Thursday, June 10, 2021

You Are Not Alone

 It has been five months since I last wrote a blog post. The intent was to focus on turning this blog into a book, but my health and my mental state kept me from creating. I am not going to lie—this isn’t an easy post to write. It has been a long, dark season and I am going to be candid in hopes that others will feel they are not alone. I’m going to take you through the dark chapter I have been in, and then walk you through how I am coping, and how the next chapter seems to be unfolding.

I started 2021 coming off a rest from chemo and radiation that had gone from September through November. My scan looked stable (still cancer in my lungs and pelvic bone) and my cancer numbers were low. But to keep the cancer at bay, I resumed more chemotherapy in January. I had a positive outlook on it, and despite the terrible side effects, my doctor and I concurred that this was a good regimen. I set goals, wrote in my journal, redecorated my son’s room so that it was a fresh new guest room. I was walking and spinning and feeling pretty upbeat. 

And then….right before my third round of chemo…after a year of COVID and keeping safe…..I GOT COVID! It hit me hard and fast and since I was immune compromised from cancer and chemo—it was a big scare. But God! COVID took me out, but it did not affect my lungs or breathing at all! In fact, I never needed an inhaler once! However, I had the other symptoms—massive migraines, body aches, no appetite, dizziness. And then Greg got it and we were these empty nesters with four dogs and we couldn’t even get up to get water for each other. I felt like my body was a mass of concrete blocks and I spent two weeks in bed—so tired that I didn’t watch Netflix or read books. I just slept and slept and slept. Our friends offered to bring meals and groceries, but we didn’t want anyone to come near our Covid ridden home. Our son Noah flew out from Denver and worked remotely from home, and took care of us and the dogs for ten days. I was ready to be well—to move on from this fatigue. I tried to will myself to get out of bed, to go for a short outside walk, to stretch….and the fatigue and fogginess continued. I got frustrated. I cried out to God. I started losing hope and certainly lost joy. I could feel myself sliding into a deep depression. I know all the signs and I know coping strategies, but I was tapped out. I slept. I cried. I mourned. 

Whenever I dip into weariness or sadness, I do three main things. One—I get into God’s Word—even if I have no desire to open my Bible. I just read Psalm 91 over and over again. That’s about all I could do. Two—I try to put things in perspective. I don’t like to compare my situation to others—we all have our own battles. So as I put things in a new view, I do number three which is practice gratitude. Thanking God for his grace, his mercy, his provision….and grateful for who and what I have in my life. But none of this was helping me. I was spinning into a deeper, darker depression. I talked weekly with my doctor and weekly with my therapist. I cried and cried…a lot. I didn’t want to see my friends, or talk or text. I didn’t have motivation to do anything I love…like hiking, reading, gardening. It was just daily darkness.

We took a short trip to Colorado to see the boys and it was a beautiful winterscape. It was wonderful to be with the boys and our friends, but I was still exhausted and slept a lot.  In April, I took a short trip to see my best friend Kathy in Pella, Iowa—where it was Tulip Time. I was weary and in a lot of pain from my pelvic bone (knew the cancer was growing), but we walked each day and she and Joe fed me fresh food, and I drove a tractor. It was another precious time, but on the way home on the plane—wearing a mask in the airports and on the planes, I began to get claustrophobic and had anxiety attacks on the plane. I just sat there with my mask and did deep breathing to get through each one.  When Greg picked me up at the airport, I was frantic and had a full blown panic attack.

More talks with my doctors and therapists. Talks with my pastor and my best friends and sister. I didn’t seem to be getting out of this. And then, we got hit with a life changing whammy that has affected our finances and our retirement. I cannot share the details due to further consequences down the road, but let’s just say that the spiritual battle arrows were piercing and crushing us. God protected me and Greg and our family. He reminded me that He has already won the battle and He is fighting for me. He took me back to the passage in Ephesians to “put on the full armor of God”. Some of us learned this passage in rhymes and visuals in Sunday school, but it is real! We are in battle and God fights for us daily. He fought for me during this long, dark time, and He revealed His promises to me in His Word.

