I Used To

As I continue to build my life after cancer, adding bits and pieces as I have time and energy I feel like I am severely lacking in the serving other people department. As a woman of God, I know my place is to serve others, and I truly have a servant heart.

I find myself easily frustrated with people though. I have a lack of compassion for those who will not help themselves…and I feel awful for it. I used to be a great friend. Now, I feel so drained by people.

I’ve been trying to find my place to serve others and nothing feels right anymore.

I used to make meals for the youth group at church. I can’t afford to do that anymore as the group has grown and my income has decreased. Making supper for 70 is no small contribution.

I used to teach Sunday School but no longer feel led in that direction.

I used to help with Celebrate Recovery…and now when I go I struggle to listen to people having the same problem week after week and not moving forward.

At one time I was a regular host on Sunday mornings, making coffee and chatting with people. Now I’m not interested in interacting with that many people at one time.

I guess I’m just coming to terms with the fact that cancer changed me.

I’m not the person I was four years ago, and finding me is challenging. I keep trying to be the person I was; and she’s not there. I am hard on myself for not doing things I used to do; yet I just don’t feel called to do them anymore.

People keep telling me I should be a part of the Youth Group team. I’m too hard hearted for that. I’m not sure female teenage drama is a place I wanna go.

I just want to be that little butterfly…everywhere and nowhere. Filling in the gaps, the gopher (gopher this, gopher that).

Why can’t I just be a personal assistant on-call? There’s enough people who need those services. I know I would have a difficult time charging for those services though because those needs, for the most part, should be filled when we all act as The Church.

I just don’t hear God calling me anywhere right now. I’ve been listening, asking…nothing.

So for now I Mom, I skate, I work, I friend.

It just doesn’t feel anything like it used to.

~D

Father,

As my earthly dad had chores for me, I know You have expectations and chores here on this earth for me as well. I am struggling with hearing them, seeing the opportunities.
Open my eyes, father, help me to see where you want to see me pouring into.

Amen

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Poverty

I share a lot about my financial situation. Then I have a conversation about air fresheners and I realize that I need to keep sharing it because people just truly don’t understand and I know some of them really want to.

I borrowed a car from friends to take my trip to Mayo clinic this week. There was an air freshener in the car that I absolutely fell in love with.  And even though it’s only $3.00, I’ll never splurge on that for myself.

Not only that I’d be short $3.00 for paying my rent; here’s where that $3 could be better spent:

  • Buying one of the boys a couple pairs of socks (they’re boys, this is an ongoing need).
  • Most of the cost of sharpening the youngest boy’s skates ($5.00)
  • A pair of pants of clearance for my oldest kid (found his last pair for $1 at Walmart)
  • Any of the bills I shuffle each month to pay (internet and utilities…both behind and on the verge of being disconnected).
  • Enough gas to get to work for a day or my kids to their activities.
  • Trying to rebuild my emergency fund.
  • Put it towards any of the other bills I have.

So it’s not just that $3 is a big deal, it’s everything that is already not being covered that adds up and $3 might as well be $3 million. It’s not that the air freshener is out of line, it’s just so far down the line that it doesn’t even get an honorable mention.

Seriously.

And now, my long term subbing job is finished and I have no guaranteed income after my final paycheck on the 15th of this month. And I don’t have a husband with a steady job or a boyfriend who pays the bills, or a savings account to cover my butt, or a family that can cover me for more than a couple hundred dollars. The child support I receive is barely enough to make a dent. And in 30 days my rent will be due again.

And it sucks.

I was given money from friends for the Mayo trip…and it’s gone, and I’m counting pennies to make sure I can pay the rent on Monday because I feel like I was stupid with the funds I got. I spent too much on the hotel (which was necessary but I could have stayed someplace much less expensive), I ate too often (Two meals a day) and too much (soup AND salad, that’s too much). I should have just slept on a basement recliner, I should have declined to sit down and eat and just grabbed a sandwich. I should not have bought that second cup of coffee to keep me awake on the drive home.

The enemy is so loud; and he has friends. And those friends tell me I should be working 10-12 hour days, and if I truly wanted to work I could. And that $3.00 really isn’t that big of a deal.

When I received the gift of money I was so thrilled and was planning on having left over funds to pay a few things that I haven’t been able to. Instead of paying those things first, I kept it, not knowing how long I would be at Mayo. I only ended up spending one night, and it’s all gone.

