Chasing Painted Ponies

Trip to Heritage Museum 149

Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.

Walt Whitman

Carousels.  Growing up, I never liked to pass up a ride on the merry-go-round.  Even now with my own boys, when an opportunity presents itself, I love to join them for a magical journey on the wooden horses.

What I remember most about carousels as a child … more than the mirrors, lights and creepy organ music being played—perhaps even more than the ride itself—was my need to thoughtfully search the carousel to find the perfect horse.  I loved finding unique characteristics … noble features that would make me feel like a princess (on this roundabout to nowhere).  Of course it was always necessary to find a galloping horse that went up in down.  I remember running to my perfect horse when it was time to get on, and as I looked ahead, I’d often see that overlooked stallion— a spectacular horse I hadn’t seen from afar.  Quickly I’d run ahead, eager to jump aboard my newly found beauty, then just as quickly I’d realize with a sigh, that my new friend is a stationary soldier, one that would not “gallop” up and down—a necessity on the merry-go-round.   Turning back to see my “perfect” horse, it was too late … another rider was “saddled” up for a journey on the majestic horse I had originally longed for.

The past several weeks post-surgery have been difficult.  As physical healing continues to flourish, the mental aspect of everything has really begun to seep in and though in some ways it’s been medicinal, in other ways it’s had a withering effect on my spirit.  I’ve had real time to wrap my mind around what has been … what is, and the unknown future that lies ahead.   Facing the unknown realities of the future often bring to light the significance of some forgotten truths from the past.

People in general have a tendency to long for something they don’t have or simply fail to appreciate the unique characteristics and beauty we’ve each been blessed with.  For me, as a little girl, I hated being a redhead. Though I came to appreciate my locks as I grew older, the moment chemo took all my hair, I not only longed for that long, thick ginger hair to return, I felt real conviction for all the times I didn’t appreciate it when I had it.  In a recent conversation with one of my oncologists, we laughed talking about how we always want what we don’t have.   I shared how I’d complain about my larger breasts growing up, always wishing they were smaller.   We then talked about breast reconstruction and the “silver lining” attached to breast cancer patients’ these days in the realm of options available—having “Hollywood” procedures at your finger tips to reconstruct your body/breasts to be fantastic and “perfect.”   Cue the crickets.  As I stood there dazed and confused … I imagined desperately how wonderful it would be to rewind time and take back all the foolish insecurities and longings I carried, and instead be content with what I had been given.  Silent, my only real yearning:  to have myself back completely, in every way.

Yes, many people do want what they don’t have—until they lose everything they thought needed changing.

During recovery, I spent a week’s respite on Cape Cod, visiting family.  I needed quality time with my boys, time with my thoughts (uninterrupted by the guilt of not being able to run a house as effectively), and most definitely time to get away from the big C . . . even though it unavoidably follows me wherever I go.  There, I was thrilled to spend a beautiful day at a historic museum with my Dad and the boys—one that also happened to have a classic carousel from 1908. Physically not quite ready to ride one of the beauties, I smiled, watching the boys pick out their “perfect” horse.   “Come on, mom!” the boys beckoned me to join them.  Logan, my middle son led me to the loof chariot … y’know that lame stationary sleigh ride that I never quite understood how or why someone would actually choose amidst the horses.  But there I sat, chasing the painted ponies … on a magic machine full of life going around and around—on my chariot.  I beamed watching my beautiful children ahead of me and realized there can be contentment in embracing change and the very real beauty that can come with it.

Radiation is starting tomorrow.  My radiation oncologist needed to make a few corrections, but I’m “tattooed” and ready to go—even had my dry run on Thursday.  Tomorrow begins my official 7-week cycle of daily radiation.  I will be doing what they call a “deep inspiration breath holding” technique to help reduce radiation to my heart and lungs, especially useful, as my cancer is on the left side.

I learned that the word carousel comes from the Italian word:  carosello which means “little war.”  How apropos that this thing called cancer has indeed been a “little” war physically, mentally and spiritually.  As I’m frozen, stationary on my chariot, the world continues to go around.  Thank God I love to travel, or I may have jumped off a long time ago.  Instead, I’m trying to embrace this season on the carousel, where though I may not feel like a princess on my chosen stallion, I can ultimately be content in drinking in the beauty set before me.   I long to appreciate this ride that God has orchestrated … and I plan to embrace the carosello as I continue to chase my painted ponies until the music stops.