“The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91: 14-16.

That was where I was. My oncologist said I had “Post Covid syndrome” in which the fatigue symptoms continue. I took some new medications. I slowly started getting out, taking the dogs on short walks. Talking with my friends again. Cooking a bit. Reading some. It was a slow slog. And then it was time to start radiation and chemo for my pelvic bone tumor and the tumors in my lung. Still manageable, but still treatment….again.  I was tired of the pain keeping me from being active, and I rallied upon God’s strength. I finished radiation three weeks ago and began round one of four chemo infusions this week. Yes, the battle with cancer continues, but by the grace of God, I am still here.

I have stepped into a few new chapters in the past two weeks.

First, with the love and support of my Risen Church family, I am taking a three-six month sabbatical. I am so grateful for my beautiful church family and the love they have poured upon me. This will be a time when Greg and I will attend church, but I won’t doing my leadership roles. For awhile, for such a time as this, I will pray and rest.

Second, I will use this time to pray for all the Young Life camps and properties and the leaders and teams who are taking kids to camp as they open for the first time since COVID began. Young Life ministry is in our family blood; it is integral to who we are all in our faith, and I desire to be in fervent and faithful prayer.

Third, I will work on my book.

And lastly, I am happy to announce that I am officially ordained! After years upon years of doing premarital and engagement counseling, and watching so many sweet ones I love marry and have kids, I was humbled and honored to be asked to officiate a wedding of one of my beloved former youth group “kids”. So, I began the process of ordination and I can now legally marry, bury and baptize. Of course I will do this at the discretion of the Lord and glorify Him in all my endeavors.

There are many unknowns in the next chapters of my life, just as each of us lives each day not knowing if it will be our last, or when the next whammy will hit. Sometimes we have to go through long, dark, difficult seasons, not knowing when or if they will end. But for each day of life, I thank God for breath, family, friends and community. Whatever long dark season you may be in, I pray that you can make it through each day—with perspective, with prayer, and with gratitude. You may not feel any change, but keep at it. Slog through it. Ask for help. Seek counsel. Trust the Lord.

You are not alone.

 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Life Savers: An Incomplete List

What has “saved my life” in 2020—things that helped me cope during the pandemic, and in general—balanced me in the chaos we call life? I am no expert, but from a life that has experienced quite a bit of stress, trauma, and grief—here is an incomplete list of things that have kept me alive and sane.

Journaling: I have kept a journal since I was eight years old—probably younger. Writing paces me and calms me. It helps me find patterns- some that I want to keep, some that I must rid of for their toxicity. Finding a quiet time that balances and settles me before the hustle of the day has been instrumental in saving my physical and mental life.

Add-ons that accompany journaling and that make me happy:

                *Mechanical pencils in bright colors with erasers—nothing better than a clean written page

                *Candles: Preferably with a citrus or vanilla scent—think grapefruit, cedar, lemongrass, basil.

     *Ground coffee and pure cream. Go local for the coffee and never use flavored creamers or half and half.

Exercise:

*Hiking the horse trails right outside my home or...

Two local trails that never get old: Torrey Pines State Beach and Lake Poway.

*Best thing I ever did was purchase a spin bike from my studio when my cancer was crushing my strength. When I use the Pelaton app—I have so many choices and can do all my work outs on my OWN time. Accountability?  That would be my own desire to be strong and healthy while chasing cancer.

*Abide: Christian meditation app. I stretch and do my own yoga moves in the comfort of my own bedroom and get to hear scripture and prayer at same time.

Gardening:

                *Succulents! Year round succulent gardens with little extras for each season. I LOVE my gardening table filled with essentials—gloves, trowels, rocks, pots, soil.

                *Love being in the sun or fog in my backyard—fixing up all the little nooks to make it cozy and comfortable for any one to stop and read, rest, or retreat.