And rent is due Monday, my cell phone is due Monday, and I’m truly thankful for everything that has gotten me this far…and angry that I still need more. I’m sad that I am where I am financially.

The financial insecurity is unlike any other.

And it’s one of the reasons I always do Mayo on my own.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed having a friend with me on this trip, it’s not reality. It’s not my reality. My reality is sleeping in my vehicle or on a basement recliner, it’s not stopping to eat, or just buying cereal and eating that for every meal. It’s staying at the clinic even when I have 4 hours between appointments because leaving costs money (doing things I wouldn’t normally do).

The best part of this trip was that my friend was great as far as getting through the marathon day. She took the time to understand everything going on before we went so I didn’t have to educate her on the go. Having to ‘babysit’ other people and their ability (or inability) to process information on the go is why I have never had any desire to take people with me. Thankfully we got all good news so there was none of the real tough stuff.

I’m definitely going back to going on my own though. It’s too emotionally exhausting to bring somebody with me, even when it’s a good fit and good news. Medical trips are a whole other world for me. There is a distinct disconnect from daily life just to get through the trip and I never want those two worlds to become one.

And in 3 weeks I have the privilege of returning to Mayo to see if they can fix my arm that hurts and causes muscle spasms that is the likely cause of headaches I deal with daily…and another opportunity to reach out and ask for help.

I sure don’t feel all that lucky when I have to reach out, but I sure feel blessed when the request is honored.
Lord,
Thank You father, I’m so tired. I’m thankful for tired, because it means I’m still here to be tired. It means I have to opportunity to glorify Your name for another season.
But it’s exhausting Lord and I’m trying so hard to be light in a very dark place for so many. I’m trying to be Your poster child for AMAZING grace and mercy. I’m not sure why I got picked for this job; please help me Father to remain humble enough to ask for help, and secure enough to hear Your love over the enemy.
Amen

Speechless

In 92 days I will skate my second marathon.

In that time, 10, 396 mothers, daughters, sisters, best friends, grandmothers, aunts, granddaughters, and cousins will die of Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) in the USA. JUST THE USA…

~~~~~~~
Well, this is not how this post was gonna go. I mathed (as Katie calls it) the numbers to make a point.

Then I re-mathed…and again, and texted Katie, and recalculated…

Holy shit.

I still have this pit in my stomach that feels like I’m going to puke.

For the first time in I don’t know how long, those numbers scare me.

It’s not like I didn’t know that 113 people die every day of MBC…but to put a number on a time line like that made my heart sick.

We are raising money for MBC research and a local charity…and suddenly it’s not enough. Suddenly, I feel useless and unworthy. I cannot save 10, 396 people.

But maybe I can save one.

Maybe, I can save two little boys from having to say goodbye to their single mom…a daughter from losing the one person she can count on to tell her like it is…a friend from the reality she has prayed against from day one…a mother from losing her favorite daughter…a sister…an aunt…a cousin…a grandma…

Maybe, I can be the voice for those I can’t save…the ones who are too sick to shout…those too busy trying a new drug, and another new one, and another experimental treatment…

I will be posting fundraising links in the coming days. Please join me in supporting those who are fighting for every breath, every step, every hockey practice, every bowling league, every football throw, every inline skate…for me and my friends. Shout with me for those who are dying for a cure.

My heart is so broken right now, and I’m throwing star fish back into the ocean…I can’t save them all, but I can save one at a time…I can raise one dollar at a time.

I CAN make a difference.

Will you help? Will you join me?

Dangerous Whispers

I’ve been pretty transparent about my financial situation and all that entails. I’ve shared our struggles, our triumphs, our goals, and our dreams. As I work on getting on track with our new budget, the enemy continues to whisper how terrible I am as a Christian, a woman, a child, a sibling, and a mother.

It’s that last one that it takes less than a whisper to take me out at the knees and I’d like to share how that manifests in my world right now.

I’ve been working super hard at balancing our budget and building our baby emergency fund of $500. I’m on track to have that complete ahead of schedule. We have scrimped, saved, sacrificed, and prayed.

Then the blower motor on my vehicle decides to finally quit. It’s been thinking about quitting for over a year…and I’ve been hoping it would last just long enough to get through the winter. Not having heat or a defrost function in northern Minnesota through the winter when you are carting your children everywhere is just not an option.

My vehicle has over 235,000 miles on it. My brain tells me that putting a $70 blower motor into a vehicle that may not last another six months is throwing good money after bad. My brain tells me I need to be saving for our next vehicle, not kicking a dead horse.

  • What kind of mother drives her kids around with the only heat in a vehicle being from whatever air is moved by driving.
  • What kind of person can’t afford $70 but can afford to have her kids in hockey and bowling and archery?
  • What kind of mom would miss her son’s first away tournament because she doesn’t have a reliable vehicle or the funds to make the trip?
  • If I wouldn’t have taken the trip to Minneapolis for Christmas, this wouldn’t be happening right now…I didn’t deserve that trip.

Those are the whispers surrounding JUST the $70 blower motor. Satan is an evil dangerous son of a bitch. He will take the smallest amount of normal mom-guilt and exploit it beyond all reason.

Sunday night was a difficult night in our home. One of the boys did something I probably did a thousand times as a kid; he ate some leftovers that I had plans for.

I lost my shit.

He stopped me, mid rant, and with tears streaming down his face said, “Mom, I want you to calm down. Remember when we were in the cities and you said that you hate to be upset because you look weak? Look at me, I’m upset and I’m showing it and I’m not weak.”

My son is no longer a child.

Everything he has been through, everything he knows about his Mama…he’s become a young man.

I told him I feel like a horrible mom when I can’t provide them everything I feel like they deserve. That I hate everything they have endured (divorce, cancer, poverty) and it kills me that they have to live in this cycle of poverty when they deserve everything in God’s Kingdom for how amazing and faithful they have been through it all.