Nicole

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.  I know that full well.

~Psalm 139:14

Finding Comfort from the Inside Out

starfish

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

The distinct smell of newly fresh cut grass is exquisite to me and triggers an early childhood memory – something so nostalgic it gives me goose bumps.  Turkey dinner with all the “fixings” or even homemade mac & cheese (especially my Grammie’s) are favorite comfort foods for me.  Even hearing old “Journey” songs brings peace and comfort—Steve Perry’s voice soothing to the soul (don’t judge me).  Gulls . . . as annoying as they may be . . . the screeching sound of them soaring high above the sea, coupled with the smell of the ocean, gives me an amazing, amazing high.

I honestly believe I’m not alone.  Each of us has a bit of Epicurean in us . . . the Greek philosopher’s devoted pursuit of sensual pleasure, things that bring comfort to the senses.   Though perhaps different in nature, we each carry with us distinct lists of gratifying moments, those unique memories that arouse the senses and bring comfort to our souls—all the “go-to” things that help ease anxiety and stress.

Thursday was a LONG day and physically speaking . . .”fairly” comfortable.  The drains were finally removed at the plastic surgeon’s office.  Yes, a combined 3 feet of tubing was removed from my body . . . seriously–3 ft.  It was like exhaling a giant EWWW and WOW all at once.  It was indeed a very odd sensation, but nonetheless I felt a bit of relief having them removed.

Results.  The oncology team met me to go over the pathology results, the very thing I’ve been all-consumed by since rolling into the OR on the 14th . . . or honestly actually since beginning chemo in January.   I guess I felt since I’ve been on a fast track doing what I need to do, as aggressively as possible—those results will be the very comfort I’ve been seeking for the last 6 months.  They sat and explained that typically neoadjuvant chemo does one of two things when it works:   melts tumors like ice cream in the hot sun, or explodes tumors like atoms.  My treatment did the latter and exploded most of the tumor beds into fragments.  Of the many fragments left they found a small amount of invasive carcinoma left.  After removing everything, they are confident they got clear margins, no chest wall or intravascular invasion revealed.  They also removed 13 lymph nodes.  They considered the lymph nodes a macrometastases.  One particular node that clearly showed the goopy evidence of chemo at work, though cancer was still present—was most prominent.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to determine how many of the 13 nodes were positive for cancer pre-chemo . . . but for now we know for certain chemo did a pretty good job and my prayer is that my radical surgery helped a bit too.

So all in all the results were “good” . . . not crystal-ball, magical moment of “You’re cured for good, no further treatment necessary, all cancer forever gone”  good . . . but good.   Isn’t if funny that even with cancer we seek the best answer that will bring “comfort” to our minds.

My next stop on this exhausting journey is 7 straight weeks of radiation, 35 sessions.  That should start in a few weeks and based on my age and the aggressiveness of the cancer, my oncologist plans to then start me on daily Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen therapy for 10 years—God willing He’s got at least another 10 year plan for me here.

I love to preface everything with the cliché “in a nutshell”, but you all know that my mind (even in chemo-crisis fog mode) is constantly moving and active and it’s rarely possible to find a nutshell big enough to wrap up my thoughts.

Comfort and contentment always come with uncertainties and all too often bring results we can’t predict.  All our feel-good moments are simply sought and fed by the desire to momentarily free oneself from pain, constraint or even fear.

I can’t help but think of my Grammie’s house.  Her tiny house in Maine has always been a source of mostly fond memories during childhood.  I always remember playing in the backyard, my secret little special “fort” far in the wooded area of the yard.  I laugh hysterically now, because honestly the memories of the yard when I was young were memories of this HUGE piece of land.  Now,  I don’t exactly recall the age when I visited the house after being away for a while, but I’ll never forget getting that nostalgic feeling pulling up to the house, eagerly running out into the backyard, my “comfort zone” of childhood.  There I stood—my heart sank.   Where was it?  It was unfathomable that this postage stamp of land was actually the same enchanting romping ground I enjoyed playing as a child.  For a quick moment … that nostalgic “comforting” memory shattered before me.  One would call it:  the Epic letdown moment.