                *Using every day outdoor plants for decorating and brightening.  Snip rosemary or mint to make big or small smelling vases. Clip olive branches for a simple, elegant addition to any table scape. Farmers Market Flowers or ordering myself Farmgirl Flowers—just because—such a treat.

 Doggies: Nothing better than unconditional, completely loyal doggie love. Bushels of love to our pack Aslan, Cato, Tessa, and Winnie. 

 Podcasts: A great way to catch up quickly on the news or current events, or listen to those awesome Wondery True Crime stories, or get filled spiritually with gospel centered messages. I listen to my podcasts while getting ready in the morning, in the car, and while walking my dogs.

Positive People and media content: Give me a quote from Mister Rogers or Bob Goff,  a song from Lauren Daigle or Train….and let me binge watch Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso and I am all smiles.

Negative Noise: I set limits to when and what I view on FB and Instagram. Not on Twitter. Don’t care.

Cooking and baking: My mama taught me to cook and bake and it is one thing I have done all my life. Most of my recipes are in my head, without measurements. Cooking favorites for my boys and their friends is one of the most sincere ways I demonstrate my love. I am thankful that my boys wanted to learn to cook from me (and Greg—who is the master of all things breakfast).

Books! I love books so much that five years ago we turned our formal dining room into a full library. It is one of the happiest places in my home. I love my book club, I love the app Libby (on line library which was HUGE during 2020), and I love sharing great books with friends. (My 2020 book list coming out soon in a new post.)

Fellowship in our  home: Nothing better than cooking with friends—just another couple or family or two—and then playing games together around the table.  2020 brought serious competitive game play. One night over Christmas when the boys were here—all four of us were crying from laughing so hard—and I think I peed a little (a lot—okay).

Enneagram and other tools that help me understand myself and others better. I am a Maximizer (on Strength Finders) and am always looking to make things better—whether it is communication with Greg or my boys or my staff at church. It really is quite shocking to find out that others don’t think or process the same way as me. What a concept.

Prayer and God’s Word:  God’s Word—the Bible—it is a lamp unto my feet. It directs and guides me and gives me promise, hope, and a future. All other life savers are great strategies and techniques to cope—but without Christ—we have no life to save. He is my Savior—my all in all. In Him I have life and breath and victory.

 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Highs and Lows--2020--a year in review

Greetings and welcome to my first blog post of 2021. It has been awhile. Many of us hoped that we would get a re-set/re-start button when the New Year began—a reprieve from the craziness of 2020. But life isn’t like that. Turning the page on a calendar doesn’t change the political climate, the pandemic, the racial tensions, the joblessness, the atmosphere of fear, anxiety and depression. We can dream, we can hope, but real change begins when we re-set daily. We can re-set our attitude, our behavior, our choices, our responses, our relationships—each day—despite our circumstances. I have been learning this all my life, but especially in the eight years since I was diagnosed with cancer. Still chasing it, still living my best life despite the physical and mental challenges that come with fighting a beast of a disease. I love that those of you who follow me regularly often tell me that you like to wait to read my posts—to sit with coffee, tea, or wine, and let the words flow over you. Thanks for processing and reflecting with me--in faith and expectation that the Almighty God is with us, near us, and He holds us close.

Today’s post is the first of a two day series that includes a recap of 2020—as I look at the highs and lows in the Loy household. The second day will be about the rhythms that have kept me sane through all of this—life savers if you will.

We welcome each New Year with our anniversary. We celebrated 25 years while in Taormina, Sicily with our boys. We spent the last day of 2019 touring the countryside with our amazing guide Tita—visiting snow capped Mount Etna, and ending with a seven course lunch pairing at a local winery. 2020 began with a spectacle of fireworks that we watched from our villa overlooking the peninsula. Like all with hopeful hearts, we entered 2020 expectant with wonder.  But, January began with a “series of unfortunate events…” continuing into a year of turbulence and vitriol. Like the rest of you, we navigated the best we knew, as a family of faith. One communication tool we use in community groups and Young Life is called Hi/Low. It is a quick way to recap and share what is on your heart. The rest of this post will be the highs and lows of our family journey through 2020 and our outlook for 2021.