~~~~

All those dangerous whispers from the enemy in my head…yet I can still know that all of this has got us to the point where my son gets it. My kid understands emotions and negotiation and love.

My kids get it…not in spite of where we are…they understand life BECAUSE of where we are. How can I even hate where we are when I see how it has manifested in the emotional growth and maturity of my boys?

I have one who sees through hurt, another who challenges every perceived fact.

These struggles are in my brain…and I need to drown out those whispers.

The type of mom who does those things whispers above…is a mom who is trying. Over and over again. A mom who never gives up, even for one minute. A mom who has been through more in six years than some moms go through in their children’s entire youth.

That mom shows a resiliency and faith that is rarely seen publicly in today’s society. She shows a transparency that brings people around her to hold her up when she’s taken out at the knees.

She shows a strength that moms who’ve never struggled are in awe over. Her drive are what draws people to God. Her faithful trust in the Lord are beyond understanding and inspiring to those with struggles they feel are insurmountable.

~~~

I need to remember that mom, that woman…IS ME. I’m the resilient one, the faithful one, the leader, the driven.

I have been given these blessings to raise men. Every struggle has been a blessing.

Lord,

These late night silent times when I can’t sleep are a welcome challenge. Being able to see both sides of the coin is a gift more priceless than imaginable.
These challenges laid in front of me, I bring to You. I come to You as I want my children to come to me. If I, as a broken human in a sinful world, wish for my children to come to my embrace; how much more do You long for me to find comfort in Your arms…that’s where You blow my mind every day Father.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise these boys through this adversity with a faith not commonly seen publicly in today’s world.
Give me rest and give me strength to continue to be raw and real to bring Your light into my home, my work place, my social circle, my everyday life.
Continue to grant me these silent nights to hear Your love over the whispers of the enemy that drown out my daylight hours.

Amen

Ask Me How I Know

Yesterday my mom called me. We had talked a few times already about an engine my dad needs for his snowmobile and were still trying to figure out logistics. I thought that was what she was calling about.

I’ve never been so wrong in my life.

My 27 year old cousin, her sister’s boy, died of depression yesterday afternoon.

Ending his own pain exponentially increased ours.

Us, his 16 cousins left on his mother’s side left to mourn along with our parents, their mother who turns 93 tomorrow, his mother and father. His friends, his coworkers, his admirers…his fans.

Oh you know he had fans…he was that kind of guy. Living the dream.

Except his dream was marred by depression a haunted genetic history that made him decide to never have children, for fear of passing on some mental illness to them.

The boy who loved people and life more than many. The young man who was home wherever he went. The friend who was always available; no matter what the personal cost.

Although I do not know the contents of the note he left, I have a pretty good idea what was going through his head when he made a call to the local police station reporting a suspicious pick-up at an abandoned farm house (leading them to find him, already deceased).

He was tired, and he had had enough. He was saving us…his family and friends…from seeing what he thought was failure. He no longer had the strength to try one more time to make life with mental illness work.

Satan loves this mindset.

As he became sicker, the enemy became louder, and more convincing. Reinforcing the idea that the world wold be better off without his shenanigans, offensive facebook posts, and crude humor.

The enemy was wrong.

We love him for those very things. They made him uniquely him. They gave us the smiles and giggles, and inside jokes that we now must carry on without him. And carry on we will, because that’s all we can do.

In October 2005, I nearly ended my life. I had taken my daughter to school, kissed her goodbye. I dropped my older son (then just 10 months old) off at a friend’s house to play for a couple hours.

