Swinger of Birches

birches

. . . So was I once myself a swinger of birches.  And so I dream of going back to be. It’s when I’m weary of considerations, and life is too much like a pathless wood where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs broken across it, and one eye is weeping from a twig’s having lashed across it open. I’d like to get away from earth awhile and then come back to it and begin over.  May no fate willfully misunderstand me and half grant what I wish and snatch me away not to return. Earth’s the right place for love …

–Robert Frost

I love birch trees … I always have.   The beautiful bark and graceful branches and shape have long been sought after landscape choices for many seeking beauty and exquisite charm in a simple, artistic way.

Some months back I remember traveling and as the passenger looking dreamily out the window, I saw what seemed to be a good mile of nothing but clusters of birch trees.  I was mesmerized by the beauty and remember commenting to John how I’d love to be lost there in the woods amidst the birches.  Fortunately, John’s known me long enough to know how “unique” my imagination is . . . but also how crazy I am; therefore sped up a bit, most likely afraid I would ask him to pull over and drop me off—me all too eager to be lost in the “forest of birches”.

Surgery happened.

My surgical oncologist is a rock star and knowing a bit about my music interests and the frame of mind I was in, I let her choose what music would be played in the OR.  So after praying and being wheeled down the hall, I entered the bright OR with the very unique and melodious Dido—calming my nerves incredibly.  My surgeon and anesthesiologist held my hands until I slipped away to Dido’s beautiful voice, remaining in never-never land for the next 7 hours.

I don’t actually recall awakening per se, but I do remember in my dreamy, morphine fog, seeing John for a moment, next my mom, and then my sister.  My eyes couldn’t stay open for long, but what I later realized was that I had to be alone that night, which killed me.  My family was told they were only allowed about two minutes to see me as we learned the hospital was over-capacity, meaning  there were no rooms to send me to—so I would be spending at least one night alone in the PACU, no visitors allowed. The pre/post anesthesia care unit (PACU), consisted of a lovely 2×4 curtained-space where I was surrounded by sick people going in or coming out of surgery.   Not to whine, but I honestly felt helpless and alone, knowing that my ONE expectation and comfort pre-surgery was that I would have my family around me when I awoke.  In my mind, I needed this more than ever, because though this necessary “thing” needed to happen, this surgery (that I still don’t vocalize all that much), the thing that was vainly and intensely dreaded—yet eagerly anxious to get over with, hoping to remove this thing called cancer out of my body (with the goal:  for good)—I felt more vulnerable and weary than ever and desperately needed people who loved me around me when I awoke.

Now let’s face it— typically, any type of amputation is a day surgery these days with insurance or at best an overnight stay.  Staying 4 nights was over the top for my little “Angie Jolie” procedure.   The result of my surgery was apparently “beautiful” …. odd choice of wording, but okay, whatever.   By the middle of day two in PACU-ville (still no room available) I was told I would have a private room by dinner time.  Yay.  What I didn’t know was that in all the unseemly unfairness in my “lonely Nicole land”, the staff, some very special angels in my midst who really understood my emotional struggle really hooked me up—BIGTIME.  My room was in the “celebrity hotel quarters” of the hospital, or the place where those who choose to spend a month’s salary per night out of pocket after insurance go to heal—private chef and all.  Honestly, God is good, because this is NOTHING I would ever choose even if I were celebrity-status, but after my disenchantment post-surgery, it was indeed a lavish treat, though not exactly one of my “bucket list” return spots of interest.

In and out of sleep the last two weeks, I’ve thought and dreamt about birch trees … I don’t know why, but they’ve visited me in my dreams.   What does the birch tree symbolize?  I guess from what I’ve gathered, the birch tree symbolizes a fresh start and can bring courage and determination especially to those of us who are treading the path of spiritual growth and weariness.   Although the birch does appear fragile, in all its “romantic” carving ability . . . (y’know , the way lovers can permanently make a mark on its writeable bark), instead, the birch tree is extremely hardy—teaching us that in apparent weakness there is often to be found great strength.

Worldwide, birches also promise new life and love, and are great symbols of purification and renewal, helping to focus our attention on our potential for change and on the consideration of new directions and goals to be experienced in our lives.

