She Cries Not as the World Cries

Oh, she always cries, they say,

perhaps without knowing why

 

More than once

there was no promise of tomorrow

no promise of motherhood beyond now

no days without fending off fears

of leaving her greatest loves;

her children, her husband, her family

to live their lives

without her

 

Yet healing came

and with it an unspeakable gratitude

took up residence in the depths of her soul

She found it often welling up

and moving throughout her whole being

outwardly to every extremity

with trembling

filling her so full

there was simply

no room

for it all

 

Her joy is found

in the sound of their laughter

at the sight of their faces

as they call her name; “momma”

as they find their own path

as they walk it with God

as they find their true loves

and they build their own lives

She treasures equally

every shared silly moment

every momentous occasion

every inch of life she’s been given

 

And so it is

there are still times

when her gratitude abounds unbridled

and arrives candidly without warning

Then it looms so large

that it cannot be contained

and it simply escapes

without words

in deep smiles

in long hugs

and in tears

 

So yes

she cries

but not as the world cries

for her days are rich

and her nights have peace

and in all things

she is grateful

God is faithful

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The End of a Journey

Graduation season is upon us, and I, too, find myself ready to “graduate”.   With my story told, it seems only logical to wind down this blog.  I don’t look at it so much as an ending, but as an “advancement”.  It’s time to take what I have learned in looking back, turn my sights, and walk boldly into my future, armed with new knowledge, understanding and expectancy.

Although I am not grateful to have had cancer, I am grateful for how this experience has changed me.  I have been humbled by my frailty, and amazed by the strength God provides.  I walk forward with a greater appreciation for life, a deeper gratitude for relationships, and more empathy for others than I had known before.  I may have come away slightly beat-up physically, but I’ve also come away much stronger spiritually.  I have not only survived, but grown through the process.  And I am here to say, you can too.

Every one of us struggles.  I am no different than so many people… too many people.  But what I’ve been trying to say is simple; we have a choice.  Even in life’s brutal trials, we can choose how we live in it.  In most cases, no one can tell us if we will live through it, how we live in it may be the last thing we do.  I say choose hope.  How in the world, you might ask, can one have hope at such a time?  It’s simple.  You can’t… alone.  There is only one I know who offers the kind of hope that transcends even life itself, and that is God.  And there is only one I know who offers a way to be in right relationship with God, and that is Christ.  If you choose Him, you will find it truly doesn’t matter where He takes you.

So as I turn the tassel, my happy ending marks a new beginning.  There is one last thing I would want you to know, and that is how profoundly grateful I am for you.  Thank you my loving family, my caring friends, neighbors, and churches families near and far, for supporting me with massive prayer, small acts of kindness, and everything in between.  Thank you all, for not giving up on me, and for walking with me the whole way.

Note: I will keep this blog public for a time so it can remain available to new visitors. 

In God’s Eyes ©Lynnea Washburn

Thoughts in Prose

A little different than previous posts ~ sharing prose penned in my journal.

Note: These are for you ~ use them, write them in cards you send, share them in conversations you have, email, text… give someone an encouraging word.

_______________________

Small Joys

You can

see the sun rise

you can

hear the birds sing

you can

feel the fresh air

passing by

For there are

small joys

that still can be found

and when it might seem

no one else is around

You can

lean on me

we can

spend the hours

listening to life

and smelling the flowers

_____________________________

Reflection

I thought of your laughter

and I found myself happier

I thought of your kindness,

and I became more considerate

I thought of your enthusiasm

and I got more accomplished

I thought of your big heart,

and I found more room in mine

Then I thought of all that you are facing,

and I got down on my knees

I’m so grateful for the ways you show up in my life,

and I pray for God to show up in yours

_____________________________

Stillness

Today,

just let the world pass…

find peace in rest,

for it is the only job

you need to do right now

Take the day

gently as it comes…

embrace the time

in which you allow yourself

to heal

For today ~

just trust…

that stillness

is best

_________________________

Present

Today

may not be going

the way you might choose,

but today

is yet a gift

because today

I can tell you once again

all that you mean

to me

Hope in the Fire

The smelter’s fire.  Intense heat.  A forced forging.  A process.  One in which a solid becomes malleable.  Shifting, sifting, chaffing, changing.  A removal of impurities and unwanted elements.  A refining.  In fact, a freeing.  A freeing of what is pure from what is not.