January 2020—

High: Micah transfers to Colorado State Fort Collins and continues his freshman year while Noah finishes his senior year at the same college.

Low: I enter a deep depression—starting a slew of medical appointments trying to get my body back on track after a full year (2019) of chemo and radiation.

February 2020—

High: Trip to our happiest place on earth—Puerto Vallarta—getting to share with dear ones Martin and Angela Cachero. Food, sunsets, cards, games, and women for the WIN in Sequence. Guys may have different opinion.

Low: Two men dear to me died within a week of each other. Hugh Hart—the best next door neighbor dad growing up, and John Cummins—our dear friend and neighbor—a spiritual mentor to us.

March 2020--

High: With news of the pandemic looming, my boys returned from school as colleges shut down across the nation. Reassuring as a mom to have all of us together, probably not a high for them as they finished college courses on line from home.

Low: Another key male figure in my life—Rick Kaylor, dies on March 25. He and his wife Phyllis drew me in as family when I moved here in 1986 as a brand new teacher. Rick was my teaching partner for years and a mentor for me—professionally and spiritually.

April 2020--

High: I create a virtual book club business called FLIP to help the teachers and families caught in the uproar of emergency remote learning. Using many friends and educators as resources, I collaborated with my sister, with Noah as our web designer, and we marketed and launched this book club for elementary, middle, and high school kids.

Low: We all know it. We all felt it.

May 2020—

High: Noah is offered a job in sports marketing in Denver. He graduates CSU Fort Collins with many memories and dear friends, and like all other 2020 grads, there are no in person celebrations. Instead of a ceremony, his truck was packed and he turned graduation day into moving day.

Low: We all know it. We all felt it.

June 2020—

High—We add a new member to the family. Welcome Winnie—our little white Boxer mix with the cutest freckles ever—she completes our fur baby pack. Greg is WHIPPED!

Low—We all know it. We all felt it.

July: Micah stays home to work and take summer classes on line. He is our “tribute”—keeping me safe and healthy—groceries, errands, local eatery dine in pick up—Micah saves the day(s). And…Winnnieeeeee….she keeps us all entertained with her pool and water antics and sheer precious puppy-ness.

Low: We all know it. We all felt it.

August 2020—

High: My niece Mary Roberts marries Andrew Kain. Our whole family flies to Oregon for the intimate, beautiful wedding of 35 friends and family members. I absolutely adore them and their sweet love story.

Low: I find out the day I return from Oregon that my cancer has metastasized to my pelvic bone.

September 2020—

High: Staycation in Carlsbad to process, sleep, and prepare for more rounds of radiation and chemo. Nothing better than the beach in San Diego after all the summer tourists have left.

Low: Begin radiation and chemotherapy once again.

October 2020--

High: My mom and forever best friend Kathy come visit on separate weeks to take care of me and let me rest through my treatments. Mary and Andrew arrive for her two month work assignment on Coronado and Andrew works for Greg.

Low: Continued chemo and side effects that come with it. (My hair didn’t completely fall out this time.)

November 2020—

High: Mary and Andrew’s visit with lots of hikes, meals, highly competitive game play, Geocaching, and a beautiful winter wonderland trip to Lake Arrowhead with them as well as Greg, Charlie, Karyn, Joan, and Loretta Loy. Thankful for family.

Low: Beautiful and precious Lauren Hart dies after a year long fight with bone marrow cancer. I cannot begin to understand the depth of pain that my lifetime friends Dave and Patty Hart are enduring, losing their only child at the age of 23. This has been one of many, “I don’t understand this God” questions that I will not know the answer to this side of heaven. I do know this—that Lauren leaves a legacy—of strength, joy, and resilience.