When I think of Robert Frost’s masterpiece—“Birches” I’m reminded of the swinging motion—the substance of the poem and the deep force that comes with such a motion.  My life is filled with the contrary pulls of truth and imagination.  Tangible and spiritual.  Control and abandon. Flight and return.   The upward “swinging” substance of the poem brings me to imagination and escape—away from the ultra-heavy truth of cancer and all the changes and uncertainties it has brought to my life and those I love.  The downward “swing” and truth of Frost’s brilliance, brings me back to earth, to face the challenges set before me and to look with fresh eyes at the many areas of my life that need clearer focus, new direction, deeper love.

I’ll be honest—Truth with a capital T for me is that I often desire to get away from the earth awhile these days, becoming a swinger of birches.  The thought and attraction of climbing a beautiful birch, leaving the difficulties and weariness of this journey behind is in many ways a no brainer.  Who wouldn’t want to escape?  Life is so much like the “pathless wood” Frost speaks of.  One easy way to navigate would be to climb a tree, high above every obstacle below.

God, however is Love and has intricately put each of us here for a plan and purpose bigger than ourselves.  When I think of that, it motivates me to pursue all He has planned for me regardless of how much time that may mean here on Earth.  I love how Frost says in his poem:  “Earth’s the right place for love.”   For now, he couldn’t be more right.  In my deeply imperfect state, constantly craving escape, I must return from my upward swing and come back again … to keep going where He wants me.   I’ll always want to push toward Heaven, where difficulties and heartache don’t exist, but as His plans have me here, I need to know the limits and limitless abilities my Father has chosen for me, and pursue them now with passion.

Yes . . . I love birch trees.  They are the perfect vehicle.  A thrill to climb, yet firmly rooted in the ground—never allowing one to sever the ties God has with His plans for us here on Earth.  Swinging down takes experience, skill and courage . . . leaving that higher place.  It means that you take risks and you explore the mysteries of life. Being a swinger of birches means I can look back on life and be proud of the accomplishments and challenges.

I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree, and climb black branches up a snow-white trunk toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, but dipped its top and set me down again.  That would be good both going and coming back.  One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.     

Tomorrow’s a new day, and actually the day I will learn of my pathology results and hopefully have these dreaded drains removed … (for all you who’ve had them, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about).  I will keep you updated on the news of my results.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.      

2 Corinthians 4:16

Nicole

 

 

You Just Can’t Overstay Hope’s Welcome

spring

Hope (hōp)

Verb:   to cherish a desire with anticipation

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

~Epicurus

Hope brings significance to each and every moment we encounter.   Without it . . .  there’s no meaning to anything under the sun.

I know it has been a while since my last post.  Truthfully, this month has been a challenge—physically, mentally and spiritually.  Early in the month, I started my new chemo regimen:  dose-dense AC infusions—every other week.   I didn’t realize how emotionally bankrupt I would soon become.  I guess as my blood counts drop, zapping my energy level  like a nuclear missile—my spirit seems to wither too, much like the beautiful,  luxurious flower arrangement my nieces sent my way recently, one I’ve been desperate to keep alive.

Spring.  It’s funny the little things a girl thinks about as Spring emerges:   manis, pedis, new open-toed sassy stilettos  . . . perhaps a new outfit or two.  I covet my yearnings for these things that are simply not to be for me this year.  As I try desperately to hide my hideous nails in public, each one purple and black, lifting from chemo-related blood and infection . . . and my equally hideous, neuropathy-plagued feet, no longer acceptable for open-toed sassy shoes or pedis­­—I indeed feel deprived and sad.  Today, Lance, my 7-year old, in all his sweet honesty, pointed out the other sad fact that my eyebrows are disappearing, the final hair follicles to die.  The simple fact is:  it’s hard for me to have a Spring in my step or outlook these days.

Regardless of my thoughts filled with vain minutiae, Spring continues to unfold and as the crocuses begin to blossom in my yard, it’s impossible not to hear the heralding trumpet of new life spring forth.  With it comes a glimmer of excitement—a hope that day by day the season will continue to blossom, inspiring beauty in its warm welcome.

