Wednesday, September 10, 2014

After




The kids and I went for a walk the other day after it had rained really hard. My son commented on how he didn't really like the air because it felt thick with water. He noticed the earthy smell that the rain brings with it, the wet ground and the vivid colors of the foliage - some of the plants excited to be alive and some beaten down by the past torrent.
I told him that I enjoyed the rain and also after the rain. It was exciting. Different. It provides for life, but at the same time it could ruin things. What a paradox a storm can bring.



I have been trying to figure out what my life looks like after the storm of cancer. It isn't the same as is was and it is not the same as it has been. My ground is soaked with so much rain. Some of my flowers have bloomed from nourishment. But I have leaves and branches that have broken, fallen away. Been beaten down, down, down.

Who am I now? 

I set aside so many everyday worries and burdens when there was the big WORRY. Now I have seemed to pick them up again thinking I should be able to carry them if I was able to get through almost two years of battling something big.

Why do I do that?

How many burdens are ok to carry? Can I just be free? Is it ok to be free from worries?

And is it ok to be different? To allow cancer to be part of who am but not let it define me completely? 
Maybe it is just too fresh. I will be on medication for the next ten years. It hasn't even been a year since my hysterectomy - and it changed me. It changed the way I feel. It changed my moods. It changed my sleeping habits.



I am happy to be almost past these two years. I am relieved to be living. I am grateful for things I never noticed before. And yet...

I am picking up some yokes of life that I think I SHOULD carry because I FORGET that I wasn't the strong one who got through cancer. I FORGET that I am not the one who should be able to do so much because I think I should have some kind of extra strength now since I am done with chemo and finished with surgeries. I am different now. But I am still the same. I was weak before. I was weak during and I am weak after. And I am kind of glad about that. I don't want to be the one who carries my world alone, even though I sometimes try.

When I am weak, He is strong

"Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you"



I haven't been doing these hard things from the beginning. Why do I think I can do them alone now?

Going to be doing less carrying
and more casting...

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take MY yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." ~Jesus Christ




Friday, June 20, 2014

And I keep having adventures

In my last post I mentioned that I sensed change coming. Well, here it is. After more than 14 years in our East Nashville house, we have moved! 

I just have to get this off my chest - moving is the worst thing ever (ok, chemo is a little worse - but not much!) I have so much more sympathy for people who are moving than ever before! 
Y'all, I am so tired, I don't know how my body is still functioning.
But as grueling as the process is, I am so glad we have done it! We are taking the steps to get out of debt and it feels good to be making some wise financial decisions.

The first morning that I woke up in the new house, the very first thing I read as I opened my Bible was: "Lord, you've been kind to your land; you have changed Jacob's circumstances for the better." Psalms 85:1
That verse sums up this move perfectly.

So now, let me just reminisce about the house we have raised all of our kids in until now:










It was a good place.

The new one will be just as good. Maybe even better.
We get to do a lot of work on it, which is completely daunting and yet exciting. I'm pretty sure I would not be happy if I moved into a space that was already redone. An old untouched house really gets my creative juices flowing.
I'm already getting "before" photos of all the lovely flocked and metallic 60's wallpaper for you to Ooooh and ahhh over. You are going to love it.
NOT.






But, give me 14 years, and it is going to be awesome.
(Insert smily face with extra wide, slightly overwhelmed eyes here.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

What happens when you cry in yoga class and the dumbest prayer I ever prayed


Ok, nothing really happens when you burst out crying in a class of twenty people all doing the pigeon pose. Other than there is a weird muffled, snot sound and you feel like a hot, embarrassed mess.
But that has been me. Feeling feelings.
I am usually a feeling stuffer. I can become disconnected emotionally. I do it to protect myself from getting so happy that  it hurts when hopes are dashed, or so sad I can not move forward. I do it to feel in control of my surroundings. Not feel.
Which is why I was taken by surprise when I began to sob in my propped-up-on-blocks pigeon pose. It is a pose I am used to. I love the hip opening burn of it. But I am so protective of my chest, that I can't fully rest with chest laying on my bended knee anymore. I don't know if that is even the real reason I cried. Maybe it was a simple release reflex, and me acknowledging that I am NOT in control (one more time out of millions of times.)



