Not at all what I expected…

Going into the biopsy appointment this morning, I felt peace. Prayers had been poured out on me by family and friends all week. My sweet Pastor prayed for me over the phone yesterday afternoon. I trusted God with the process and the outcome of the test. Like in so many things in life, I knew that I couldn’t truly prepare for the procedure ahead of time or know what exactly to expect. I’d breathe deeply and pray my way through the experience. Or so I thought…

Unfortunately, my anxiety started to build as they got me situated in the mammogram machine and I waited for the first numbing injection. Breathing deeply was made more difficult by the mask I was wearing. I tolerated the first injection fine, but when the doctor told me, “These next two injections are going to go much deeper into the breast tissue,” I started to panic. I could feel the next injection deeply.

“I feel like I’m going to faint,” I said. The next thing I know (a minute or two later?) I was out of the mammogram machine, lying down and feeling all those terrible fainting feelings: sweaty, shaky, panicked breathing. I started saying, “I’m sorry” over and over again to the doctor, technician and assistant.

As I started to feel relatively better, but still not ready to sit up, the doctor and I talked through the options. She suggested we could just complete the left-side biopsy and put off the right-side for later. That sounded good to me! She said I’d have to be able to sit up through the procedure. I asked, “How long does it take?” to which she replied, “Twenty minutes”.

“No way! I won’t be able to do that,” I told her bluntly.

My history of fainting goes pretty far back. I fainted twice when I was 12-year-olds: during my immunizations and also when I got my ears pierced. Laying on the floor behind the cash registers at the Bayshore Mall Claire’s is still one of my most humiliating moments! For many years I asked to lay down for blood draws for diabetes related tests. I overcame that particular issue when I was pregnant and had SO MANY blood draws.

I’ve either fainted or vomited during most all IVs I’ve experienced. Just a couple months ago, I had an eye exam that involved an IV and I did fine! Perhaps that gave me a false sense of confidence going into today’s procedure.

It didn’t even occur to me that I might pass out during the biopsies. I’m not sure why: maybe just my optimistic nature or because it’s been over a decade since I’ve fainted. If I’d been cognizant of this possibility, I would not have felt such peace all week. As I posted on FB yesterday: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:31-34). I didn’t know the awful feelings that awaited me today, until it happened. Ultimately, God protected me by limiting the scope of my imagination ahead of time.

There’s a peace in acknowledging that my body’s response of fainting during invasive medical procedures is beyond my control. If I could tolerate this type of thing, I would gladly do it! I feel empowered to at least be armed with this knowledge so I can talk to my doctors about how to proceed with monitoring or performing future tests for breast cancer. Thankfully, the doctor told me today that she expects the results would be benign and advised I could follow-up in six months. The lack of urgency is comforting.

Thank you ALL for the care and concern you’ve shown me. Your prayers for peace and a good result were answered! I felt peace and I’m not spending the next few days worrying about a test result.

Today didn’t go at all as I expected, but I trust that God has a plan. Last night, Teo referred to the poem he memorized for Speech Meet in second grade when he prayed, “Whatever is, is best, God”. Such true and comforting words.


Childlike Prayers

Over the past several weeks, Mateo and I have been praying together nightly. It started out as a routine on the nights when it was my turn to read with him. Then, one night after Dennis left his room, Teo called for me asking, “Can we pray?” Our sporadic prayer practice had finally become a deeper need and routine.

I always start out the prayer by thanking God for blessings that come to mind and for Jesus our Savior. Then, I’ll add some prayers of petition before Teo contributes what’s on his heart and mind. He sometimes echoes prayers that I said, but more and more his prayers are uniquely his own. A couple weeks ago he said, “I pray for all the people who are sick or injured or need to know you, God. Also, for all the things you know about God, that we don’t know.” Wow. I was stunned by the depth of that simple prayer.

Learning to live in the moment and be fully present has been a huge focus in my life for nearly eight years! I’m just starting to realize how much prayer helps in this pursuit. In Here and Now, Henri Nouwen writes, “Prayer is the discipline of the moment. When we pray, we enter into the presence of God whose name is God-with-us. To pray is to listen attentively to the One who addresses us here and now.” So true! Prayer has the power to still our hearts and minds to wait on God for a response in His time.

Living in the moment is all well and good, but ultimately it’s directed at the goal of trusting in God. I can relinquish my drive for control because I know that almighty God is in charge and he loves me. The next sentence after the one quoted above is: “When we dare to trust that we are never alone but that God is always with us, always cares for us, and always speaks to us, then we can gradually detach ourselves from the voices that make us guilty or anxious and thus allow ourselves to dwell in the present moment,” (pg. 22). Wow, amazing.