December 2020--

High: Chemo ends and scan shows decrease in lung tumors, absence of bone cancer and no new cancer. This is huge news. I haven’t had a good report like this in a few years, but here I am still fighting on. The boys are back home for the holidays and we share memories cooking, baking, hiking, and once again—highly competitive game play.

Low: December 15: at a routine scan, I go into anaphylactic shock due to allergic reaction in the contrast dye. I have lived nearly eight years with stage four cancer, only to nearly lose my life on that MRI table. Last words I heard when fighting for breath were, “Mrs. Loy, do you give us permission to intubate you if needed?” This is a crazy story with will take up its own fully detailed chapter in my blog turned book journey.

CONGRATS! If you have stayed with me this long—you are sufficiently caffeinated or buzzed. Fist pumps and virtual hugs from me to you.

How do I wrap up 2020—a year of pain, politics, struggle, loss, change, death, joy, and community gathering? A year of engagements, graduations, birthdays, and weddings…all looking quite different—and ever so lovely.  And the babies…oh the babies…our church family keeps growing and growing. So much preciousness at once. What does this tell us? That we rise up; that we are better together. Not on our own strength, but because we have a God who is in control even if we don’t feel it or see it or believe it. He is the God who sees, the God who saves, the God who reigns. As I rest on His promises and provision, I look to each new day as an opportunity to re-set and re-align, because with Christ, His mercies are new every morning. And we press on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Choice and Intention--Despite the Discord

 

I did a little social experiment with myself at the beginning of 2020— I began the year vowing to minimize my engagement on social media and promising myself that when I did engage, I would only post encouragement. Little did any of us know what 2020 would pour down upon us and here we are in October with the hate and division escalating and crashing all around us. It can be easy to fall into hopelessness and despair.

2020 was also the time that I was recovering from a brutal year of radiation and chemo in 2019—and my body and mind were experiencing many changes. With the fear and anxiety and unknown of the pandemic, as well as the deaths and protests and rioting—for the sake of my physical and mental health, I began staying off social media altogether. Of course, I want to stay informed. But not through 24 hour news streaming and scrolling through furious FB posts with contentious comment feeds. And I don’t even have Twitter. Won’t go there. Even with the minimal input, I began to get restless and fatigued and I wasn’t alone—collective grief and lament have affected us all—with social distancing affecting jobs, community, schools, and churches.

I knew I needed to change my mindset.  I had to remind myself of this over and over: There are many things I can’t control, but there are things I can choose; things I have to let go. I have choices of what I read, view, listen to.  What voices would I allow into my mind and heart? I could also choose and take charge of how I would spend my time and energy.  I found that how I wanted to spend that time and energy wouldn’t be found on any device. I tried some escapism. I read some books with my book club that revealed glimpses of the wonder and resilience of the human spirit.  I watched and rewatched all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek—which gave me laugh out loud moments to share with others as well as the hope that with acceptance and intentional relationships, our hearts and priorities can truly change.  

It was in early August that I found out my cancer had spread to my pelvic bone and that I had numerous tumors in my lungs. I was exhausted; this news hit hard. I needed treatment again--radiation and chemo infusion. The pandemic meant that I cannot have visitors during treatment—something that many have had to deal with concerning older parents, or hospital stays, or surgeries.

Today I am writing from the infusion center as I begin the first of many rounds of chemo treatment. I have been here before. I know what to expect. My hair will fall out. I will be weak and tired. I will have nausea and diarrhea. I will have days with no appetite. And hopefully, I will have days that aren’t as hard where I can play games with my family, or go on walks with my dogs, or hikes with my friends. Days where I can appreciate all that I have been given and days where I recognize with gratitude all that is around me that brings peace and joy.