It seems like the older I get, the less I know. The less I can do. The less I understand. 
And I think this is exactly what God wants me to feel. I am and always have been out of control, and I think He wants me to feel it.
I have been reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller, (a book I highly recommend) and in it, he talks about this very thing. He quotes John of Landsburg, in his sixteenth century book, A Letter From Christ, who imagines Jesus saying to us:
"...I don't want you to rely on your own strength and abilities and plans, but to distrust them and to distrust yourself, and to trust Me and no one and nothing else. As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief. You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of Me. You may hope and trust in me absolutely. My mercy is infinite."

So, my feelings of craziness, out of control, can't think, can't do, don't know, fumbling bumbling tripping speeding kamikaze, can be a GRACE designed to cause me to turn to Jesus - who IS in control. Who loves me and my family. 
Because when I am at the end of my rope, I cling to Him.



This week was my final chemotherapy treatment. How overjoyed we all are! I have felt my soul breathe a sigh of relief.
But I have to say that as hard as it has been, I have been blessed a hundred times more than the sorrow it has brought. It has proven the trustworthiness of God and put into perspective the ingredients of my life here on earth. And I don't want to lose that perspective.
I'm actually scared I will lose that perspective.
So that brings me to the dumbest prayer I ever prayed:
"Lord, don't allow me to fall into a sense of my own control, that I might turn to something other than You."


And then I told Him, "wait, I don't mean that! I need rest!"
A small voice inside me whispered the words I know to be true:

 "I (the Lord) am the one that gives rest in the middle of a storm."
And
 "I fight your battles, you only need to be still."



The day after I prayed my oh, so risky prayer, I begin to feel a change coming to our household. I won't go into detail about it yet, but I can sense that God is answering my desire to cling to Him.

I have to admit, even with all of His proof of faithfulness, I am still afraid!
 I still don't know.
 I still don't fully understand
.
But I am willing to push my quaking boots into one more step after Him. And then one more step after that.
 I think that is all it takes. 
A minute step forward, as our completely-real childlike selves, towards our God.

P.S. Happy Easter.
"He has done it!" Psalm 22:31



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A new year with the same God

I couldn't help but wake up today, January 1st, 2014, with a sense of anxiety. Yes, it is a new year, free from surgery after surgery (I just finished my sixth since this whole cancer thing started,) it's past the most intense part of chemotherapy and I'm looking forward to doing things I wasn't able to last year. And with it brings pressure. Pressure that I imposed on myself somewhere in the night or early morning between these two years of Our Lord. "This year I have to be better. This year I have to do more. This year will be the year I ..." fill in the blank.



I stormed downstairs to provide a "special day" service of making brunch for the family (also my own idea) and I threw my hands up in irritation with a suffocating feeling of overwhelm (is overwhelm a thing? Because this morning it became a noun that choked my being and applied it's crazy, obese weight on my back.) The kitchen was in disarray from our relaxed dinner last night. We were out of eggs and milk. I stepped on a heavily abused toy and generally just woke up too late too feel good about anything anyway.
 If I can't start the day like Mary Poppins on the first day of the year, then how can I do better, be better, do more and be more any other day?




My ever peacemaking husband came down to partner with me in the endeavors of the day, and his first task of order was to reminisce a personal moment of clarity.
We were newly engaged and we went with a few friends to a lonely out of the way camping spot on a very small island in the middle of a lake. It was early spring, and while the weather was pleasant during the day, the water of the lake had not lost its winter chill. As dusk settled on our little two tent temporary homestead, Seth and his friend decided to troll around in the canoe that had expertly delivered us to our island.
Alone on land, my companions and I tended our fire and darkness settled all around the edges of our bubble. 
I don't know how long they had been out in the boat before we heard a distant splash and strangled cry.  I ran as far to the edge of the wet blackness as I thought I could without falling in the frigid water myself or soaking the only pair of sneakers I brought. I screamed a question of well-being into the direction that I last heard my fiancĂ© and friend. There was no immediate reply to me, only "Greg! Greg!.....Greg!" as Seth struggled for purchase on one side of the slippery boat bottom and our friend, unseen by him, struggled to hang on to the other.

I fell to my knees. I had believed in God once. And for that night I sought Him again. 

Meanwhile, God was planting a seed in my future husband, despite the fact that neither he nor I had desired a relationship with Him on a regular basis. Up until then, God was a being of our own making. One that we had created in our minds to resemble ourselves - made to do what we pleased and was "good" as long as he was making choices that we, ourselves, would make. 

But a proximity to death can sometimes change all of that.