Can it be that those “comfort” memories of the senses, can often disappear by our own shallow expectations of what we remember and how we wish to freeze such memories to permanently make us feel good.  I had the pleasure of talking to my dear friend, Jean this afternoon, and she said it perfectly:  “We need to find our contentment on the inside and not worry about the temporary comfort measures that come from our senses.”

While Epicurus did believe that pleasure alone should be humankind’s pursuit, in actuality, Jesus is the only true source of comfort, when He sent us the Holy Spirit.  Though I learned perhaps later in life than some, I now know that the same God that gave us our intellect and senses is also the only true source of comfort.  He is our ever-present help in need, the only guarantee that never shrinks like Grammie’s yard in my mind.

Though I know this truth in my heart . . . I realize how often I’m still so self-reliant on my own sources of comfort to bring me through this rocky journey.  I pray for strength and courage to continue to press me into the only source of comfort that will keep me going . . . and ultimately keep me sane.

Please continue to hold me up in your prayers.

I love you all so much!

Nicole

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.   

2 Corinthians 1:5-7

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

 

 

When Life gives You Lemons … Indulge

Lemon

Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.

~ William Shakespeare

“Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy” is a tune each of my three boys has declared on more occasions than I can count.  The expression was mastered by the boys in Kindergarten, and has since become a jingle of choice, my little mantra in times of difficulty.   What I never realized, however, was the amazing truth behind the cutesy rhyme—in its very literal sense.   Lemons are truly an easy solution to a multitude of problems.

Many people have asked where I’ve been these days.  The normal “zest” I try to tap into every day in some ways turned sour this past month or so.  I think I’ve been in survival mode since Christmas, and as deep fatigue and malaise set in with the last phase of chemo, I guess the reality of the “big C” has really weighed on my mind much heavier.   I have found it difficult to find inspiration in the things around me that usually bring clarity and joy to my daily life.  Instead, I’ve been “puckering” up to the sour circumstances of this thing called cancer and all the un-pleasantries that come with it.

Chemotherapy is now done.  Finito.

The last few visits to Dana-Farber had me physically ill before arrival.  I guess you’d call it a psychosomatic response to the dreaded poison that was about to make its way into my veins.  Ironically, the last infusion of AC was bittersweet—a real sense of relief that chemo was over coupled with the real fear that chemo is over …. surgery looming on the horizon.  There were tears, hugs, well-wishes and love poured out on me and my heart ached a bit knowing that the very poison I dreaded every week , the very thing that made me so sick and tired was no longer going to be beating me up to make me well.  It sounds sort of warped, but there was a sense of trauma that accompanied me out the door that day.

Lemons.  A while back, my sister, Michelle lured me into a lemon love-fest, leading me on an exploration of this citrus gem and all the wonderful medicinal properties it delivers.  I won’t lie, as a woman, I love learning about hidden beauty secrets that…well, help me look and feel 20 again.  Who doesn’t?  So learning that this citrus fruit full of Vitamin C is also a great source of protection from free radicals, y’know those pesky little things that, theoretically speaking—“age” us … led me to begin my love affair with the savant of the citrus family—limones.

Cancer treatment does a number on your body.  For many, that number is called something like whopper-doozie or as I like to call it:  “le destructeur” to the enth degree.   Chemo is cumulative.  In short, different symptoms present at different times, many worsening as you go.  Completing 20 weeks of chemo—my “le destructeur” wreaked havoc on a few different areas of my body, some worse than others.

First up—Anemia.  This past month, my red blood cells were at a relatively speaking all-time low.  For me that equated to difficulty walking up a flight of stairs without looking like that annoyingly under-exercised person gasping for air at the top of mere 10 steps (no judgment here).  Yup.  I was that chick.  Only as I was gasping for air, chest pain and often severe headaches accompanied it.  It was frustrating.  I’m usually the one racing up six flights of stairs in 4 inch stilettos, with a resting pulse rate at the finish line.  Seriously—BEYOND frustrating.  On the bright side:  I could walk up a flight of stairs.  After all, some struggling with severe anemia can barely get out of bed because they’re just too exhausted to even put their feet on the floor.  Little by little, I am gaining back strength and stamina, but adding the bitter-tasting, yet miraculous power of lemon juice has the added benefit of aiding the body to produce red blood cells, thus speeding along the process.