These days, my life is filled with urgent intention.  In fact, I find myself anxious and depressed when I’m too fatigued to move because I’m afraid I’m going to miss a moment, a great memory I can’t afford to lose . . . a picture that can never be recaptured.  Reflection has become part of my season of change.  Like Spring’s weather, this season of my life is a gentle reminder that I need to be cognizant of the rebirth taking place all around me—those  blossoms that not only take shape in my yard, but in my relationships . . . in my children, in myself.  Just as I need Faith to hold me together, I need hope to push me forward.

Making it a mission to treat hope as a verb, I choose to actively cherish my desires for the future with anticipation.  Spring is here.  It’s the start—a rebirth from seeds of hope.  I must cherish this moment.  This place.  This time.  It knows no bounds . . . you can never overstay Hope’s welcome.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  ~Romans 12:12 

Breaking Through My Shell

chick

When we lose one blessing, another is often, most unexpectedly, given in its place. 

~C.S. Lewis

I cherished every part of today.  The message of Easter is the very heart of Hope.  Redemption . . .  resurrection  . . . rejoice!  The key event surrounding that first Easter over 2,000 years ago is the very event central to my Faith:  the empty tomb.  It never gets old to hear the Easter story, and this morning was no different, only it was extra special to have my parents and sister and her family with me in church and throughout the day.

So many times in life, it is easy to be consumed by disappointment.  Circumstances.  Relationships.  The very things and people that create amazing and beautiful memories can also be the very source of pain and heartache.   Just as I have been astonished at the people in my life who have gone above and beyond to bless my family through this trial, I am equally dumbfounded to see the “friends” in my life who have disappeared since diagnosis.  Deep down my heart longs to give grace to those who are clearly too consumed by their own “discomfort” about my diagnosis to acknowledge me at all, but the honest reality is that it’s quite disappointing and in many ways makes me wonder how they were ever part of my life pre-diagnosis.

Each one of us is in search of a Hope that is everlasting.  It’s impossible for people or things to fulfill that desire.  If we allow the disappointments of events in our life dictate our happiness, we will all eventually be left in a state of discouragement.

On Saturday, my youngest son, Lance learned that after building a wonderful relationship with his piano instructor for several months, she left the music school—disappeared without so much as a note to her students.  My heart sank for Lance.  The situation, however, was the perfect opportunity to reinforce to each of my boys that even in the face of disappointment—a blessing always awaits on the other side.  I’m not denying that those moments aren’t painful or frustrating, but what’s great is that each one can be used as an opportunity to grow in our Faith, the only true source of contentment.   We can take the “dis” in disappointment and turn it into “divine” appointment.

God’s infinite love and mercy was revealed that first Easter morning, and through His resurrection, we can confidently stand with the precious Truth that He is alive and that His hand is upon our lives.  Today, at the root of all the joyous revelry that was celebrated, was the good news—“He is risen!”

Right now I feel like that tiny chick waiting to break through my shell, into the light.  I’m further reminded that the darkest part of night comes just before the break of dawn.  Out of the darkness, emerges new life, a new Hope.

I am excited to take my current DISappointment in life and turn it into a DIVINE appointment.

Nicole

 

The View from Below

Santorini

“One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak.”

― G.K. Chesterton

Pent house suites, mountaintop lodges, castles atop grand cliffs . . . the allure of high places is something we all crave to experience at one point or another.   Top level retreats seem to indeed be sought out destinations of choice—the very essence of luxury.

When traveling to Santorini, Greece—John and I chose the breathtaking town of Oia to call home for the duration of our stay.  The idea of staying in a traditional cave house carved inside volcanic earth was in and of itself—thrilling to the core.  Add the fact that it’s panoramically set 1000 feet above the Aegean Sea—well, let’s say the feeling was nothing short of Utopia on steroids.  The views coupled with the meandering narrow paths along the steep cliffs proved that though Oia is certainly not for the faint of heart, it is most definitely the choice destination for anyone seeking ultimate beauty . . . on high.

