt as if God was encouraging my faith and trust by completely blowing me away in this move.

I am going to end this by saying that God ALWAYS provides. Not always in the way or the time we want  but ALWAYS in the way and in the moment we need. In this phase of my story the provision was exactly what I wanted and needed. It doesn’t always happen like this. I have other parts of my story that were definitely NOT what I wanted but I recognize in hindsight were what I needed. Or years of praying the same prayer that never seems to be answered…where God seems silent.

But I wanted to share an update and testimony on my journey back to Seattle. I know that my faith is encouraged by hearing how God works in people’s lives and my prayer is that this does the same.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Stepping Out

I haven’t always known how to react when Christians say definitively that “God told me to do ______” or “God led me to do _____”…you can fill in the blank with many different things. Move to Africa. Choose this vocation. Marry this person. Attend this church. Reject this theology. I admire their conviction but wonder how they can be SO certain. Because God speaks to me in whispers at a deep heart level. In songs or words that inspire me. It is a place where I can only hear if I am still and honestly even then He is not extremely clear. There is a lot left up for interpretation and my understanding can be skewed by my broken humanity. He has never picked up the phone and told me, directly, to do anything…EVER.

Since the spring of 2013 I have been feeling like I should go back to Seattle.

Was it God leading me? Was it me not wanting to be alone and missing my family? Who knows, but it was this gnawing thought in my heart and mind. The idea of going back was tempting but there were some mountains keeping me in place here in the Netherlands.

  1. I have a great community in Groningen. Friends that have become family…and deep relationships I have forged in my time here. Thinking about good byes (or even see you later’s) was heart breaking.
  2. I hate moving…with a white hot burning passion. I hate moving across the city…but across continents is on a completely different level. This is more than just packing a few suitcases and going. When we moved here Philips relocated our things and since then I have collected more. What do I do with it all? Ugh. Even asking the question sent shivers up my spine. Plus it is EXPENSIVE. Do I have the resources? Can I do this alone?
  3. Health care. Can I just move back to Seattle as a cancer survivor without a job and get on an exchange plan? I know they can’t deny me but what about coverage? What specialists do I need? All my medical documents are in Dutch and they need to be translated. I am on a couple maintenance prescriptions…how to I reestablish them? I don’t even know the cancer care system in the US…I only know the Dutch one…where do I even start? To say this is daunting is an understatement.
  4. I did not want to face some heavy emotions. I am looking forward to being with family/friends again but there are some extremely difficult things waiting for me in Seattle. It was much easier to avoid and not think about them in the Netherlands.

So…in the Spring of 2013…looking at this long list of things and recognizing that the inertia of my life was more towards staying…I crossed my arms and told God (seriously, who am I?) that if He wanted me in Seattle…HE needed to move me back.

Sometimes I wonder how He reacts to these demands of mine. With rolling eyes or exasperation. Wondering when I will ever learn…

Honestly, I don’t think so. I think it was more of a gentle “OK, if you’re willing…I will show you. Have faith that I know what you need. Trust me”…but again an e-mail confirmation would have been nice. 🙂

I was hoping for an easy, safe internal transfer with Philips back to Seattle. Something Faith MLK Jrwhere I could see a defined, secure path. I should know by now that God’s path is often not defined and you can only see the security in hind sight. It requires faith which can be incredibly uncomfortable.

I took a leap of faith this spring…a year after I made that demand of God. In April I wasn’t certain whether my cancer had returned and the overwhelming anxiety of those few weeks confirmed that my place was around my family… it was the push I needed to finally take a step…to face the mountains… and make the difficult decision to move. So, on May 23, 2014 I booked my one way ticket back to Seattle. I was afraid. I was insecure. I was uncertain. But I was also HOPEFUL. Because when I step out in faith…I am giving God the opportunity to show up in my life and that is exciting…or should be exciting.

But what if He doesn’t? These doubts are real in our broken world.

He provided for my tattoo but this is so much bigger. The fears start to erode the trust I have in God’s provision…and the mental attacks on whether this was the right decision grow stronger. Lies about how I am not good enough batter my heart. Trauma from past hurts haunt my thoughts. Is this really what God is asking me to do or am I pushing too hard? At this point I would settle for ANY concrete confirmation that this is the correct path.

For 2 months I prayed for protection and trust. I held on to the promise that God knows what I need better than I do and is absolutely FAITHFUL. I closed my eyes and accepted that I have no clue how this will all work out. But I do trust that something will work out.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Following the deep inner voice

You know the one…the one you hear in the stillness. When you turn off the TV or music. When you silence the distractions in your heart and your mind. It is an easy voice to push aside and ignore. It is quiet and sometimes extremely illogical.  It inspires to something

"The Voice" by Shel Silverstein

“The Voice” by Shel Silverstein

greater. Something bigger than myself. An exciting adventure that I can’t predict. But I am often too afraid to follow. Following means leaving my perceived security. My small little kingdom where I feel in control.

This inner voice is given many names. Intuition. Heart. Soul. For me, it is the Holy Spirit. It reveals the truth…and if I’m honest it can be a truth I don’t want to see. It can be a path I don’t want to take or a choice I don’t want to make. I will argue against it and justify another course. A more practical course. One that costs less and seems more secure. At a very deep level I know following the voice is best but it is in direct conflict with my pride and logic. How can I possibly do it?