I’ve been there, in that fire.  My fire of adversity was named cancer.  From its appearance, it looked beyond enduring.  When you are in the thick of it, you feel like you are being reduced to your base.  You have no concept of how you got there, how long you will be there, if the process will be repeated, or if you will survive it at all.  And if you do, what will be left of you?

Yet, the Smelter’s fire refines.  If you consider the word “refine”, you see its origin coming from Re, meaning again, and the verb Fine.  Again, fine.  One could even say Again Fine is merely a new starting point, as refine also means to improve little by little, as to be perfected.  Also quite compelling is the word “adversity”, as it is derived from the Latin adveretere; meaning “turn toward”.

Adversity. Turn toward.  Refine.  Again fine.  Improved.

Although we may face adversity in its very worst form, we should always remind ourselves that we still have choices while we are in it.  We can be bitter and angry at our circumstances, asking why me, or why this, or why now.  Or we can turn toward the master Smelter, trust Him, and yield to His hand.

If we trust that in this, there are impurities being purged, in this, we are being reshaped into something more, in this, a greater understanding of truth can be learned, and in this, a deeper relationship with God can be gained, then we will have hope in the fire.  And in the end, we will know that is wasn’t all for naught.

Sometimes, it takes the hottest fire to free us, but at all times, God is still with us.  And when adversity comes our way, if we cling to Him, and put ourselves into His loving hands, then He can use the fire to shape us into the people He made us to be.*

*Zachariah 13:9

This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

Daybreak, by Lynnea Washburn, from the Living Victoriously collection.

All portions of the blog are ©Lynnea Washburn.  All rights reserved.

Affairs of the Heart

(Note: what was intended as a short break from my blog ran a bit longer than expected.  Thanks for hanging in there.)

Two years ago this April… and for the second time in my life… I was told to “put my affairs in order”.  Never a good thing to hear.  But what I still wonder is, what exactly are “My Affairs”, and what is their proper order?

As it turns out, the kind of chemotherapy that I had needed to kill my cancer has a well-documented history of causing Cardiomyopathy (Heart Failure).  Although the chemo dosage I received was well below the levels commonly known to cause this, it happened none the less.  We knew it was a risk, but if we wanted the best odds of surviving the cancer, it was a risk we simply had to accept.

The most difficult part of living with Heart Failure is the possibility of dying from it.  When the heart is only pumping half as strong as it should, it could stop at any time.  Thankfully, there is treatment: a combination of medication and diet changes that will prolong life. Water pills to help the kidneys work, beta blockers to help the heart pump stronger, and a low sodium/low fluid intake.  Getting the medication to the effective level desired is a long, slow process that for me, took close to a year to complete.

Eight months into the regimen, my doctor determined that unfortunately, my heart had made very little improvement, which meant I would also need a defibrillator device inserted into my chest. With my own set of “paddles” wired into my heart, in the event my heart should stop or fibrillate, I would get a shock that would correct it, and save my life.  Of course, I was told that it would feel like getting kicked in the chest by a horse.  Wonderful.  Still, better than the alternative.

It was during this time that I found myself living with a new companion, the little dark cloud over my shoulder named Sudden Death.  It followed me where ever I went.  Each night I prayed to God to let me to wake up the next morning.  Each morning, I thanked God for His answer.  I constantly reminded myself that in all things God can make good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.*  I worked hard at getting my emotions out of the way, to lean on His strength because mine was sorely insufficient, and to trust, trust, trust God for each day.  It was hard work.

“Are you sure, God?” was my persistent question.  “Are you sure… after the cancer… this is what we are doing?”  The questions only started there.

“Why am I going through another wilderness with you, Lord?  If this is where you want me to be, then what am I to understand here?  What is it that you want Lord?  From me… through this?  Am I to walk here for the rest of my life?”  For months I asked these things of God.  I wrote long open letters to Him, asking for more faith, acknowledging my weaknesses, my bewilderment, expressing my gratitude for what He had already delivered me from, asking forgiveness for my doubts about where I was now.  Although I knew I was loved, and I knew He was with me, make no mistake, I was really struggling.  Struggling to understand, or perhaps… struggling to accept.  Clearly I didn’t agree with it.  Clearly I thought God had made a mistake.