Recently, I’ve hit a low point on this pilgrimage called cancer, a point where time seems skewed, warped in fact.  One moment everything appears to be moving in slow motion, then BOOM—time seems to be running full speed ahead.  As if by magical “clockwork,” my emotions follow suit, stuck in vacillation-mode.  One minute, I’m eager to have chemo in the rear view mirror, while a split second later I become crippled with anxiety about moving beyond chemo onto the next phase of treatment—desperate to stop time in its tracks.

Just hours from now, I’ll be infused with my final dose of Taxol, followed by 4 rounds of dose-dense A/C every other week— that lovely chemo cocktail better known as the “Red Devil.”  How pleasant.  Not exactly a happy hour beverage of choice.  It would seem anything with the word devil tied into its nickname . . .  can’t be good.  As appealing as a free Brazilian wax may seem, if it means having someone gown up to stick a syringe of bright red poison into your vein . . . well, I guess I would have to say hair isn’t such a hardship.  All joking aside, as eager as I am to be done with chemo, the thought of what awaits me on the other side is almost too unbearable to embrace just yet.  Don’t get me wrong, I yearn for the fatigue, pain, neuropathy, malaise, and hairless head to be in my rearview mirror, but it’s hard to fathom the idea of surgery . . . that which will permanently change me.  Forever.

I recall the goose bumps I got over those surreal cliffs in Santorini.  Truthfully, those goose bumps never came while looking down at the “tiny” wonders more than thee football field lengths away at the bottom.  Instead, they came when we were at the bottom—looking up.

The view from below always took my breath away.

Right now I stand somewhere at the base of my cliff in this cancer journey, longing for that destination on high.  Why aren’t I looking up?  Only here can I really see the hope and future blessing stretched out before me, the surreal beauty that might even take my breath away . . . if I let it.

Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  (Romans 8:25)

Love,

Nicole

xoxo

Riding the Wave

girl-surfer

(transferred from my CaringBridge site created on 3/9/13)

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

~ Helen Keller

It seems like “chemo-Thursdays” always falls on a birthday or holiday.  This past Thursday was my birthday and it was wonderful to have some ultra-special people with me:  my mom and my sister in addition to my three little princes.  As per normal, we livened and lightened up the infusion floor . . . birthday presents and all!

Tired of the cold and feeling a touch of Spring fever (even during the lovely chemo-induced fatigue and allover malaise), I’ve been busy thinking about warmer thoughts . . . like surfing.  I love watching surfers being challenged by huge waves.  To the ordinary swimmer, like myself, being in the midst of such a wave would frighten me to the core.  To the seasoned surfer, however, that same wave is precisely what produces their tremendous thrill.  Many of you may remember “soul surfer,” Bethany Hamilton, who in 2003 at only 13 years old, while relaxing on her surfboard waiting to catch a good wave—in a split second, lost her arm from a great white shark attack.  Amazingly, this talented, faith-filled girl got right back in the water, surfing with one arm—less than a month after the attack!

Thrill-seeking has always been the subject of much speculation, from Sigmund Freud’s “innate death drive” philosophy to some modern psychologists’ view that dangerous activities make us feel more alive.  In reality, though, thrill-seeking behavior can mean different things to different people.

Though I still have a bit of a risk-taking drive in me, I’ve grown more conservative over the years—especially as a mom . . . in a way hoping that my boys will not completely follow in some of my crazy footsteps.  John will laugh while attesting to some of my craziness, like on the slopes.  From the moment we started skiing together, even as a beginner, I would hit the slopes—racing to the finish, often times on trails I had no business being on.  For me, it’s all about the thrill and challenge, and ultimately the whole experience in the moment.  I guess most people will both seek and avoid risk at different points in their lives.

Now if my slope were instead replaced with that ultimate wave, a surfer’s dream . . . I’ll be honest, I’d be running for the hills.  Cancer, in many ways . . . has become my wave.  I would love to run far away from it . . . or simply remain in the still waters.  Some people will say of one going through a cancer trial as “brave.”  I laugh when people say that to me because the truth is bravery is about the furthest from the truth in my reality.  A firefighter running into a burning building is what I envision as brave.  I would do anything to run far away from this, not toward it.