On Thursday night, as I was still processing the mammogram results, Teo and I started to pray. I prayed for many things and ended with one for myself: “God, please let the biopsy results be benign. Please help me to be strong through the procedure and the days of waiting afterwards.” I paused and then encouraged Teo to contribute his petitions.

He spoke his usual universal prayers for all people and all that God knows about, including those dealing with illness. Then he said, “… and most of all…”

Oh, I thought with a sigh, he’s going to pray for his mom now.

“Most of all, please let the Dolphins beat the Chiefs this Sunday,” he finished with feeling.

I burst out laughing and tears sprang into my eyes. Teo look startled and I teased, “Yes, MOST of all, the Dolphins game is very important!” He started laughing too.

Children are the best! I love witnessing their ability to be present and ultimately trust that God and their parents are taking care of everything. Nouwen writes: “Joy and laughter are the gifts of living in the presence of God and trusting that tomorrow is not worth worrying about,” (pg. 37).


Sorrow and Joy

A few weeks ago I had my first mammogram. The pandemic delayed my appointment by several months, but at last it was time to face this middle aged rite of passage. The exam wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated and I didn’t dwell on the results at all. That is, until I received a notice later that week indicating that additional imaging was needed. As I talked to many wise women in my life, I mostly felt assured that this was standard practice to establish a baseline and calcifications are quite normal.

As my scary sounding “diagnostic mammogram” approached this week, I sometimes let my thoughts wander as I prayed. I’m not often a worst case scenario thinker and oddly I didn’t feel much fear. It was more like asking God, “Is this what you have planned for me? Will breast cancer be part of my life journey? I know you will work all things for good, God. Will this experience deepen my faith and trust in you?”

Last Tuesday during a morning run, I really went there and imagined the worst while listening to Christmas music. As I ran the last lap around the park, after the album I chose finished, the app automatically started playing similar music. In this case is was a song called “Be Still” by Shannon Wexelberg and the lyrics reached right into my soul and quieted it with peace:

To ride on Your shoulders
And not fear tomorrow
Embrace with abandon
The places we’ll go
To listen for whispers straight into my heart
certain I’m never alone

To simply be still and know

To know You are God and to bask in Your peace
to dance in Your grace like the rain
to know You are God and you’re fighting for me
nothing will stand in Your way

So I am laying down
Questions that haunt me now
Answers I’ll just never know
Just for the chance to meet You here again
And all for the joy just to know
The God of the heavens
You formed me and made me
You water the depths of my soul
Would You keep calling me back to the shore

Oh love that will not let me go
To simply be still
To simply be still and know

As the appointment day neared (on my mom’s birthday, unfortunately!), I prayed a lot. In hindsight, it feels like the Holy Spirit guided my thoughts and feelings during those days, as I started to reason through what was likely to happen. Instead of either getting an all clear or a cancer diagnosis, they could very well decide that more testing was needed. Dennis and I debated having him go with me, but thanks to Covid-19 he’d have to sit in the car, so I opted to go alone. This exam was more painful as they had specific areas they needed to image extensively.

The kind technician brought the pathologist in to talk to me just moments after concluding the mammogram. She explained that the clusters of calcifications are suspicious looking enough that they want to do biopsies on both breasts. Taking a deep breath and feeling a slight panic flood over me, I was able to ask a few questions about the biopsy process. It felt a lot like being the 5-year-old in the pediatricians office asking questions about the injection I was about to receive!

The women were all so nurturing and quickly brought me tissues as I started to cry. They ushered me to another kind woman who called over to schedule the biopsy and walk me through the next steps. I prayed and breathed deeply as we scheduled the procedure for exactly a week later and discussed logistics. When explaining that I shouldn’t lift anything heavy for a few days, the assistant asked me if I had kids. I said, “Yes, but they’re too big to pick up now.” Then, she asked me, “How old are your kids?” The emotion I was holding in overflowed as I burst into tears.

My ultimate fear of dying is not for myself. I know that I’ll be with Jesus and in perfect peace. But, my kids need me. In my heart the response to this question was “Too young to lose their mother.”

As I prayed and processed yesterday, I realized that I’ll likely get the biopsy results just a few days before Christmas. On one hand this seems like poor timing, but then I reflected on an idea I’d come across years ago in the beautiful writing of Tish Harrison Warren. She wrote: Mourning and thanksgiving are not only not opposed to each other but often grow together, so intricately entwined that we can’t stifle one without killing the other.