The main thing I learned from my social experiment of 2020 is that I am in charge of what I allow into my thoughts and mind. And secondly, relationships that run deep must be intentional. They aren’t made up of quips on Twitter, or poses on Instagram, or rants on FB. Relationships that run deep require time, energy, and commitment. Intentional relationships take the time to listen, to disagree, and to still love and accept the other. You will not find this in the world of social media. You will find it around your kitchen table. You will find it when you fellowship over a meal together. You will find it when you listen instead of waiting to pounce with your next idea. Intentional relationships grow into intentional communities. And intentional communities can begin to affect change.

Haters will hate. Lovers will love. Friends will accept. Decide today where you want to spend your thought time and your heart energy. Make a choice and commitment and stay true to that. Your heart will thank you. Your family will thank you.

As I end my day in the infusion center, I think of what Christ has given me as I geared up for this next round of treatment. He has given me my husband, my boys, my family, and my friends who are interceding in prayer for me to have strength, peace, and healing. He has given me my church family who also love with words and action and meals and care. He has given me his Word which reminds me that He is in control, yes, even now. Jesus said he would give us His gift of peace—and it is a peace that surpasses all understanding. It is a peace that social media and the cacophony of news streams and commentators cannot give. Because Jesus said it is a peace that the world cannot give. Now, may you rest in that peace, despite the triggers of this cruel world.

.Psalm 93

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

 

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Words

 

I read a book in preparation for my middle school book club discussion that resonated deeply and profoundly with me.  In the book Posted by John David Anderson, cell phones are banned from a middle school because of the cyber bullying and hate filled posts.  So instead, kids resort to “posting” old fashioned sticky notes—passing them to each other, and sticking them on lockers—most of the time anonymously. Its theme speaks hard truth--words can weaponize and words can convict. Words can heal and words can uplift. I knew going into 2020 that it would be a word weaponizing year, and it has proved that and much more. Believe me, I know that I have said the wrong things at the wrong time. I have spoken too quickly and I have said hurtful words that I can never take back. I know the power of words. I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of hurled hate. I also know what it feels like to receive an encouraging card in the mail or a text that simply says, “I love you.” That is why I continue to write words of encouragement even in the hardest times. In pandemics and protests and election years and in times of personal suffering in my own life and the lives of those around me, I will use my words to encourage and uplift.

It has been awhile since I have published a blog post. My main excuse is that I wanted to put the time into turning my blog into a book. I have my story, but I keep rewriting chapter one over and over. As a writing teacher, I always tell students—just write—you can revise later. But here I am, with all the content and three years of writer’s block. And you my readers have been faithful and supportive even with seven years of writing the same things. Cancer. Treatment. Suffering. Hope. Support. Prayer. Repeat.

And here we go again. I have seriously lost count on what round this is. Lost count on how many procedures and surgeries. A quick update on where I am now. First, my doctor was very clear back in November when I finished seven months of chemo that I was not cancer free. My body just couldn’t take more chemo at that time. My cancer markers were low and there were small spots in my lungs that he would follow closely through scans and labs. The tumor in my pelvic area near my kidney had shrunk and calcified. These months of rest have been good for me. But this summer, I began having pain in my groin area—to the point where there were days when I could barely walk. Or I would get up after working at my desk for a few hours and fall to the ground when I put weight on my leg. Yes, you know it—I pushed through it and lightened up my spin classes from home, walked slower and with fewer hills, and did stretch exercises.

In July I had my three month scan and labs and then I met via video with my oncologist to review the scan. Not news I wanted to hear and never news you can really prepare for…He told me there were more small tumors in both my lungs and one of the previous ones had grown. But the hardest info to hear was that I had a tumor in my pelvic bone. Exactly the area that had been hurting so much. And this info was shocking—because it was cancer in a new place. It had spread again. Colon, liver, lung, pelvic area, and now bone. I felt this searing hot flash through my body and my head pounded and throat closed up. Somehow I used my voice and I asked him as I have before, “When do I say that I am done?” And he said once again, “We are a team and we will continue to be a team. As long as you can endure the treatments, we find the cancer and treat it.”  He said he was optimistic—that I would do radiation first for the bone tumor and then more chemotherapy for the rest of my body. This news sickens and debilitates me. It brings up anxiety and fear and horrific memories of all my side effects and days when I felt I couldn’t go one day more.  I am not going to lie. I curled up in a ball for an entire week after that video appointment. I didn’t answer phone calls or emails or texts. I didn’t let anyone come visit. I didn’t eat. I slept. For days. I got mad at myself for being lazy. I berated myself for not sucking it up and getting motivated. I kept saying, “I can’t do this again. I can’t.” 