Though Bethany describes that tragic morning on her surfboard as her Tsunami moment, infringing on her pro-surfer dreams, she also realized that bad things happen to everyone.  “But for me, knowing that God loves me and that he has a plan for my life—that no shark can take away and no contest result can shake, is like having solid rock underneath me.”  Wow . . . what an amazing young woman.

I desperately seek to apply the same thrill-seeking behavior I’ve often sought in life to meet me on this latest adventure—the very wave I would love to avoid and fight against.  The truth is, tribulation, suffering, and persecution—are the very things that produce abundant joy in us.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2–4

God tells us that trials produce perseverance . . . perseverance produces character; and character brings hope, which never disappoints.

I’m on the board, ready to put my sights on the wave before me.

Thank you my friends for your constant prayers.  My regular chemo-Thursday will be changed to Friday this coming week as I meet with my oncologist to further examine the lymph node at the base of my skull.  Please continue to pray that this is nothing.

I in turn will:  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

The Architect

Boston

(Originally posted on my CaringBridge page on 2/27/13)

The space within becomes the reality of the building.

~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Though perhaps not as magnificent as other larger cityscapes, Boston’s skyline at night is magnetic.  Whether approached from the north or the south, I always find myself drawn to it.  I remember when Logan was really little, he was in awe by this vertical city stretched out before him, and he began a series of questions:   “How does somebody make those buildings so tall?” . . . “How do they not fall down?” . . . “How long does it take to build one?” . . .   Always earnest in his questions, Logan refuses to settle for the vague-vanilla parental answers we often provide.  So each time I tried to give him a somewhat “knowledgeable” answer about tall buildings, architecture and construction, the reality of my lack of knowledge became evident to us both.  Finally I waved my white flag of defeat and explained to him that I didn’t know a lot about these towers in the sky, and maybe it was a good subject for us to learn more about.

We discovered that to build a skyscraper, careful planning is required.   It can take years to build.  A foundation must be dug a few stories deep below the earth, after which cranes are used to raise a steel frame up into the sky to form the superstructure with steel and concrete beams.  Both the foundation and the superstructure are needed to support the weight of the building—so the complete structure of the skyscraper must be finished before the most important insidecan be started.  It’s amazing to think that modern skyscrapers are also designed to hold off strong winds—safely able to swing a bit in each direction without damaging the structure.

Today marked exactly two months since diagnosis.  As far and wide as the road seems to loom dauntingly ahead on this highway to healing, it’s both encouraging and mind-boggling to think that in a mere 62 days since I heard the words Invasive Ductal Carcinoma—the day my world spun off its axis, I’m already on day 49 of chemotherapy, eight weeks into treatment.  It still seems blurry to me . . . an unreal reality wrapped up nicely with a big ‘surreal’ bow.

Yesterday, sitting in a small, narrow exam room watching a DVD on breast reconstruction, my mind wandered instead to architectural design.  This was my first plastics consult, and as I sat there in my Johnny after the video ended, waiting for the plastic surgeon to come in—I suddenly felt completely claustrophobic in the space.  I started sweating and had to really talk myself out of the intense urge to bolt from the room, Johnny gown and all.  I’ll admit I’ve definitely had a few Valium moments since diagnosis, but the sick feeling of sheer panic that confronted me in that room came out of nowhere—an anxiety I haven’t felt before.  I closed my eyes and finally managed to pull it together before the surgeon came in to meet me.

The lengthy appointment was filled with the challenges, possibilities, impossibilities, risks and “rewards” associated with the future rebuild of the imminent teardown that will follow chemotherapy.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  ~ Hebrews 11:8-10

Though I’m overwhelmed by the path laid out before me, I know in my heart of hearts that I need to surrender to God, so that He, the trusted architect of my life might use this “structural” teardown moment to help refill and build up the space within my tower—the most important part, the reality of the building.  Though the structural process takes time and effort, the final inside portion of the architectural plan is the integral part of the finished product.

Please pray that as I sway in the wind, I will remain confident and secure in the plans and purposes my architect and builder has carefully crafted for my life.

Waiting for the Orchid to Bloom

White Orchid

(originally posted on my CaringBridge site on 2/22/13 )

Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like its heaven on earth.

