encouragement

5 ways to embrace darkness in your life

What do you do when you feel like you’re going through a dark time in your life? And it just keeps going. Like you’re in a tunnel with no end in sight. I feel like I’ve been in this stage for over a year now. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ever coming out of it. Like I’m walking through the fog, only able to see part of the path in front of me – not knowing where it will lead, but blindly proceeding onward anyway.

 

Into the unknown
Into the unknown

 

On Sunday, the pastor at my church was saying he was sensing some of us have been oppressed by the enemy for a long time. Yeah. Sounds about right…

The thing is, at some point last summer, I felt like God was telling me he was going to restore me. But oddly, it was at a point where things looked like they were going in the right direction anyway. It didn’t make sense. Things didn’t keep heading in the right direction for me to recover financially, but they had started. Now, I find myself wondering if he was referring instead to my mother and the cancer we did not yet know about that was about to be revealed. And if not, could I trade my promise and apply it to her? Which lead me to my first point.

Bargaining: My bargaining goes somewhere along these lines.So, God, not sure where that restoring is that you promised me last summer, but could we please take that word and apply it to my mom’s cancer? It’s more important. I’ll live below the poverty level for the rest of my life if you can just restore my mom instead.’ 

 

Another nut, please.
Another nut, please.

 

Like living below the poverty level for the rest of my days on planet earth sounds fun. So then I bargain some more. ‘But you can restore my mom’s health and me as well. Because really I’m not going to feel restored if her cancer gets worse and I’m doing better financially. Taking her cancer away is a part of restoring me, so really, could you restore both me and my mom? Let’s apply that word ‘restore’ to all aspects of my life.’ Like, you know, why not go big or not at all?

I keep running into this verse lately: Hebrews 4:16 “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” So I’m approaching the throne of grace with confidence. I’m holding Him to his promises and making sure I bargain for Mamacita’s life as well. Hopefully I don’t look like Mr. Chipmunk here. With his cheeks stuffed full of nuts but still begging for more…

 

Ain't too proud to beg
Ain’t too proud to beg

 

Let Go and Let God: I feel like I keep playing certain songs over and over again. The main one I’m stuck on lately is Thy Will by Hillary Scott and The Scott Family. I’m not sure if it really makes me feel any better as it’s basically saying Thy Will be Done when really what I want is my will to be done. But it helps me to let go and let God. And that’s important. Maybe I feel like on the one hand, God is telling me to approach the throne of grace with confidence, but on the other hand as this song says: Sometimes I’ve gotta stop, remember that You’re God and I am not… Woah. That’s a hard one when you’ve got a loved one fighting cancer. Like, just kick this cancer to the curb already!

 

Letting go...
Letting go…

 

Listen to music that makes you feel good: A couple of days ago, the song What a Feeling by Irene Cara from the movie Flashdance was going through my head. So I played that one over and over. Finally had to stop playing it because it’s a pretty upbeat song and I didn’t want to re-hurt my tailbone which is feeling way better and on the mend right now, but needs more time to be fully healed.

The next day my mom and I were heading down to OHSU to meet with her doctor and then do her chemo. I was worried that the news from her latest cat scan would be be bad. It wasn’t good news last time. Since she started on the new trial through OHSU, they keep having to take her off the new trial drug she’s on because of dangerously high levels of GGT levels in her liver. She’d been off the pills for a week before getting the cat scan. Her weight is down – not a good sign in a cancer patient because it could mean the cancer is winning. And here I am listening to What a Feeling and trying not to dance my tailbone into a setback in the healing process. But, it made me feel better – imagining us getting good news instead of bad at the doctor the next day and dancing our way across the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. (Which is near where her doctors office and the chemo ward are.) Trying to mentally prepare myself for the worst while hoping for the best.

 

Mt St Helens as seen through the Tilikum Crossing Bridge from OHSU
Mt St Helens as seen through the Tilikum Crossing Bridge from OHSU

 

Channel peace and serenity: Just before my mom and I left for OHSU a couple of days ago, I saw a picture I’d forgotten to post from a couple of weeks ago. It looked so peaceful and tranquil and I knew I needed some of that peace for the day. So I thought it fitting that it somehow hadn’t gotten posted and was just sitting there waiting for the perfect time for me to post it. A reminder that whatever was coming, we’re in God’s hands ultimately. And those are good hands to be in.