And then words. Not my words, but the Word. The Word that uplifts and convicts and encourages. The words of God to Moses. The flawed and imperfect Moses—the leader of the Israelites, not in his own might, but because of God’s might. Because God said to Moses: “Yes you can. Because I AM is with you. I AM (Yahweh) will lead you and guide you and give you strength.”

And the God of the universe says this to me today and every day: I AM is with you.

I am still tired. I am still drained. I still have cancer. But I will rest on God’s Word to me; that He is with me and He will hold me up. His Word is a lamp unto my feet. And may my words encourage--wherever you are, whatever struggle you are enduring--that my words may point you to the I Am who is with you. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Of Prayer and Promise in the Pandemic


According to my journal, I write this post on Day Five of Phase Two of “reopening California”—following 63 days of Sheltered In status of the COVID19 pandemic. I have written in my journal every single morning during this historical time-- recording accounts of the news updates as well as my thoughts, fears, prayers, joys, recipes, books, movies, and new ideas. My preferred writing area is the small patio outside the French doors that open from my great room. Each day I would seat myself with my candle, coffee, blanket, Bible, journal, highlighters, and my favorite Bob Goff and Oswald Chamber’s devotionals. (Now that's a dynamic duo!) Over the weeks of writing and reflecting, I observed new blooms open on my “Fourth of July” roses, tiny purple and orange flowers emerge from my succulent gardens, and baby birds born in the two nests on my porch, hollering and squeaking for food with open mouths and hungry tummies. It has been a time of illness, death, panic, fear, frustration, sadness, and the daily unknown. It has also been a time of bravery, honor, resilience, hope, patience, and compassion.  It has been a time of judgment, hurt, blame, shame, comparison; and also a time of laughter, joy, creativity, discovery, and innovation and flexibility.

I, along with all of you, including educators, politicians, scientists, reporters, doctors, and essential workers, have been making decisions based on hour by hour changing news. This virus came at us and we had to respond—many times making decisions quickly and at times unwisely. At first it was easy for me to think that everyone should have the same response as me (the right one of course), but as I listened, learned, and kept my head and heart in God’s Word, I recognized wave upon wave of grace emerging in the neighborhoods, the hospitals, the work places, and the backyards. I experienced the love and kindness of neighbors as we walked our dogs, and greeted each other with warm hellos. I met dads who I had never seen emerge from behind their rolling garage door—out walking their babies in strollers along the path of the playground—equipment wrapped in yellow caution tape, forbidding play. But families created their new forms of play—side walk chalk messages proclaiming “we are in this together” and “peace” and “love’.  I greeted families out on bicycles--freshly pumped tires, spiky helmets, neon shoes, pink streamers flowing behind handle bars—calling hello with bright smiles and big waves.

On March 9, I had met with my oncologist who told me that I would not have to be in treatment for cancer and that he would wait until June for my next scan. Of course, any news of NO treatment is great news, but this turned out to be a sweet gift from God—especially when two days later the Shelter In requirements hit California. No appointments, no chemo, no radiation. While the rest of the world was hunkering down, so was I—able to rest and heal my body. My boys were home from college, and they, along with my husband, Saint Greg, did the grocery shopping and errands when needed, so I was able to stay away from people and maintain safe social distancing.
I am sure it was a combination of rest, walks, exercise, cooking and eating well, lots of reading and praying, but my body has grown stronger and stronger each day. I know others are weak; I know that many have died and are suffering grief and loss, and for them, I pray. But for me, in this space and time, I have a reprieve from my treatment, my side effects and my pain.