– Mark Twain

Orchids.  There’s nothing quite like the rich elegance each orchid blossom exudes.  Early on in my relationship with John (that beautiful, “pre”-honeymoon phase), he would always have exotic flowers delivered to me at my office in Boston.  It was during that time, that I developed a deep adoration for the exotic—particularly rare, stunning orchids.

Carrying a plethora of meanings and symbolic references around the world, orchids are universally regarded as a symbol of love, wisdom, beauty, and innocence in most cultures.  While their blooms are distinct and stunningly beautiful—sadly, unless conditions are exactly right, their limited life span may be cut shorter.  If you keep them in direct sunlight, for instance, their blossoms may scorch.  Though I always knew that many flowers live in symbiosis with fungi . . . what amazes me most about orchids in particular, is that they are ultra-unique—because without their strong relationship with fungi, their seeds are unable to germinate.  So basically, this cooperative relationship is what ultimately gives us the beautiful, delicate, deliciously-aromatic “fever” for the orchid blooms.

Fungus.  What do you think of?  All I can think of is:  nasty.  Athlete’s foot, mold and yeast . . . to name a few.  Though not a fungus, I’ll even throw cancer into my nasty image of fungal disease.  How can something as beautiful as an orchid thrive on a relationship with a loathsome, utterly nasty organism?

Yesterday marked week 7 of chemo.  Almost half way there!  Though it was my long day in town, I had an extra special treat of having my boys with me.  Additionally, it was John’s birthday!  I called it the Dana-Farber “birthday-field trip” day.  They were actually looking forward to the outing.  Nothing like a school vacation week filled with pajama days, cousin sleepovers, rollerblading, Cape Cod . . .  and Dana-Farber.  Yay.

It was actually a wonderful day.  I needed the boys to see where I spend my Thursdays—what happens to me while I’m there, while ultimately showing them that this place where I receive medicine that makes me feel yucky some days— is really not a depressingly bad place, but rather a place filled with hope, love and healing.   The staff were amazingly creative and generous in giving them a field trip-esque adventure.  Beginning with the lab, several nurses gathered, having the boys pick out colorful wraps for my IV site, explaining how the needle goes in, leaving a little tube behind that the medicine goes through.  Next, they allowed them to put my blood in the Pneumatic tube and walked them through the process of the tube getting across the street to be tested.  It was genius.

When it came time for my EKG and oncologist visit, I had them sit with John in the waiting room.  There were many questions I needed to ask, some of which might be a bit overwhelming and potentially scary.  I was happy to hear my EKG was normal.  The oncology team noted that the lymph node on the base of my skull had reduced in size, along with the main breast tumor and axillary nodes.  All good stuff!  Still, though, I carried with me the many looming questions I had regarding staging, etc. etc. etc.  Y’know, all those questions that enter my mind at 3 AM and keep me up, as I desperately try hard not to research online.  In my heart of hearts, I hoped that perhaps through the great shrinking progress that was being made, maybe my ultimate cancer staging would change.  Unfortunately, that’s not how this adventure works.  Your stage is your stage form inception.  Therefore, based on my diagnosis, I am officially a Stage III breast cancer—all based on tumor size, node involvement and metastases—currently looking like no distant metastases to bone or organs.  As for the occipital node issue, sadly, there are no real answers to possible connection with infiltration of the lymphatic system.  We just have to “hurry up and — wait.”

I know God has plans for my life, regardless of the outcome of this cancer encounter.  Without a shadow of a doubt, I know that He is not only busy working out my details, but also busy working out the details of the lives of my precious family and friends.  He’s most definitely in the business of using every opportunity for His glory.

I love how orchids share multiple flowers on a single stem.  My desperate prayer is that through my “fungal” encounter with this thing called breast cancer, I will not only bloom in the cooperative relationship with the fungus of this trial, but through it, each of you will bloom. I want every life I touch to have hope and courage to get through any and all of the trials and tribulations that come your way—those fungi moments that would love to bring us down—replaced instead with the exquisite, exotic, beautiful blooms of beauty.  Our orchid moments.   We must remember, every test is a testimony waiting to be shared.

Isaiah 48:10 tells us perfectly:  “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”