 

Peace and serenity
Peace and serenity

 

Embrace the darkness: You know that saying, ‘The nights always darkest before the dawn’. Know that you’re dawn is coming. And not all dark things are bad. As my mom and I sat at the doctor’s office, the doctor was showing us the tumors. This time the news was good! The tumors had shrunk down in size – one of the original ones on her lungs was back to it’s original size, and the other one that was a bit bigger was smaller than the second cat scan she’d had but still bigger than the first time. And then he pointed to the middle and said ‘But it’s darker here in the middle. Even darker than the last time.’ That’s actually good news when it comes to looking at a cat scan of cancer tumors! The contrast stuff they give my mom before doing a cat scan makes those things light up like Christmas tree lights, so the darkness in the tumor actually means they’ve gone necrotic. They’re dying out! Whoohoo!!!!!

 

It's always darkest before the dawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

 

*On a side note, another dark thing that isn’t bad is dark chocolate. I love dark chocolate! But not the kind that is so dark it tastes like baking cocoa. Blech. Maybe I’m more of a semi-sweet/dark chocolate lover. I’ve decided Dove Dark Chocolates are the perfect blend of dark chocolate. Not so dark they are bitter, but not yucky milk chocolate as well. And dark chocolate is actually good for you. I’m sure the kind that is really good for you is the really dark bitter kind, but any dark chocolate is better for you than milk chocolate. So yeah, yum. Dark chocolate rocks! So feel free to buy yourself a nice dark chocolate Easter bunny for Easter. You can thank me later…

 

Dove dark chocolate
Dove dark chocolate

 

Photo credit: Chipmunk photo credit – ankakay Ain’t too proud to beg via photopin (license)

What to do while recovering from an injury

I’ve hurt my tailbone, and while it’s feeling a bit better, I’m trying to figure out what to do while recovering from my tailbone injury. Like, really? I’m asking you. Before I go nuts from boredom…

So, one thing I can tell you not to do while recovering from a tailbone injury, is feel the pain easing up to a duller ache and then decide to go walk up a steep hill to the viewing area to see waterfalls out in the Columbia River Gorge. Yeah. That will set you right back to having the sharper pain you had at the beginning. Now I’ve learned my lesson and will not be heading out to the Gorge for a while so I can heal up the rest of the way. Yikes. No fun having a set back like that when you feel like you are on the road to recovery.

Do take it easy for a while. Use a heat pack to ease the pain and rub on some sort of Deep Heat or other pain relief. I currently have a roll on one called Max Freeze.

Take baths with Epsom salts. I sometimes found myself doing this morning and night to get pain relief. I’m back down to having minor achiness in the backside and am now doing light exercise like stretching, yoga, or small walks around the block or store, or just my house. I feel a lot better, but am not wanting to do anything that will set me back during the next couple of months. No uphill walks for me for a while. Or running, jumping for joy, ect… Boo.

Know that this too will pass. And in the meantime I’m trying to get my photography fix in by taking photos of rainbows I’m seeing from my window, the cats, the flowers as I walk around the block. Mr. Squirrel. Yeah. Got a good one of him today. And made my poor cats sit for a photo session. Or tried to. Cats being cats, they do what they please, and eventually wander away from me. Feather toys or no… Le sigh.

I’m kind of glad it’s still cold and rainy out right now. That way I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Ha. But, really, I still like the sunshine better than the rain, so will still be glad when it’s gone. Even if I’m barely able to get outdoors to enjoy it.

 

Rainbow through the trees
Rainbow through the trees

 

Mr. Squirrel eating a peanut
Mr. Squirrel eating a peanut

 

Pink flowers
Pink flowers

 

Sheba - framed
Sheba – framed

 

White magnolia
White magnolia

 

Isis - my ragdoll baby
Isis – Ragdoll cat

 

Women and cats will do as they please...
Women and cats will do as they please… Quote by Robert Heinlein

 

Learning to stop comparing yourself with others

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from the blog this past week as I started comparing myself to others and finding I didn’t measure up. I honestly felt like I just had nothing to give and nothing to say. I tend to do things with the tenacity of a bulldog sometimes. I just keep going at something without taking good breaks until I feel totally burnt out and then wonder how I got to that point. I’m trying to recognize those moments when they start to happen and allow myself to take a break when needed.