The beauty of this little yellow fruit knows no bounds as it also helps ease anxiety.  Lemon balm has a calming effect and therefore may be able to help remove fatigue and exhaustion, anxiety, nervousness, and tension—pretty much the very things that sour my spirit.  I’m not saying Valium can be completely tossed to the curb, but hey…I’ll pucker up.   Ironically, I also earned that though I’ve been in a state of brain fog from the chemo, apparently inhaling lemon oil helps to increase concentration and alertness.   (I wish I had remembered this fact during all of my forgetful chemo-brained moments … that still plague me).

In many ways my lemon in life has been the source of much sweetness.  Cancer’s sour taste has become the old adage:  “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”   My lemonade has been tasted in the sweetness of new relationships and the beauty that comes with having people to love and be loved by….so many bringing light and joy to my life.

Last Wednesday I had an MRI to see how the cancer responded to the chemo.  I won’t learn results until this Thursday, but ultimately know the full picture won’t be revealed until I’m opened up.  My prayer is that chemo did its thing … which will help guide the surgeon to a goal of a better outcome.  My surgery date has been set:  June 14.  I felt a pit in my stomach when I got the call confirming the date… but I know it’s time.  The date however does bring special significance—Logan’s birthday (also Flag Day).  I was further inspired by my friend and colleague, Sarah—her Grandmother also sharing that birthday, a precious soul who lived to be 101.

Nothing in life is a coincidence.  His timing is perfect.

My son, Logan recently placed a scripture on my bathroom mirror.  His note brought tears to my eyes as he wrote:  Mom, Isaiah 43:1-4 says it perfect— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”

Thank God, I am His.

Little by little, I’m shaking off my sour to make room for the sweetness and zest that comes from indulging in the lemon that has been sent my way for a season … for a reason … for a greater purpose than I may not be able to grasp just yet.  Though I feel changed, I know that my Father has not changed and will forever be in the business of unfolding His plan and purpose for my life.  That fact alone brings me peace that passes all understanding.

All my love . . . 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 

What’s My Message?

Message in a bottle

“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it … we are going back from whence we came.”  

—John F. Kennedy

I’ve always been drawn to the sea.  In fact, in many ways I feel my body came equipped with a little internal homing device that guides me to the ocean—much like a bird flying south for the winter.

Those who have known me for some time and even those who may have stumbled upon this blog have most likely gleaned that my fascination with the ocean is in many ways, tied to the intimate relationship we share with it.  An earlier post even revealed my love for sea glass, describing how though I find each piece remarkable in beauty, what really intrigues me most is the story behind each gem—the intimacy attached to the moment it started its journey in the sea.

Going through my emails, texts and letters this week, I started thinking a lot about messages.  It seems, the best messages received in our lives come from passion . . . deliberate passion.

Although no one knows for sure when the first message in a bottle was released, the earliest records  show that Theophrastus, an ancient Greek philosopher was the first known person to release such a message in a bottle in an effort to prove that the Mediterranean Sea was formed from the inflowing Atlantic Ocean.  History also reveals many shipwrecked people who resorted to sending messages in bottles.  Often these messages weren’t discovered for 100 years or more.  Unfortunately, their cries for help were futile—most certainly dying long before the message in the bottle was ever found.

To even contemplate the feeling I’d have finding a message in a bottle makes my heart skip a beat.  The romantic in me would love to think all messages tucked away in a bottle would be those of a great love story.  That thought alone got my mind thinking.  What would my message be, were I to send a bottle adrift at sea?  Would it be that of a passionate cry for help, or instead a message filled with a rich love story, a Hope that can weather any storm.

Thursday started my new cycle of chemo—A/C.  Though I anticipated feeling very invigorated Friday with all the steroids onboard, instead by mid-afternoon, I felt rather ill.  I started the Neulasta injection that night, taken to help boost my immune system.  Though I was initially nervous giving myself a “shot,” it was really quite easy and painless.  Yesterday proved to be a different animal altogether.  I just didn’t feel like me in the least.  My movement was only to use the bathroom.  I just felt like junk.  There’s nothing more daunting than feeling helpless.  Helplessness carries with it a true sense of defeat.  Had my bottle been thrown out at sea yesterday, the message filled with earnest passion in the face of defeat would have certainly been  written as an S.O.S. — an urgent appeal for help.

