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

 

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!

 

Finding My Way Back to the Farm

stars

(originally posted on 2/6/13)

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I remember back in Junior High, being fully enamored with a farm I often visited.  The farm, belonging to my friend’s grandparents wasn’t active, but still had all the rural charm and glory of a traditional, working New England farm.   I always loved taking trips there . . . running in the orchards, playing hide and seek in the fields, sitting high up in the hayloft of the barn—looking out over acres and acres of green expanses.  Being there felt perfect.  As we got a bit older, we’d visit the farm less frequently, and when we would visit, it would usually be at night—typically to use the awesome land for . . .  (ahem) social “celebrations” with bigger crowds.  Though there were undoubtedly exciting, crazy adventures during parties on that farm, what I remember most about the ‘nightlife,’ is how magnificent the sky looked, the breathtaking illumination.  Far removed from any urban atmosphere veiling their awesomeness, the stars in the dark night on the farm shone the brightest, appearing almost within arms reach—touchable . . . heavenly in fact.

John and I recently recalled a conference from years ago, and though neither of us can remember the main topic at the conference, what we both do remember—is a speaker’s simple little exemplum of sorts . . . one that may be well-known to some of you.  For us, the imagery was simple, yet powerful.  The story was about a father trying to explain heaven to his son one evening:

Living in “Big Sky” country, this Montana-family enjoyed vast, wide open spaces on their beautiful farm.   The little boy in the story loved to play with his matchbox cars in his little secret place under the house.  He loved this special spot under the floorboards of the house, and there he would quietly build and create little roads and hills, houses and garages for his cars.  Though he could hear everyone walking about inside, they never knew he was just below, playing.

One evening sitting at dinner, the young man turned to his father and asked “What’s heaven like?”  His father thought about it for a moment and said, “Well son, you know underneath the house where you play with your cars?”  The boy had no idea that anyone knew about this secret hideout, so a bit embarrassed, he smiled and nodded his head.

His dad continued, “Well tonight after dinner I want you to go down where you play with your cars underneath the floorboards of the house and this time look up at the underneath side of the floorboards. Then I want you to meet me outside in the pasture.”

Obediently after dinner, the boy crawled underneath the house to his quiet, private play space and looked up.  He was shocked at what he found.  Rusty nails sticking through the floorboards, dozens of cobwebs clinging altogether with large spiders and nests in the corners, dirt and splinters that have been wedged between the cracks in the floorboards and shredded insulation mixed with glue and tar.  He quickly gathered up his cars and crawled back from under the disgusting floorboards vowing never to go under there again.

He then went to his father standing in the middle of the field.  It was a crystal clear night sky and the moon shone brightly while the stars brilliantly twinkled, some even dancing across the sky—perhaps one of the most beautiful night skies he had ever seen.

 Pointing up to the sky, the boy’s father said, “Son, while I don’t know exactly what heaven is like, I know that it’s up there, and that it is more beautiful than we can ever imagine. But do you see how beautiful the night sky is tonight? Think of it this way—this gorgeous, beautiful, brilliant sky is the floorboards of heaven.  What you saw under the house was grimy, dirty, and disgusting, yet compared to heaven that’s what the sky looks like. Heaven is more beautiful, more brilliant and more unimaginably spectacular than we will ever know.“

 As the little boy and his father stood there looking up at the gorgeous floorboards of heaven, the boy had just a little better idea of what heaven is like.

I just love that.  It’s such a simple, profound reminder that this side of heaven will never equate to that perfect destination we all hope to see one day.  Even in the beauty of creation around us, with all those stars in the sky . . . they’re all mere floorboards to what’s waiting on the other side.

Living closer to the city, far away from a serene, rural setting—it’s always harder to see the stars as brightly as my memory on the farm.  The fact is, the view isn’t as easy … no front row seat.  You really have to look to see them shine in all their splendor.

Staying grounded in Faith is a choice, not a feeling.  Sometimes, when the shadows of my “night” close in around me—even becoming pitch black at times, my sky seems void of light.  How can I find my way back to the farm, that awesome farm where the chaos and clamor of this world (those city lights) don’t block the very luminosity of the stars high above?  Stars give off light in the dark whether we realize it or not. It’s their very luminosity that lights the path for those who are stuck in darkness.  It is our job, as believers to look beyond, knowing there’s a path lit . . . even when you desire that easy, “big sky” view.

This road I’m traveling on is a dark one . . . fatigue, fear, pain, insecurity, confusion—just some of the cobwebs under my floorboards.  My prayer though is to follow the brilliant glow of the stars, regardless of how distant they may appear.  When I need those stars to burn brighter—I need to find my way back to the farm in the simple things, those little moments of joy often overlooked:   watching my gorgeous boys laugh and play . . . running with my dog . . . getting a little wink from John across the room . . . laughing with friends . . . singing in the shower . . . shopping with mom . . . extra dry non-fat cappuccinos . . . and just living to love.

If those beautiful stars are but the floorboards of Heaven, what possible dark shadows along this rocky path of life can hinder me from living with joy in each moment.

This old Irish proverb says it best:  “Drop to your knees and give thanks that you can stand.”  Too much time is wasted on dwelling on the rusty nails . . . the cancers of joy and peace.

Thank you all for twinkling bright in my neck of the woods . . . your encouragement, inspiration and love are without doubt helping me get back to the farm.

With love, light and hope . . .

Divinity at Work

Heavy Downpour

(written on 12/29/12 originally on my CaringBridge page)

O Lord, give me a strong hope in you that dances in the rain and sings in the silence.

Leslie, the amazing oncological NP who’s been by my side since my first appointment, (calling me every day since)—failed to disappoint yet again.  She called me with the MRI results, which have already been sifted through in preparation for the appointments with the Dana-Farber team on Monday in Boston.  The sensitivity of the imaging allows them to really assess the situation which will impact treatment and surgical measures.  As we already knew, the mass covers a large area.  The MRI results, however, reveal two additional lesions beside the main tumor which have ultimately enhanced the overall “size”.  So this is and isn’t breaking news.  Bottom line:  it’s great they’ve moved quickly on analysis, so that the oncologists Monday will have a more complete picture of my case.  Though I’m ready to get the show on the road … ASAP, I trust that God knows the perfect timing.

When I get down, which I anticipate to be…ummm… a true reality over the course of this journey, I will try to recount the many ways I have seen Divinity at work.  Happenstance is Hogwash.  Seriously.  Remember that every time someone “coincidentally” crosses your path at the right time.  Yesterday’s divine appointment came first thing in the morning prior to my MRI, when I ran into Nancy Jageselvan.  I was a bit edgy at the time, and when I happened to glance over and see her pretty face, I immediately relaxed.  That’s not happenstance.  She blessed me more than she knows with that hug and smile.

Ahh, then there’s Lauren Mathisen.  God is GOOD.  They say we entertain angels unaware, right?  Honestly, Lauren probably doesn’t realize the extent of her anointing, but she has texted me and encouraged me on several occasions . . . exactly what I needed at the exact moment I needed it.  I’ll go with angel.

Thank you for lifting me up.  Through your support, I’m able to keep the down emotions in check.

Exodus 17:8-13 says: “Moses stood on top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand overlooking the battlefield, and as he lifted it up it showed their dependence upon the Lord and there would be no victory without God’s intervention. The Israelites prevailed while the rod was lifted and when Moses’ arms were too tired to lift up the rod, Aaron and Hur found a rock for Moses to sit on and they held up his hands.”

Please continue to pray for me … my arms may get tired along the way.