I finally heard Seth shout out that they were both alive but that the boat had capsized. They were able to save a flashlight and they turned it on to give us an awareness of where they were located. The light helped my hope, but there was nothing we could possibly do in the night to save them - since they had our only means of transportation and it was currently floating upside down in a hypothermic, 80 foot deep lake with the two of them barely hanging on in their water-weighted clothes.
I couldn't keep track of the time as I sat at the edge of the island pleading with God and wondering how much longer it would take them to reach shore - or even if they would make it to shore - with their cold, cramped, water-logged muscles straining against the wind blown current that was pushing against their every forward thrust. It was hours. It seemed like days.
And my Seth, who didn't pray, was praying.



He wasn't bargaining with God. His strength was ebbing away but he had the presence of mind to acknowledge that making empty promises to live better would be akin to making idle declarations under duress. It wouldn't mean a thing. Instead he came to a God he hardly knew with nothing but the realization that he indeed had not one iota to offer Someone who could save his meager life.

Seth's life was saved that day. After clinging to the overturned vessel nearly three hours, the two friends finally made it to the opposite shore despite the lake's desperate attempt to suck them to its depths. They were weak with exhaustion and hypothermia, but they were alive. And a seed had been planted. A seed of what the grace of God truly means.
A person can't do more, or be more, to earn His love. He is there, loving us before we even see Him. We can't do better or be better to make Him save us from ourselves and our predicaments. We are just not good enough, smart enough, or powerful enough to save ourselves. But when he saves you, despite yourself, you can't help but be changed.

As Seth recounted his story, one that I already knew so well, my heart was guided to bow down to the mighty God of Grace, as tears flowed from my tired eyes.






This notion of doing better the next year will always end in disappointment. I just can't do better. But He can. Last year, every single thing that needed to happen, did. Things that didn't necessarily need to happen, but were welcome blessings and joyous moments, happened too. His Grace was so present in every moment - how can I do better than that?
 So for this year, I am entering it just as I am - with all my baggage, my hurts, my many, many scars and my less than perfect ways and I am not going to strive to be better. I'm not going to try to do more. I'm going to keep plodding along, reminding myself to keep my eyes on Him, who grants every year of my life with more grace than I deserve.
And His grace will once again be sufficient beyond all my expectations.




And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6 NIV)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:3)



A comment that I read this morning on Facebook made me begin to reflect on WHY I ever decided to be a follower of this God/man Jesus Christ.

When we get caught up in our Christian bubble, with all our Christian friends and our Christian music and ways of life that have become rote, and habit, sometimes it is easy to forget that desperation that brought us to our knees in front of Him, our Lamb sacrifice.



And I believe there is a hidden form of persecution that hurts the Body of Christ as much - I think I will go ahead and say MORE - than people who hate Christianity. And that is people who claim they love Jesus Christ and are following Him and are not.
There are pretenders in every social group, every political group and every religion. People who need the group for protection, or anonymity, status or to further their gain. But it is particularly outrageous when a person uses Jesus's name to represent evil. It is the antithesis of who Jesus Christ was and is, and this form of persecution hurts His church and it hurts everyone else who might come to Him but don't because they can't figure out who He is because of these play actors who warp and mar His name and character.
Faux-Christians would like you to think that they are part of an elite group that is good enough. They are mighty. Righteous. Not like you - but above you. Perfect - or close to it. Their agenda is deemed higher than all others because it was given to them by God. But in actuality, these people are the persecutors. They are wolves in homemade, faux-wool, sheep's clothing.
And you know it because when you finally see the real sheep, there is no mistaking it. Sheep are lost all by themselves. They are desperate for food and water. They are smelly and oily and....animal-y.
Wolves are like that too. And Jesus loves them just as much as He loves the sheep. But the wolves don't care about that because they have their clean, cotton, puffed, detergent smelling lamb costume. And they try to fool everyone, sometimes even themselves.



This group, this body of people who make up the followers of Jesus Christ is not elite, nor exclusive.
We are the desperate. The hopeless. The grieving. The meek. The simple minded.
We are the sinful. We are the liars. The beggars. The diseased. The thiefs. The cheaters. The killers. The abusers. We are the mockers. The haters. The enviers. The self- absorbed.
We are dirty, stained and broken.
We are just like you.
And everyone else is just like us.

Except for Him.

He - Jesus Christ - was different.
He didn't come for those who were different too. He didn't come to show us that we could choose to be different.
He just came to redeem, all alone, all by Himself, all of that awfulness and brokenness that we have inside us. He paid for it. He named us clean. He named us worthy. He named us His family. He called us loved. ALL of us. The whole world. Everyone who ever lived and ever will live.