Some lies of this world slowly contaminate my thoughts. I become less focused on heaven and more focused on myself and what I want. What I think I deserve. I have suffered. I have hoped. I have remained faithful. Where are you God? Why have you not responded the way I wanted you to when I wanted you to? I want to believe you will be faithful to your promises but it’s too hard…I want to be happy…I deserve to be happy…I deserve to be happy now…I don’t want to wait.

I am ashamed at my doubt because He has proven his faithfulness over and over but the deeper I go in faith the more insecure it becomes. I am risking more. How do I continue to trust He knows what I need? My fear of the unknown can shift my focus to the stormy water I am walking on rather than God’s promises. I lose hope. I lose courage because I don’t see a path forward and it feels impossible. It IS impossible……for me.

I close my ears because I don’t want to hear the gentle, deep inner voice. The one speaking love and calling me to true freedom…because it is a freedom that requires sacrifice. A sacrifice I don’t want to make but deep deep in my heart I hear these words:

“Happiness is temporary and insecure…you know that…but the joy you find in me is eternal. You think you know what you want but please believe that I know better. I am writing a story for my glory. I haven’t forgotten you. I created you for a very special purpose but trust me when that purpose and the path forward are hidden from you. When it feels like you are staring at an ocean with an army behind you. I am right here. I love you more than you can comprehend. Follow me.”

I want to follow. I know that it is best for me to follow. But it is hard and I can’t do it alone.

“I know. I’m not asking you to do it alone. I will help you…but you need to choose.”

Deep breath. How can I possibly choose? And the wrestling starts all over again…but somehow I feel closer to a choice. Each time through the cycle the choice is more and more clear. Will I have enough courage to make it?

Blessings,

Lynnea

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. 🙂

Blessings,

Lynnea

Photo1(1)

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

All Night Long

This blog has been a little bit quiet the last week because my sister has been visiting me from Singapore…and the sun finally emerged in the Netherlands so I have to enjoy that while I can. But I wanted to get a quick “Storm Survival” post out.

I have received this particular “Streams in the Desert” post 3 times in the last 2 days and stormy seawanted to share it. I found it to be very encouraging and sometimes storm survival is just allowing yourself to be encouraged for that day…allowing God to provide what you need to keep going and keep hoping. The post talks about Exodus 14 and God parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and GOD, with a terrific east wind ALL NIGHT LONG, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The seawaters split”
– Exodus 14:21 (The Message – emphasis mine)

I’d heard this story many times but somehow always missed the part that God worked through the night to part the sea. I guess I had internalized the “Hollywood” version where Moses raises his hand and the clouds get stormy and the waters immediately part…or at least within the span of the 2 minute clip. Nothing about them needing to wait all night. The first 1:30 from this clip of the Bible Miniseries Episode 2 (Exodus) does a great job of illustrating what I am talking about with the dramatization of the event:

I am trying to imagine what it was like. God had just used Moses to free his people from slavery under the Egyptians in a pretty spectacular fashion. He sent 10 plagues down to try and convince Pharaoh to release them…they were all pretty brutal but Pharaoh wouldn’t budge until the last one that killed his son. He had finally had enough of the Hebrew people and their God and allowed them to leave. So they collected their families and belongings and set out as a giant mob across the desert heading to the “Promised Land” where God would establish them as a new nation. Pharaoh eventually regrets letting his entire work force go and calls up his army to go after them.

There comes a point where the Israelites reach the Red Sea and God promised they would cross to the other side on dry land but I’m sure it looked pretty impossible to them…also they know now that Pharaoh is coming after them. There’s water in the front and a vicious army behind them. I think it would be pretty easy to doubt God’s promises and be afraid. Especially when Moses raises his hands, the wind picks up…and then nothing immediately happens. They need to wait ALL NIGHT.

Here is an excerpt from the Streams in the Desert post:

In this verse there is a comforting message showing how God works in the dark. The real work of God for the children of Israel, was not when they awakened and found they could get over the Red Sea; but it was “all that night”.

So there may be a great working in your life when it all seems dark and you cannot see or trace, but yet God is working. Just as truly did He work “all that night,” as all the next day. The next day simply manifested what God had done during the night. Is there anyone reading these lines who may have gotten to a place where it seems dark?

You believe to see, but you are not seeing. In your life-progress there is not constant victory; the daily, undisturbed communion is not there, and all seems dark.

“The Lord caused the sea to go back all that night.” Do not forget that it was “all that night.” God works all the night, until the light comes. You may not see it, but all that “night” in your life, as you believe God. He works.

– C.H.P. (via Streams in the Desert)

To me this is encouraging in the waiting, hoping, trusting season I am in. God was and IS faithful. The sea did part and the Hebrew people were able to cross to the other side. But I imagine that night of waiting was extremely terrifying for them.

I can’t see God working right now. I am in a figurative “night” holding on to promises that He will work all things out for my good. I feel like I am standing in front of a “Red Sea” with no idea how I am going to get to the other side. I do believe that when the time is right the path forward will be revealed…when this night shifts to day. Until then, I will remind myself of God’s faithfulness in my life and in the past generations and I have no reason to think this is any different. I will attempt to live my life in faith/trust not in fear.

Blessings,

Lynnea