As I was reflecting and praising God for getting me through this time, I realized with new clarity how much energy I have expended in battling cancer. When I finally had time to pause and begin to feel better, I became acutely aware of how cancer had sucked so much life out of me and how I have pushed and pushed my way forward. This has been my time to heal, renew, and restore. This has been a time of reading, watching Disney movies, baking, delivering goodies and gifts to front porches. It has been a time of welcoming babies and the celebration of new life, of street parades with festooned cars for birthdays and graduations. It has been a time of creativity—as our church has looked at ways of continuing/fostering community, as I have been working on my book, writing letters, and even starting up a new business which I am excited and passionate about. Check out this link to learn more about FLIP Book Club—a learning/reading environment for kids and teens. Flip Book Club

This has been a time of walking the trails and crossing the streams, of trips to Farmer’s Market and getting the yard summer ready. A time for book clubs and Zoom happy hours, and family game nights with Dominoes and Sequence and cards; a time for morning reflections, for reading and sleeping, for cooking and cleaning, for strawberries and fresh whipped cream, for homemade biscuits, grilled steaks and roasted veggies, for backyard barbecues, ice cream pies, and gin and tonics with fresh lime, for cool evenings with purple skies and sparkling market lights over the pool and palms.

This has been a time rest, of anxiety, of loss, of mourning and lament, of celebrating our heroes, of sacrificing our comforts for the concern of others, of cancelling weddings and graduations and retirements and sports banquets. But it has also taught us to lean on each other, to share the sugar, and borrow the cup of milk, to drop off the daffodils, and bake the cookies and renew our friendships with our neighbors…for small and grand acts of kindness and compassion.

As we begin to “re-open”—whatever that might look like for you, wherever you are, let us not forget the promises in the pandemic. That God is with us and has never left us. That we are never alone. That God reigns, has always reigned, and will forever reign.

Those who live in the shelter of the most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him. 
Psalm 91:1-2

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Communal Grief and Communal Compassion


I hesitate to write. I hesitate to publish or post. I hesitate to share because I am not offering anything profound, polished, or packaged. But I am offering my vulnerability, my questions, my scattered thoughts…my ramblings, my prayers. I probably won’t say anything you haven’t already heard or read.

I acknowledge that we are in a global crisis and that we are experiencing communal grief, pain, sorrow, and death.

I acknowledge that my laments (and yours) are heard, known, and expected. 

I understand that we are all navigating this in real time in responses that are new to us. We are getting new information hourly. I understand that many people are disoriented, unfocused, and scared. I understand our need to adapt and change as the news and information changes. 

I recognize that we all cope differently. What works for you may not work for me. I will respect that and try to understand people who are reacting differently than me.

I will pray for and support all those on the front lines in health care. I am thankful for their sacrifice of time, energy, family, and their own health to serve in this unprecedented time.

I will not use this time to blame or shame.  I will use this time for encouragement and compassion.

I will keep my eyes and my heart upward and outward and I will find new ways to help my neighbor.

I will try to keep perspective and I will do my best not to engage in “comparative suffering” (Brene Brown has a great podcast on this idea).

I will pray for those who are working endless hours with huge responsibilities and I will remember that many people do not have the option to rest.

I will rejoice in the resurgence of: sidewalk chalk, family bike rides, playing cards, board games, creative learning, new and free technology, walking the dog, sharing ideas and resources.

I will invite, accept, and listen to anyone who has questions about God and Jesus. I will not judge those who believe differently than me. I will not pretend to have all the answers to the mysteries and questions. I will keep my hope in the Promise of restoration, renewal and revival.

 I will recognize and participate in the need for communal forgiveness, communal patience, and heaps and piles of communal grace.

I will do none of these things on my own, or by my own strength or will;  but with the power, love, and grace of Christ who transforms and renews as He dwells in me.