Ive had words on my heart for some time now, but much like our prayers sometimes, these words have felt more like groans rather than comprehensible thoughts. The blank page is a scary thing for me these days. It was my solace in the darkest days of my life, yet it’s the place that I’m most terrified to return to now. There are feelings that live in that space that I’ve worked incredibly hard to move forward from. But if I am going to continue any progress forward (and if I’m still being stubborn about going to therapy) then I have to be brave and let my heart bleed on the page sometimes.
On January 1, 2020, I deemed this year my year of REST, and I’ve given it a pretty valiant effort, but I also knew when I decided that was my word for the year that I had a long way to go to find true rest in my soul again. The way I was coping with things had gotten me through treatment pretty well, but at 2+ years post-treatment I needed to finally accept that while I had certainly processed things the best way I knew how to, that simply wasn’t enough.
My emotional health was a disaster, and it was manifesting in all kinds of uncomfortable ways in my life. I could feel parts of me unraveling each day, leaving strands here and there with no way to ball them back up together. I was running from some things yet clinging to others, feeling misunderstood, hating that I was even in a place to need healing, and frustrated that I couldn’t just fix it. But while it was hard to realize that I still had work to do on myself, I also had to realize that it was OK for my healing to not be where I wanted it just yet. I was never taught how to cope with cancer and face mortality before 30.
Most of all, I had honestly lost a lot of trust in the Lord as I traveled further and further away from everything cancer (even though that seems counterintuitive). I remember questioning in the first few days after diagnosis how I would ever experience any kind of symptom again and not have the terrorizing fear of recurrence overtaking me. And thankfully I eventually learned how to be a normal human again that gets the sniffles and a headache every once in a while and doesn’t totally lose their shiz. But apparently in thought-training myself to switch out the negative thoughts with better ones, I actually just inadvertently trained myself to stuff the scary thoughts into a bottle with the top screwed on very, very tight.
Listen, I KNOW with everything in me that the Lord ALWAYS turns things for good for those that love Him, and I do. I KNOW that every single detail of my story is so carefully woven together into the most immaculate masterpiece of a story that people were going to stand and stare at me jaw-dropped as I told them about it. I KNOW the Lord’s hand was in every single second of every single detail from years prior to diagnosis, to meeting my husband, to forming relationships with acquaintances, to the moment Dr. Carroll came to tell me at evening rounds, to right at this very moment.
But how on earth do I come to terms with the fact that there is zero protection from cancer (or anything else) happening again…for my good or not. That’s still really scary to me.
Contrary to what I somehow believed in my early Christian years, being a child of God doesn’t give you any free passes in life. Quite the opposite actually. Suffering will come, and the purpose, every time, will be for His kingdom. I just wanted to skip the suffering part. For real. But I mean, who doesn’t? No one wants to suffer, but we all want the purpose in life and the feeling that we made a difference somehow. I just got both…suffering and purpose…pretty early on. I’ve suffered in more ways than I ever expected to at this point, and I’ve also been given a purpose that I certainly don’t feel fit for that I would never have had if not for a cancer diagnosis at 28. That’s heavy sometimes too.
As stubborn and angry as I’ve been with the Lord at times, the one thing I am more confident in than anything is that the Lord was with me (and still is) through every single tiny moment. He’s comforted me through emotional meltdowns where I absolutely pleaded for relief from what I was experiencing. He’s given me strength and braveness for conversations I never thought I would have to have with doctors, family, and friends. And He’s held my heart in his palm and whispered peace and guidance to me when I felt like throwing my hands in the air and letting everything go to hell in a handbasket since it already felt like it was heading there anyway.
He’s the reason I survived cancer. He’s the reason everything fell in to place perfectly so that I landed in the lap of the right doctors at the right time. He’s the reason people were introduced into my life that would provide words of wisdom and experience when I needed it most. He’s the reason I lost two jobs in a row only to start working in the department that would unknowingly treat me in the next six months. He’s the reason I started this blog as therapy for my own heart and the reason others found it and found solace in my words during their journeys or the journeys their loved ones were facing. And He’s the reason I am still cancer free.