Glass bottles, though fragile do very well at sea . . . seemingly bobbing endlessly through the sea with no damage.  I’ve read stories of sunken ship wreckage with bottles discovered in perfect condition well after 250 years under water.   It’s no wonder that bottles were often the chosen vessel during a crisis, as a means of reaching someone—their very durability having the potential to last forever.

Our messages in life need to be deliberate, and safely delivered with passion.  In our weakest moments—unable to fathom anything other than shuffling one foot in front of the other, it’s imperative to reach for victory.  Though difficult to look up when you feel helpless, it is at times like these, that God’s word reverberates in my soul:    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  ~Ephesians 2:8

Through faith, God has thrown the life vest.  Not of our own strength, but instead His gift of salvation, the lasting message of Hope.

You never know where a message in a bottle will end up or even how long it will take to get there.  What we do know is that the messages we send forth in life through the shipwrecks or heartaches we face can have a lasting impact.  As I just begin this voyage on a rough sea, I know that there will be many times when I will feel weary and lost and in desperate need to send out a cry for help in my message in a bottle.

My hope is that my message will always be that of the ultimate love story—a message of victory, not defeat.

 

Mastering the Keys with Precision

piano keys

(transferred from my CaringBridge page from 3/5/13)

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.

~ Bob Marley

This weekend, I had the distinct privilege of experiencing one of my favorite jazz pianists and composers—Joe Sample.  Working with the likes of Miles Davis, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and George Benson (to name a few), Joe incorporates jazz, gospel, blues, Latin and even classical style into his amazing compositions.

Jazz.  There’s something about listening to it that brings such peace to my spirit—in many ways like a deep soul massage.  Just thinking about Joe Sample’s music relaxes my shoulders.  I’ve always found the best musicians to have a distinct sound that can easily be discerned from the ears of a true fan, even if you were blindfolded.  Sample could play a simple melody like Chopsticks on the same Yamaha as hundreds of other pianists, and still have it sound incredibly unique to him.  At one point during his performance, he talked about all the painful hours he has spent exercising his fingers.  He continued to share that the exercises were not about how well he could execute an entire piece of music, but instead how well his fingers landed on each key.  The precise placement of his fingers touching each key—determined the kind of sound only he can produce.

This past week was tough.  No sugar-coating . . . it was exhausting, trying and demanding of all my focus and energy.  “Mental drain” sums it up well.  In a moment during the week when my spirit seemed too weak to think let alone pray, it brought priceless encouragement to see one of Colby’s scriptures on my mirror:  “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7)  Because He cares for you.

I was doubly blessed to have my mom join me on Thursday for chemo.  While we were able to have some great one on one time, I was also able to share some of my struggles with her.  Though I can’t imagine the intense pain a mother must feel having a sick child with no way to fix it, my mom always encourages me while also allowing me to have moments of weakness, moments of human frailty—without going into meltdown zone because of my lack of optimism.  Though people don’t mean to communicate additional stress, often a sick person feels pressured with an expectation to be perpetually positive.  “Stay positive” is the mantra of choice.  The mentality behind the saying is sensible and wise, yet with it comes the added anxiety of probable failure.  Instead, my mom listens earnestly, never discouraging me from expressing honest pain.  She’s the perfect best friend/mother combination—loyal, unconditional, honest, loving and true . . . never letting me sit in worry and confusion, but also never dismissive about my feelings.  I thank God every day for her.

Sometimes we put our Faith in full compositions, instead of individual key strokes.  I often find myself busy praying over the big picture instead of the smaller, intricate steps that would be easier to hit with ease and precision.  I need to exercise my Faith the same way Joe exercises his fingers . . . not on a mission to perfectly execute my ballad of sorts.  Instead, the crux of this composition laid out before me is about the way my fingers graze each key.

I recognize that every step along the way of this trial is going to be difficult, even unbearable at times.  If I look too far down the road, it will be easier to falter.  Instead, I need to look at the placement of my feet, one step at a time . . . trusting the Lord’s lead.

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” ~Oswald Chambers

This week marks week 9.  Almost ½ way there!