I then drove myself out to the hunting shack with my gun, loaded it and got out of my pickup…it was time to end my family’s suffering. It was time to allow them to move on, beyond depression and the medication trial and error rollercoaster. It was to be my gift to them, to give them freedom to be happy.

God didn’t think so.

In my heart, I began to question what my daughter would think…that she wasn’t worth living for. I couldn’t do that to her. I tried to reason with my heart that I was doing this FOR her.

God was louder than the enemy.

I shot my gun at a distant target…went home and promptly drove myself to the hospital for a five day stay.

There have been just three other times in the last 12 years that the thought has crossed my mind. Every time, I tell myself over and over again that God has a plan, God has a plan, God has a plan…

I know my cousin’s suicide was not part of God’s plan…and that free will owns that one.

What I do know, is that God will use this tragedy for His good works.

As that gets all worked out, I’m just sad. I’m broken, I’m drowning in a sorrow like no other. A piece of my heart has died. Although I cannot replace that piece, I can have the courage and the knowledge that the rest of it will strengthen to carry the load. The piece that is missing will always be missing, and it will hurt less over time.

Memories, like phantom limb pain of an amputee, will bring smiles, tears, and inappropriate snickers and the wrong time…in my cousin’s time.

I love you Jes.

 

 

I Shouldn’t Have Waited

On Thanksgiving Day, I had so many thoughts of all that I am thankful for that I wanted to post about. I knew I had to spread The Good News about how I see God work in my life. There were so many amazing thoughts in my head as I spent the day in restoring rest.

Then Thursday turned in to Friday.

I ran to the store to buy milk and ran into a friend and her kids. Her son plays hockey with mine and her baby is just an adorable little munchkin who is always quick to tell me, “I’m not a baby, I’m a big boy.”

I knew her dad had to return to the doctor after talking with them at last week’s hockey game so I asked about it. He is a two time cancer survivor whom had just recently finished his second round of treatment along with a bone marrow transplant.

You know that moment before your life changes…it was right before I asked.

“Well, we got some not good news this morning.”

Fuck

So he goes back to the doctor again this week (6 hours away from home) to figure out what the next course of action is. My friend is scared, her older son is devastated (him and Grandpa have always been very close).

I told her that all I can do is pray…because I don’t even know what else to do.

Then I got a text confirming a fear I’ve had for a few weeks. Another guy I know (although not well, I’ve known him for about 10 years) his brain cancer is back. Stage four glioblastoma.

So, of course I don’t do myself any favors by looking it up. Median survival, 15-18 months. Only 20% of patients area alive after one year.

I’ve been praying for his family…and my friend’s family.

I still want to post about all that I am thankful for…just at a more appropriate time. Today is not that time.

Today I am praying about not killing anybody at work…the last week before my Zoladex shot is beyond hell. It’s like PMS on steroids. I never dealt with PMS before cancer, I was pretty lucky.

Not anymore.

About a week before my shot is due, something will alert me to the shift in my mood; being short with the kids, something trivial causing an explosion…then I will check the calendar and take a deep breath…because it is just the beginning of Hell Week. College frat boys got nothing on me!

I can’t fall asleep at night, I don’t want to get up in the morning. I have no desire to do anything (I even skipped my morning skate today and last Wednesday). Ya, you read that right…I skipped an opportunity to be on the ice…twice.

I get my shot at 2:30 today and then because the weather is so awesome I may even go for an inline skate; whoda thunk we’d be able to skate at the end of November? I think Halloween Day was my last inline skate. Would have been cool to skate on ice and pavement in the same day. Today is not that day.

So I will get up and go to work, I even considered calling in sick today to avoid any potential issues, I’m just not myself and I hate it. Twice last week I nearly quit my job. I saw a co-worker yesterday and she asked if I was ready to go back to work tomorrow after a four day weekend and I told her, “No, I hate my job.” She said that made her sad.

