For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather,
(thoughts from March 2018)
Today is the start of a new thing: Spring. I’m embracing the spirit of the season – the sunshine on my face and the call to new life. We’ve been housing a caterpillar over the past few weeks- the kids watching her undergo the transformation from tiny caterpillar to lifeless chrysalis to vibrant butterfly. On Easter Sunday they released her. This little creature reminded me of the ever-changing seasons we experience in our own lives – some productive, some painful, but each an opportunity to grow and learn.
Life during cancer treatment is no different. As I move from chemo to surgery to radiation, I know that the path to healing will bring cycles and stages. When I taught second grade, I schooled kids on the science of life cycles. Now, I get to look at this concept through the lens of a life lesson – carefully considering how I can remain in a posture that allows for growth even through the challenges. Inspired by a caterpillar and influenced by the cyclical nature of chemotherapy, the following thoughts and questions came to mind…
The beginning of something.
A new stage in our lives is coming to fruition.
An egg of possibility.
Encapsulated in this egg is hope, fear or a little bit of both.
Abundant anticipation for what lies ahead.
What do you hope for?
What do you fear?
What areas of your life are actually dead and in need of the Breath of Life?
What are you waiting for?
Life with Legs.
The caterpillar gets fatter and fatter as she prepares for what’s next.
The season of movement and preparation that leads to growth.
The worker ants carrying the seemingly huge crumbs on their backs.
We fill our minds, bodies and souls.
Building ourselves up for the challenges that lie ahead.
During chemo, when the side effects wane, you have “feel good” days. These are the days I would try to accomplish all the things. Kind of like that “nesting” urge during pregnancy. Preparation. Productivity.
What are you moving towards?
What (or Who) are you working for?
Is there something you need to stop putting off and do today?
Time is up.
We begin to withdraw - putting all of our energy inward.
This season appears still and lifeless from the outside, but...
Change is happening.
The work of change is often slow and hard, but necessary.
For me these were the days I was too sick to move. On the first evening of a chemo treatment, my husband would say that he saw the color drain from my face – literally turning to grey. It went straight downhill from there: nausea, dry heaving, dizziness, exhaustion. I would lie in bed and pray that the room would stop spinning or that I could just throw up and feel better. I would literally cocoon myself in the covers of my bed for days. This was difficult (especially for my husband juggling work and two kids). But it was also the perfect time of allowing God to just do His thing. I had no choice. I had to remain still. And in that stillness He literally enveloped me with His love and let me rest. While my body was recovering from the poison it has just been filled with, my heart was being reoriented – to a position of receiving. And the truth is that this resting (of body and mind) has been God’s design all along. Not chemo-induced rest, but rather the Sabbath concept: not a day to fall into rest from exhaustion, but a day to be filled with rest to be rejuvenated for the week ahead. There’s a big difference. True rest is a treasure.
When was the last time you were still?
What does rest look like for you?
What is your Sabbath?
What are areas, attitudes or appetites in your life that you need to take the pressure off or step away from entirely? (Ex. Things you are obsessing over like weight loss, finances, etc.)
What is God teaching you in your struggle? Your pain?
Do you need to transition from “pressing into” God to a season of simply “leaning” on Him?
I’ve never actually seen a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis. It’s one of those things that sort of just happens when no one is looking. Until this time. The caterpillar jar caught my eye and I saw the cocoon shaking. It turns out that sometimes they do this to ward off predators. Interesting. Maybe I need such a strategy to ward off all those things that threaten to stop me from living into who I’m called to be. There’s another interesting thing that happens as the butterfly emerges – it secretes red liquid. It’s not blood, but rather meconium – the “leftover part of the caterpillar that is no longer needed to make the butterfly”. I love that. A reminder that it’s ok to shed the things we no longer need.
That little butterfly was ready to be free. I was so ready to be free of the heaviness of the treatment I was undergoing. There was one small blessing in the chemo process – the side effects would always end. There was always a little light at the end of the tunnel – a few days of feeling somewhat normal. One day I would wake up and crave coffee and that was my queue – today’s the day. Wing time.
Have you got your wings today?
How can you live out this season of freedom and flight in a way that celebrates & honors God?
Who can you reach out to that needs to know his or her moment is on the way?
What “predators” do you need to ward off or things do you need to “shed”(you know, the things, habits, and/or people that hold you back from doing what you need to do…)?
Life is a cycle of seasons and change. Whatever season you are in, whether pain or bliss, it won’t last forever. This too shall pass. But the beauty in it is that there are so many good things to grasp in this very moment. Fight the urge to wait for your wings. Embrace the season you are in right now and learn the lessons you can’t learn anywhere but here.
One of my all-time favorite books on this topic is Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul by Mark Buchanan. It provides practical ways to live fully in each season of life.
When I started this blog I intended to write and post consistently. I thought it would be neat and organized. Much like my current journey, it’s been anything but. I’m still scrawling away in my journal, but making it coherent enough to share publicly has been a challenge. One of the many lessons I’ve learned as of late is that it’s ok to let go, to be still, to rest in order to give my mind a break, so that my body can catch up. I decided to do just that: finish the chemo leg of treatment without putting unnecessary pressures on myself. I did, however, keep up the Medical Journal to record those details and share with those who follow it and are praying for us. We covet those prayers. I’m thrilled to report that chemo is OVER! I finished my last treatment on April 17th. I cannot go forward without sending out a huge thank you to all of those, near and far, known and unknown who have been covering us in love and prayers, cards and gifts, letters and meals. The love we have felt is really unfathomable (that’s a word I can barely pronounce, so maybe that means it does a decent job of expressing the overwhelming sense of being cared for that we have experienced). We are forever grateful.
As far as this blog goes, I’m excited to begin to share the stories. The timing will vary because I am currently getting ready for surgery (June 5th). But I’m thankful that as I heal from this next step, I will have these precious moments of God’s faithfulness to reflect on and share publicly. When I started this journey, I asked God for not just peace, but JOY. Joy in the face of this Thing – that could either attempt to break me or to stretch me further into my calling. I chose B and the truth is I have to make the decision to choose it every day.
I’m fully trusting that God has given me these experiences coupled with the love of writing in order to serve a greater purpose: to share hope and light in a world where there is too little of both. Thank you for reading.