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)

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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

 

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