Then, after many months, an answer came.  In a word: Yield.

From a book called One in a Million.**

Once the book was opened, revelations came tumbling out.  It was as if God plucked that book off my shelf, plopped down next to me on the couch, opened a page and started reading aloud.  It was really quite incredible.  That book had been sitting there for so long, it dawned on me that God had put the answers in my hands long before I had formed the questions in my mind.  Right there, in black and white, was a reply to every single question I had written out to God.  Literally.

Clarity followed.  I was reminded of all that I had learned in my walk through the wilderness called cancer.  It was there that I had gotten to know God more intimately than I had ever known Him before.  It was there that I learned I was not as capable as I thought I was, but God would step into my weakness and provide me with the hope, determination, and strength I could no longer muster.  It was there that I experienced a profound humbling that revealed the depth of my belief.  Which was then tested, and cemented.  It was there that I had made the choice to go anywhere with God than to stay where I was without Him.  So, you see, after wondering for so long what I was doing here, in a way, you could way that I was here… by choice.

Now it was time to yield.  Yield to the wilderness, for through it, we will have the privilege to experience God anew.  Yield to it, and through it, He will continue to grow us into the people he knows we can be.  Yield to the wilderness, for He uses it to prepare us for the abundant life He has promised.***  The wilderness can hone, perfect, strengthen, humble, grow obedience, courage, hope and faith.

And in the peace that has followed these many months of wondering (wandering), I realized two more things.  One; at some point the cloud called Sudden Death suddenly vaporized, and two; I found that My Affairs, the ones that truly matter, were being put in order after all.

*Romans 8:28

**One in a Million, copyright 2010 Priscilla Shirer, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN

***Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Copyright Lynnea Washburn.  All rights reserved.

Act II

I was checking off my last-minute errands before we took off to Mexico the next day.  It was a vacation I finally felt well enough to enjoy, except for this little bout with a pesky chest infection.  No matter, I thought, another round of antibiotics should do the trick, and I was just leaving the doctor’s office with prescription in hand.  I should have known it was bad sign when the nurse came running out after me as I headed to my car after the chest x-ray.

“Can you come back in?” she asked, “The doctor would like to speak with you.”

Crap.  They found something.

A million things ran through my mind in that short walk back to his office.  My health had been returning steadily.  It had been almost four years of clean scans since my cancer treatment.  Had the lymphoma returned?  Could it be?  But these symptoms were different.  I couldn’t catch my breath after walking ten yards, my heart pounded after walking upstairs, and I couldn’t sleep due to a constant cough.  Nothing like before.  It wasn’t the same script.

Doctor N gave me that same sideways look I had seen once before.  Uh oh, I thought.

“You may have Cardiomyopathy,” he said.

“I don’t know what that is, but it has something to do with the heart…?”

“Yes, its heart damage.  Most likely caused by the chemotherapy,” he continued.  Knowing of my vacation plans he said, “You need to have an echocardiogram immediately.  I’m setting up an appointment for you downtown this afternoon, and I’m working on getting you in to see a cardiologist.”  I only learned later he had been writing “STAT” on everything all along.

Like a book you are partway through before you realize you’ve read it before (except you don’t remember the ending), this was all way too familiar.  Numbly I drove downtown, knowing the way to the hospital by rote, which allowed me too much time to ponder what this all really meant.

After the echocardiogram was done, the tech nurse asked if I could wait a minute.  She wanted to have a cardiologist check it before I left.  As more and more time ticked away, I began to realize they were debating whether they should let me go.  Finally, the nurse said I could leave, but that Doctor N would be calling me.  I got as far as the lobby outside the exam room when my phone rang.

Good news just doesn’t travel this quickly, and I knew what he was going to say even before he got the words out.  “As I suspected, you do have Cardiomyopathy.  You have an urgent appointment Monday morning to see the cardiologist.  We decided to let you go home now instead of admitting you, but Lynnea. you. cannot. go. to. Mexico.”

I sat, eyes brimming, as fear egged on emotions that I fought to contain.

“I’m so sorry,” he continued, “I know it’s not what you wanted to hear, but this is extremely serious.  If something were to happen… you may not come back.”  As that idea sunk in, I knew he was right, and although I could barely form the words, I said I would be at the appointment on Monday.