It is just that some people want Him in their lives and some people don't. And then some people have on a costume. And think they are not who they really are.

I came to love Him because when I came to Him I had nothing.  I was a wolf with a stupid, itchy costume.  I was a liar, a thief and a cheater. I was broken and hurt and he tended my bleeding soul. He gave me a heart that I didn't have before. He changed my outlook on this hopeless life. He brought me out of the miry pit of self despair, the never ending joke of self-accomplishment and the abounding weight of anxiety. He made me into a sheep. A real one.





Not to say I don't struggle with all of these things. As long as I am on Earth I still have the capacity to sink and do all of these things I don't want to do. Which is why I am following Him. It is not a one time turning. It is a coming to Him every day. It is staying near Him. It is keeping my eyes on Him as much as I can remind myself to do it. His proximity to me is my food and water. Because without Him I would become that same broken person again.

Don't be swayed by the "perfect Christian" who doesn't act like Jesus Christ. Go to the source and see what you think about Jesus Christ Himself.
 It's not a costume party. Just go as yourself.



Friday, November 1, 2013

Where is your faith?


I have come through a major storm. But the winds are still gusting. The waves are rolling my boat. The lightning comes threateningly close. I am on the precipice of a decision that will, for the rest of my life, be somewhat of a challenge.



I have chosen to have my ovaries and uterus removed, thus removing the high possibility that I will get ovarian cancer, and also removing my main source of hormones. 
You see, I tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation, which means that my body doesn't have a great capacity to suppress breast tumors, ovarian tumors or peritoneal tumors. I got an opinion from two different oncologists who both said that I was a ticking time bomb, because they estimate that I have a 60-80% chance of getting ovarian cancer - especially since I have already had early onset breast cancer.
Besides, my breast cancer grew on hormones, so eliminating them permanently decreases my chance of a relapse.
Here's my fear: I don't want to live without hormones for so long. I'm afraid. I'm afraid of bone loss. Memory loss. Hair loss. Dry skin. Aging skin. Heart problems.


But this is the thing: God, for some reason or another, allows storm after storm after storm in our lives. I don't always know the reason, or if there is even a reason besides that I make a broken world my home. I guess I don't need to know the reason except to know that if it weren't for these storms - why would I trust Him at all? I might instead trust myself and my capacity to earn, do, take care of, and fix. I might put my faith in a trusty pay check from a cushy job. I might lean on our incredible technology and the amazing feats of science. Except that I know - beyond all doubt - that all of these things fail. They fall short. They don't last. They don't love me. They can't work miracles.


He said to his disciples, "Where is your faith?" Filled with awe and wonder, they said to each other, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!" (Luke 8:25)




Sometimes, He asks "Where is your faith?"
 He is not asking you or me to muster up some more. He is not saying that we can be in control (or even that HE can be in control) only if we HAVE enough.
No, He is literally asking us - WHERE have you put it? Have you put in the hormones that keep your body running young and smoothly? Have you put it in healthy food and exercise? Have you put it in your ability to work hard and make money? Have you put it in doctors, or family or friends? Or perhaps have you have just kept it for yourself, hoping that if you collect enough it will mean something?

When Jesus asks "Where is your faith?" He is asking you to place it in HIM if you haven't already. Which is why his disciples immediately ask "WHO is this?" And it is the question WE should be asking instead of "Why?" Of course, they know who he is, and you may too - but they are learning WHO He IS. He is different. He is not just a teacher.

 He is the ALL. 

GOD.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1:15-20)

Now, I am asking myself in these moments of crippling fear (and I should be asking myself every single day since I so quickly forget) "WHERE have I put my faith?" I know that if it is in Jesus Christ, who commands the storms, it is right where it should be and I have nothing to fear.

Where is your faith?





P.s. I always hate to ask for help, but I believe I will once again need some after this surgery. Here is the link for my meal train, if any of you feel inclined to bring a meal. http://www.mealtrain.com/?id=maopw61ean9t

Monday, October 7, 2013

"But you, our God, are good and true." Solomon 15:1


Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, "Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?" He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, "Silence! Be still!" The wind settled down and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:38, 39)



Sometimes I doubt that God is good.
I don't have a hard time believing that He IS. It is not often difficult for me proclaim that He is in control. But when it comes to His goodness, I falter.
I think the main question we humans have, after we come to terms with "Is there more out there?", is "Why do bad things happen?" 
"Why is everything so .... Broken?"
And our yearning for answers to this messed up world can cause us to examine whether or not God is good and if He truly loves us.