Comparison is something that most of us do at some point or another in our lives, but need to stop doing. I started comparing my blog to other peoples. Or people who should make a blog because they have a talent the world would love to see.

I’d recently been telling my friend, Silke, that she should make a public blog of for her cake decorating (you can view her Facebook page here: Silks’n’Sweets. I can totally see those wonderfully decorated cakes being repinned all over Pinterest. Then I started thinking about how I didn’t have any wonderful talent like that I could showcase in a blog. I started thinking about others I know that blog who have a specific area they are good in and concentrate on that in their blog.

My friend, Alison, has a food blog – Redhotcenter. And she can take good photos of the food she is making. Unlike your normal cell phone snapped photos people take of the food they are eating for every single meal and posting it on social media – driving the rest of us batty with having to look at yet another shot of your dinner, lunch, breakfast, snack, ect, Alison is a professional food blogger and knows how to take an artsy creative photo of food. She’s earned her right to showcase her food photos on all her social media. (In my opinion, only the food bloggers have earned the right to showcase all the food they are making because they are so good at it!) The rest of you all with your dark, blurry casually snapped cell phone photos of every meal you eat – please just stop already. Once in a blue moon is enough for those kind of photos.

Another friend, Amy, has a wonderful blog, Amy Lynn Andrews on how to get started blogging, and all sorts of social media and blogging tips. She’s good at sussing out all the helpful, pertinent, new up and coming social media tips and tricks. In fact, I turned to her blog for help getting started on my blog. She rocks the blogging, social media world with her tips!

I have another friend, Elissa, who doesn’t blog but is totally crafty and should blog about all the crafts she makes. Again, Pinterest would eat that stuff up! She would need to invest in a good camera, because cell phone photos just leave much to be desired when it comes to professional blogging. But, seriously, that girls got crafting talent!

Another friend, Michelle, writes about autism and neurodiversity on her blog, Michelle Sutton Writesand even has a book out about it. I have an adult child with autism and I couldn’t write a book or blog post about it for the life of me!

And then I took a good look at me. Hmmm. I like books, cats, photography, fashion and acting. I started my blog because I wanted somewhere to showcase my photos. I don’t have any particular cool talent. I’ve got nothing compared to all these gals!

So this past week I’ve been taking a break from the blog and trying to find my way again in the blogging world. I took a walk earlier this week looking for signs of spring. Signs of new life and a new beginning. New hope. And in this time of transition between winter and spring, I can see spring trying to come forth – even though we are still getting cold weather and bits of snow coming down now and then. This season will change. Spring will prevail. New life and new hope will come forth. And I will carry on!

 

Camellia blossom
Camellia blossom

 

Neighborhood book exchange
I was so excited to see someone in my neighborhood put up a book exchange library!!!

 

White flowers
White flowers

 

Deep dark red hellebore
Deep dark red hellebore

 

Pussy willow
Pussy willow

 

Purple crocuses
Purple crocuses

 

As I’ve been telling God my woes about not having any particular area of talent to blog about. This is what I am hearing:

Romans 12:4-8

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if is is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

 

Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people.
Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people.

 

Know that you are enough. You are uniquely you. No one else could be you-er than you.

 

There is no one alive that is youer than you!
There is no one alive that is youer than you!

Hats off to the wonderfully talented ladies in my life that had me comparing myself to them this week, but I refuse wallow in comparison any longer. I’m not you, I am me. Made in His image. For what purpose or plan, I have no idea, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out as I go along.

 

What’s grace got to do with it?

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but will sometimes pick a word to define the year – a tradition my sister started years ago. This year, my word is grace. (Not sure I even remembered to do this last year. I think the year got off to such a bad start I didn’t even bother.)

Why grace, you ask? I’m not even sure myself. But after finding out my mom’s cancer had spread to her lungs which meant she had stage 4 cancer and was then given a time frame for how long she would live, I was devastated. I found myself sitting in church hoping to find some sort of encouraging word or miracle or just some sort of hope to cling on to. During the worship, I was just sitting there trying not to cry. Not singing. Praying. They were singing some song and the word grace popped out at me.