Now what.  What in the world was I dealing with?  How serious is “serious”?  What about the trip?  We’re leaving in the morning.  No wait, I’m not leaving.  Should they still go?  They should go.  Will they?  They won’t want to.  Am I safe to stay alone?  What if…?  What a mess.

Of course the first thing my husband and I did when I got home was to go to the internet and seek out as much information as possible.  That’s when we learned that… oh… Cardiomyopathy is Heart Failure.  All my symptoms were there… and, ohh… the possibility of organ transplant… and ohhh…. the possibility of sudden death.  That’s when the reading stopped.  Cue ton of bricks.

We looked at each other, held on tight, let the tears flow until we found our breath.  Shaking my head and straightening, I said,  “Well.  We’ve been here before, haven’t we?”  Conceding nods.  We both know the mantra that comes next.

“You and I both know that if it is time for me to go, then no one, and nothing, will prevent that from happening.  And, if it is not time for me to go, then no one, and nothing, can make that happen.”

If it had not been for the cancer, I would not have known this to be true.

I could not believe I was in this place again, but now was not the time to think about that.  We only had a few hours to sort things out, tell the family, and make a new plan.  It was emotional, messy, difficult, hard, hard work.  Finally, with the help of my parents, a plan emerged that we could reluctantly live with.  I would stay, my oldest son would be there with me until my parents flew in the next evening.  My husband, son and girlfriend would go to Mexico as planned with the understanding if they decided to turn around and come home at any time, they could.

So marked the inauspicious beginning of Act II; Heart Failure.

And although my heart didn’t stop working at that time, it surely felt like it was breaking.  Clearly Mexico was not where God wanted me to go.  But I couldn’t help but ask Him ~ then where in the world, God, are we heading now?

To Begin Again

Watching hair grow is like taking a snail for a walk across the Sahara desert.

Strangely, as soon as fuzz appeared on my head, my wig didn’t feel like me anymore.  This was surprising considering how it had made me feel completely like myself at the beginning.  But after eight months, it felt like the old me, the chemo me, the sick me, and I was ready to leave that me behind.  Although I was still a frightful sight for the general public, around the house I would sport my five o’clock shadow style.

My inching hair was outward evidence of an inward healing that was equally as slow.  Although I had days of aching joints, deep tiredness and very foggy thinking, I began to see small improvements over time. A bit more physical strength here, a longer period of activity there, a little less needed sleep to make it through the day.  I was making progress.

As the chemo mist lifted, I began to see more clearly.  But what I saw simply overwhelmed me.  So much catching up needed to be done.  The house needed repair, the yard needed tending, furniture needed replacing, work needed work, and our bank account left a lot to be desired.  There was too much to do, too much money needed to do it, and it was all going to take too much time.  Things were a mess, and improvement seemed unattainable.  I simply felt… behind.  And for some reason, being behind was an awful, horrible, terrible thing.  It meant that I had lost.

And the reality was, I did lose something.  I lost time I could not reclaim.  Try as I may, I could not possibly catch up for the previous year.  It was gone.  I had to let go of something I never really had a grasp of anyway, and I had to stop beating myself up about it.  Yes, I had won the battle, but I needed to cede that it had cost me something.  And I had to acknowledge that what it cost me was well worth what I had won.  This is obvious, and still, it is a process.

One of the reasons recovery takes so long is that the damage inflicted from the struggle can be so far-reaching.  It can touch all the events that make up the daily flow of our lives, reach all the people we know, and affect our total being; our emotions, our minds, and our physical bodies all the way down to the cell level.

So yes.  It takes time.  But what I found was that before you can even begin to move forward, you must start by leaving what is behind behind you.  I had to accept my reality, grieve what was lost, forgive myself even though it was not my fault, and then to lay it all down at God’s feet.  Only then could I turn my eyes to the next sunrise, be grateful for the new day, and realize how blessed I was to have the chance to begin again.

Sunrise © Lynnea Washburn

All portions of this blog are copyright Lynnea Washburn.  All rights reserved.

This is a late addition to this post (because at first I chickened out):

To save you the journey through the Sahara Desert with a snail leading the way, I’ve compressed my hair-raising experience from three years down to a minute and a half.

Deep breath, here I go… if I don’t share it now, I may never.  If I can get through it, so can you.