Yesterday, I sat looking out at a gorgeous sky hovering over the sparkling waters of the Gulf on a vacation that was given to me as a complete gift to celebrate a year of living and surviving a cancer diagnoses.
I sat in amazement because there was supposed to be a hurricane here yesterday. A monster was headed in our direction, just as we were celebrating nearing the end of our family's personal storm. Preparations were being made for a disaster. Our boys and I were reeling in disappointment.
 I called my mom to cry about our misfortune, and she said to me, "Amanda, God can turn a storm."
And I told that to my children. Then for a moment, the veil of doubt in Our God's goodness was pulled back and we believed, that no matter what, He loved us.

Soon after, the storm broke up.
And the weather was BEAUTIFUL.



Jesus doesn't always turn the storm.
But He is always in the boat.
Sometimes, though, when He knows you have had enough, He says "Be still." in a quiet and authoritative voice.
And it is.

God is not beating me down with some kind of training - like a misused soldier - so that I will bend to His will only out of the need to survive.
Rather, out of His GOODNESS and love towards me, He is gently coaxing me to love Him, like a father with His beloved daughter.

Yes, God is good.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Letting go

Most of my life I have suffered from high anxiety. Panic attacks. A gazillion jumbled thoughts rushing in circles in my head. The need to do, do, do. And the desire for order outside of my body to compensate for the disorder I find going on inside.



During this whole journey of cancer, I have found myself having - needing - to let go of things in order to make it through. These are things that I told myself were good things to hold onto. Things, I thought I needed - but turns out I don't.
1. The need for an ordered, clean house.
It is true, I love living in a clean space. There is nothing, hear me, NOTHING, wrong with living in a clean organized space. If I could, I always, always would. But do I need it? No. Am I a bad person or a bad mom with out it? No. 
If people stop by and my house is in shambles, will they judge me or like me less? Maybe. But then, those are the kind of people that I may need to reconsider how close I let them into my life. But the truth is - MOST people are not going to like me less. MOST people are going to be happy to see that my house looks normal, just like their house does. They are going to FEEL less judged by me the next time I go to their house because they know that I am not a super mom. I'm just like every other normal mom and person on the planet. 
We clean when we can. But life goes on here. Lots of life. Sometimes the living needs to take up the time and not the cleaning up after it.

Let it go.




2. My style and appearance.
Some of you might be rolling your eyes at me right now, but for me, this has been an issue. I used to not feel comfortable going out of the house without making sure I had at least a little bit of makeup on, or a cute, trendy outfit, or my hair styled in a way that made me feel confident. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of that! But I literally couldn't go anywhere, without these crutches because of fear of judgment. Did I look too plain, did I look too pretty? Was I too dressed up or too casual? What would people think of me? I don't think I even ever realized that I had these feelings, I just didn't want to leave the house if I wasn't ready. And getting ready took too long, so I just didn't want to leave the house. I know, it sounds crazy - but read the first paragraph of this blog again.
When I was going through the first, poisonous rounds of chemo and my hair all fell out, I didn't have the luxury of hiding away. I still had to go to the hospital every week. I had people coming to bring food. I had life to live, and I did it all in a scarf. My eyebrows and my eyelashes fell out. And I still had to go and do. And live. And it was ok.
Breathe.
I don't need to look a certain way to be accepted.
People still like me when I don't have makeup on and am wearing my workout clothes.
And those same people like me when I'm dressed up all fancy for a date.

Let it go.




3. Talking to strangers.
In the past, I have been scared of people. I have been afraid to speak up and introduce myself. I have felt embarrassed because I can't remember your name or if we have met before. I expect the worst reaction from others, even if I never, ever get the worst. I expect judgment.
This is the third time in a row I have mentioned judgement of other people. Can you see a running theme? It was time I stopped living for what others might think, and start living for what God thinks about me - even though I thought I was doing that the whole time.
I met so many sick and hurting people in the chemo room. There was one day when a woman began having an allergic reaction to some of the meds. She couldn't breath and her face was swelling and turning red. All of the other patients in the room, including me, were looking at her with pity, and with fear that this horrible thing could happen, when I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to to pray, pray, pray for her. Not inside my own head from my chemo chair, like I was apt to do, but to get up and drag my intravenous pole with me and touch her. Y'all, I was so scared to do it. But I knew that if I didn't, I would be disobeying GOD because I was scared of His creation. So I did it. I prayed. Out loud, in that chemo room full of people. And you know what? Her swelling went down and she began to breath. And I looked over at the woman in the chair next to mine, across the room and she was crying. The power of God was in that room. 
His power can still move, if I disobey. But then I wouldn't get to see it so clearly. 
Engaging His children is something I want to do well. For His glory.