I also hate that it’s four unpaid days (no stat holidays in this country). Ya, I know we’re going to be okay, yes I know God will provide for our needs.

You know what though?

I want more than just our basic needs. I want to pay the light bill AND take my kid for a hot chocolate. I want an emergency fund so that I don’t have to rely on others when my vehicle finally decides it’s done.

And I hate that.

I hate feeling like I want more. I hate to think that I somehow sound ungrateful for all that has been provided for us. I’m not. I am truly thankful to be where we are. I also know that even a few hundred dollars every month would make a huge difference in our comfort level. I could own more than one pair of jeans for work, I would not beat myself up for driving 3 hours (one way) to watch my son play hockey on his dad’s weekend. I wouldn’t cringe at the thought of the fees for archery (although only $40…that’s almost a tank of gas).

I had a great idea for Christmas for the boys and now I don’t think I can pull it off.

Instead of buying gifts this year, I was going to plan a getaway. It wouldn’t cost much more than what I would spend on gifts, and the memories would be way better than any gift I could buy them.

We even received an unexpected monetary gift in the mail last week. Well, between travel for hockey this month and other unexpected expenses, that was swallowed up like a snake eats a frog…like it was gone before I even realized it.

Add on the fact that my December 15 paycheck will be smaller than normal, and I’m right back to counting pennies in time to pay rent for January.

This is where that ‘cushion fund’ would come in handy. If I had a couple months of expenses saved up, and the security that I had the money on hand, I could let go of the stress.

So, instead. My kids will be on the local ‘Giving Tree’ and somebody will pick the “Boy – age 10” and “Boy – age 13” off and bless them, again.

I thought I had it all figured out.

Turns out God’s plans and my plans are not always the same.

Heavenly Father,

I am so thankful for the blessings bestowed upon myself and my boys. I do understand how blessed we are and how good we have it.

I miss how things were when I didn’t have to worry about money. I want to have that again. God, I ask for abundant resources to not only meet our needs but to also exceed them.

Amen

Sick, Not Real Sick

I woke up in the middle of the night and called into work. I was fevered, stuffed up and my body was aching. Yay for flu season, right?

Guess who hasn’t bothered to get her flu shot yet?

Anyway, now I’m laying in bed and I was thinking about how nice it will be when the boys get home from school. My older boy is the best caregiver in the world. At his very core is compassion and service. My younger one is a Mama’s boy…he would be the one to bring extra blankets, to fluff my pillows; while his brother would bring soup and care for the younger boy.

Then it hit me…

I don’t want them to see me sick. Even if it’s just a flu or a bad cold. I can picture my older boy’s agony to see his mama sick again. I don’t want that fear to ever enter his brain.

I don’t want the younger one to not be just a little boy, wanting Mom to take care of him in spite of her ailments.

Sure, their compassion is a life lesson that many will never learn. It will serve them well for years to come. I know the adversity they have faced through cancer have been wonderful lessons in faith, love, service, mercy, and grace.

They are always quick with grace when I am not well.

So where does this mom-guilt fit? It’s not like I ASKED for cancer, not like I planned to be sick today when they returned home for the week. I know it is the enemy who is working to break me down.

Screw him.

I’m taking care of me today. I’m just going to be allowed to be sick. I am going to let my boys care for me and allow my expectations to be NIL for myself this evening.

Just this once, I’m looking forward to my baby boy making me his favorite chicken noodle soup, to the older boy to be the man of the house…just this once…

And just this once, I won’t feel guilty. I won’t feel like a bad mom. I won’t beat myself up.

Dearest Father,
I ask for mercy that this illness be taken from my body today. I thank You for being louder than the enemy and that I know I am still worthy of love when I am sick.
Lord, Your love surrounds our home. Please Father, do not let fear enter here when they boys come home and see me so ill. Remind them in the deepest creases of their beings that You have beaten cancer for us and that the flu has nothing on You.
Amen