The Lord did not protect me from cancer, that’s the hard, glaring truth.
But He did protect me until cancer, through cancer, and eventually to victory over cancer.
And that’s where I’m finding some rest these days. Admittedly, It’s been a very slow process to get anywhere near here and I have tremendous work to do still. But I have learned a thing or two about rest and how to foster mental rest this year in a healthier way amidst the chaos.
IT’S OK NOT TO KNOW WHY
Knowing why is the magic key of life to me. If I know why something was done or why something was said, I can fix it, I can do better, and I can make it better. Unfortunately, I still have a long list of things that I don’t know why they happened or didn’t and that will be the case for the rest of my life. The Lord didn’t give me that privilege and that much control on purpose, nor do I need it. I mean, for real, I don’t even know if its safe for me to actually know and understand why some things in my life took place…but don’t think my stubborn self won’t completely exhaust myself trying to figure it out.
Some things I won’t know the answers to until I reach the pearly gates, and those things I’ve come to terms with not knowing why…but only those. I’m still working on the rest and working to accept that I simply don’t need to know why. Things happened like they did because they were supposed to, and that has to be enough from now on. Send prayers.
PEOPLE COME AND GO, LET THEM
I spend and have spent a lot of time reflecting on friendships and relationships of all kinds. The complexity is fascinating to me, but also I love being helpful and adding value to someone’s life so I’m always processing how I can do that more effectively. I’m a fixer. I’ve seen a lot of friends come and go in my life and most of that’s been the natural fluctuation. However at some point recently I realized that many of my close friends have fallen away in the last decade that had weathered much of my formative years alongside me…and most without expressing any reason. Womp. Womp.
As I’ve grown into my 30s, I long for my friendships to be much deeper than they used to be. I need my close friends to understand me and be willing to talk about real life. I want my friends to not flinch when topics reach beyond what looks and feels good. I need them to stick around when they ask how I’m doing and I’m honest and needing a bit of wisdom. And I need them to share in the fun and light-hearted laughter of daily life with me.
It’s unrealistic to have the expectation that friends are forever. Cancer knocked out several of those for me, but I would be lying if I said I’ve found closure on my own with all of those. As you can probably guess, my instinct is to find out what happened so I don’t make the same mistakes in future friendships and that’s not realistic either.
The reality is that friends have the ability to make choices for themselves that I don’t get a say in. The choice for me has to be knowing my worth and making sure I maintain that in the friendships I keep. I have to know at the end of the day that I did the best I could, and I’m worthy of having people that love and care about me. I’m worthy of support and my own little cheering section that will pray for me, listen to me, and have my back when I need it. So I have to learn to rest my mind and find peace in my worth rather than reaching for reasons from friends that didn’t see that worth.
My core motives in life are to find meaning and be meaningful. Often times that carries my thoughts off into la la land where I’m contemplating why trees grow like they do or what life might be like had certain events not taken place…it’s that whole butterfly effect thing Ashton Kutcher taught us about in 2004. Lots going on up there in the ole noggin always.
Social media has also created a space of comparison and reminders of people and things that we might not normally think about. There’s the normal harassment from parents about always having to have our phones attached to us too. So, while this pandemic has forced us to slow down and spend more time at home with only those close to us, I have been practicing leaving my phone behind more. It’s good for my soul to observe the beauty before me and soak it in as a memory rather than always whip my phone out to take a picture (that never does what my eyes see justice).
It’s also forced me to express myself and describe life more through words rather than always relying on a picture or something else and that’s something I needed. I’ve lost many authentic moments looking through my phone for a picture that I was reminded of in conversation when my description would have likely been sufficient.
So, I’m learning to stay in the moment and appreciate life as it is before my eyes. I’m learning to lean into the Lord again for comfort and peace and learn what it means to be a true Christian again with full trust in the Lord no matter what valley we walk through. And I’m learning to let things come and go in my life and understand that what is meant for me will find me (and stay) and what has run it’s course and is not productive any longer will go.
Onward and upward.