Later, as I sat there – again, not listening very well to the pastor – just praying during the service, the word grace popped out at me again. I left feeling kind of confused. I’m praying my little heart out about my mom’s cancer and the word that I keep hearing is grace. But I shrugged it off. It’s a church, they talk about grace, but it didn’t really make sense to me as far as my mom’s cancer goes.

A week or so later, I was telling a friend about my mom’s cancer. She prayed God’s grace on my mom and our family. As I was walking to my car, I glanced down at a text from my sister, also about grace. I’m feeling like I’m supposed to be getting a message from God here, but I’m really confused. What’s grace got to do with it?

So, on the way home I found myself wandering through the Japanese Garden at the Main City Park in Gresham. Pondering this question and taking photos. I didn’t get any answers then about why I’m feeling the word grace so strongly in conjunction with my mom’s cancer…

 

Holly bush in the Japanese Garden
Holly bush in the Japanese Garden

 

Another month goes by. And I’m still not getting a clearer picture on the grace thing. I’m telling God I don’t understand this word grace. I think of it as meaning forgiveness for sins or wrongdoing. Or being saved from sins.  Being graceful. Having grace. I just don’t understand.

 

Pink Camellia
Pink Camellia

 

That week in church, the pastor was talking about grace again. With an example:

Have you ever been in a long line, say at they bank, and you’ve been waiting and waiting and the line is barely moving. You’ve finally managed to shuffle a few feet forward when a friend comes in and says “Hey, come outside, you’ve got to see this.” 

You don’t want to go. You tell them you can’t, the line is barely moving, you’ve made it a few people forward, if you go outside, you’ll have to go back to the end of the line again. 

But, your friend is insistent “You need to come outside now and see this.”

Finally, you reluctantly go outside, only to find out that a bank robber slipped into the bank and held it up right after you walked out the door. You feel relieved. You feel grateful to your friend for insisting they needed you to see something outside when you didn’t want to leave the line. You realize that it was only by God’s grace that you were spared from being inside of that bank at the time it was robbed.

 

Japanese Garden - Gresham Main City Park
Japanese Garden – Gresham Main City Park

 

Grace.

 

A touch of color
A touch of color

 

Ephesians 2:8; “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”.

 

Zen
Zen

 

Still feeling like it’s a wimpy word for the year. My sister picked Fierce. (You can read what she wrote about it at the end of this blog post.) I want to be fierce. Dressed for battle. Wearing my cancer kicking combat boots. Armed to the teeth. Instead, I feel like, with my word, I’m standing here, at the bottom of a glass mountain. Wearing a long flowing white dress. Barefoot. Looking up. Trying to figure out how I’m going to scale this slippery glass mountain to get to the other side. My armor isn’t going to help me now. But maybe some of those grippy socks would help. Better yet, suction cups on my hands and feet. Pretty sure this is not going to be a graceful assent, but I’ll do the best I can. Tuck that dress up, PNG style so it’s out of my way, and up I go!

 

Graceful curves
Gentle curves

 

If all else fails, by the end of this year, I’m going to give up on this grace thing and start smashing this stupid glass mountain to pieces with a gigantic hammer!

 

 

When faced with a mountain, I will not quit.
When faced with a mountain, I will not quit

 

What’s grace got to do with it, indeed? Still not sure, but I’m guessing for me and my journey with my mom’s cancer – everything.

 

 

My sister’s word for the year post:

 

Been trying to wax poetic about the New Year for days. Last year may have been an enigmatic weirdo.

This year has dubbed itself,
“the Great Unknown.”
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Picking one word isn’t gonna cut it for 2017. So far the veritable weirdsmobile has suggested: courage, light, hope, and perseverance. This makes me cry.
It’s already a year in which the other shoe has dropped. My Mama found out she has stage 4 cancer a few months ago. What does one say to that? (nothing ladylike, I can assure you)
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
So, 2017, I’ll tell you what I think.
I’ll take your pile of words, the shoes that won’t stay on your feet, and throw in an adjective:
Fierce.
You better believe it.
Fierce Love, Fierce fight, Fierce hope… Fierceness to all of the nonsense and hogwash going on the world.
And I ain’t the only one.

There’s a whole posse of us up in here.

 

Fierce
Fierce

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Art: Cory Godbey