Let it go.

4. Taking pictures.
I know this sounds like a silly one to let go. And I am not letting it go completely (as you can see.)  I still love taking pictures; I love making little snapshots of art and I love looking at them to remember. But I used to take so many photos, for these reasons: to remember, to exercise creative juices, to illustrate my writing, AND to show others what I was doing and how awesome it is was, and to prove to myself and others that I was living a good and happy life.
There, I said it. I wasn't taking all of my pictures for myself and my family and friends to remember or for art's sake, but to try to appease the judgement I thought I felt from the world to BE something and DO something extraordinary and exciting. 
And I am neither extraordinary nor exciting. I am an ordinary person who sometimes gets to do extraordinary things because of the grace of God, and I am just as boring as everyone else, unless I somehow get to do something that is fun and exciting. I don't have to prove it for people to like me. I don't have to prove it to be a good person. And I don't have to prove it for God to love me.
Letting this one go has been years in the making, not just from going through cancer. I have felt some unease about certain aspects of sharing pictures or thoughts online for a while. I just couldn't put my finger on what it was. 

Let it go.





To sum up those lessons I've learned (or hope that I have learned - He is not through with me yet!) I will leave you with this verse that I love and am only just now being able to understand the depths of, in my own heart: "Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people. You know that you will receive an inheritance as a reward. You serve the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23:24


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mutilated

I am finally allowed to take a shower today, after my surgery on Monday. I have been looking forward to this moment, so I am surprised when I step into the warm, cascading water and begin to weep. This is not my body, I cry. These are not my breasts.
They are not the right shape. They aren't the same size. They feel different and in place of where a nipple should be, I have long, angry incisions. I'm am mutilated. 
Of course I knew all of this before I took my clothes off today. I have known this for months. But to start to round the bend to recovery and realize that it will never, ever be the same, I am always and forever different - it is...what word can I use to describe it? It is complex.


                                    
 
I never thought I would talk about my breasts in public, let alone write about them on a public blog, but here I am, just trying to communicate how in one sense I am so detached from them - in that I don't  need them, or want them since they were trying to kill me - and in another way, they are somewhat definitive of my whole journey, and important. What an odd thing.

Just out of the shower, I know I need to immerse myself in God's words, or else I might find myself meditating on my scars in a negative way all day long. I pull out some scripture cards that someone gave me near the beginning of this journey and begin to read:

"Have I not commanded you, Amanda? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

"You are not your own, Amanda; you were bought with a price, therefore, glorify God in your body."

"Behold, Amanda, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands."

What an amazing reminder that Jesus's body was mutilated and scarred beyond anything I can imagine, for me.

I am not the same. No surgery will be able to make me the same. But there is redemption here. I can't see it at every moment, but when the veil is pulled back for a second and I see it clearly, that is enough to hold on to. 
It is hope. 
That I am not alone.
 That He knows my pain.
 That he will use this broken body for His purposes anyway.
 And that one day I will be made new.
 And perfect. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August Update

School has officially begun, and I'm on a busy high, with so much that needs to get done and all these rowdy kids to educate. I have been trying so hard to eat healthily and exercise daily, and I have noticed a huge increase in my moods and energy level because of it. I'm so thankful.

                                    

I have also been making a very small line of jewelry that represents my journey so far. there are three necklaces, all based on Romans 5:3-5 which says: "... but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)

A portion of the proceeds from the necklaces goes to the Susan G. Komen Race for The Cure, which I will be racing in coming up in October. If you like to run (or walk!) please consider joining my team. I would love to have you beside me on that day. 


My team name is "Amanda Conley," captained by Sarah Hill.


I still have to do a treatment every three weeks, and I feel crummy for a few days afterward. But then my body perks back up and I feel good for the remaining days in the treatment cycle.
On Monday, however, I will be having the remaining reconstruction surgery. So I have been (somewhat manically) preparing for some major down time.
My dear friend, Sarah, has added days to my meal train so that the first week and a half I can hopefully have some help. I have been constantly amazed at the people who have stepped up and stepped in to carry me and my family through these tough times, and I want you to know that I never, never take it for granted. I am so very thankful for everyone and your constant generosity.
Here is the link to the meal train:  http://www.mealtrain.com/?id=maopw61ean9t