I’ve had a taste of this over the past week. The fear I’ve been feeling has intensified my ability to be present and thankful for life. Likely (percentage-wise), the results of the biopsy will be benign. But, should the results indicate further treatment is needed, I’ll be surrounded by my family and filled with love, hope, and peace as we celebrate Christ’s birth. The tender moments will be that much more tender.

This morning I started reading Henri J. M. Nouwen’s Here and Now and experienced another moment of consolation from the Holy Spirit as I came to a section on joy. Nouwen wrote: “Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.” Then, he goes on to say: “We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together,” (pg. 30).

The next couple weeks will be a mix of anticipation, fear, peace, and joy. I’ll be resting in prayer and then wrestling with my thoughts, over and over again. I’d love your prayers for a benign result and a holiday season filled with thankfulness and joy.


Silliness Saved our Morning

Just as Sienna emerged from her room, I gathered her up for a big hug this morning. She fits so perfectly in my embrace these days, as she’s just a few inches shorter than me! We hugged for a minute and then made our way to the living room. I noticed the copy of her Speech Meet poem on the table. “Is this the one you need to turn in or an extra?” I asked.

“It’s the one,” she sleepily replied. “The ONE?!” I joked in a silly voice. “The ONE!” she repeated in a little babyish voice as she put her face right up to mine. We giggled as we stepped into the kitchen where Dennis was making eggs.

“I love mornings like this; when mom is silly and dad is making breakfast,” Sienna said.

As the morning routine continued, I did a quick workout in the garage, took a shower and got ready for work as the kids ate breakfast. Dennis and Teo started a couple games of air hockey in the garage since they had time to kill! At 7:30 am, I went to pack up my lunch when I saw the kids unpacked lunch boxes sitting on the counter.

“Oh, I completely forgot to pack lunches!” I exclaimed as I quickly calculated that I had ten minutes before Dennis and the kids needed to leave for school. Sienna came over and asked, “Do you need help?”

“Yes, grab out the little containers for your cookie dough dip please.” (It’s a delicious treat as part of our bean protocol – check out the recipe in the link!)

We worked together and got the lunches packed up quickly. As we worked, I thought about my reaction to this slight misstep in our morning. I’d given myself grace and reacted with compassion, rather than frustration! When I’m in my unhealthy perfectionist mindset, this kind of mistake would cause me to be cranky with my family and angry with myself. Being lighthearted and modeling for my children that mistakes are normal and okay is what I want to do, though it’s easier said than done.

Dennis came into the kitchen as we were hustling to finish the lunches. I remembered Sienna’s comment about my silliness and quipped, “You know what I could have said when I remembered the lunches? ‘You kids want to eat AGAIN today?! Do you need to eat EVERY DAY?!'” Sienna and Dennis laughed with me.

The everyday routine of kids, school, work, chores, and all the rest can be draining and repetitive. At the same time, these are the moments of connection with the ones we love most, and thankfully a little silliness can sometimes save your morning.

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

The One About Sewing a Dress

Our church planned an event recently, where ladies would gather to sew dresses in support of Lutheran Border Concerns Ministry. Sienna and I wanted to go, but it conflicted with a hike we’d organized for the Cambridge sixth graders and then, due to Covid-19 restrictions, the event was cancelled anyway. Instead, the coordinator Pamela put together little fabric, elastic and bias tape kits for the women who planned to participate.

When Pamela showed Sienna and me the kit, we asked when the dress needed to be done by and were relieved to learn we had until December 1st to complete it! Since we planned to visit family in Humboldt for Thanksgiving, I figure my mom (and sewing extraordinaire!) could help us make the dress. I haven’t sewed much in my life and we only have Sienna’s little starter sewing machine at home, so we definitely needed the help!

As luck would have it, we decided not to go up north for Thanksgiving after all. We really needed a restful week at home and didn’t feel up to the 30 hours of driving! But, that meant we lost our sewing instructor! I decided not to pressure ourselves to complete the dress over this restful week. If we had time and got it done, great! If not, we’d apologize and contribute warm clothes for the donation drive instead.

All week I’d been truly living in the moment and not striving to control my feelings. Oh, the freedom of surrendering and trusting God feels amazing! Friday afternoon ended up being completely open and I decided to try sewing the dress. I said a few little prayers in anticipation of starting on the project: “Lord, please give me patience and peace so I can overcome the challenges I know will come. I want to be able to contribute this dress to the ministry. If it’s your will, please help me. Amen.”

Getting the sewing machine set up involved internet searches to remember how to load the bobbin and thread the machine! I read the detailed instructions in the kit and felt like it was in a foreign language! YouTube videos were incredibly helpful as I watched tutorials on how to thread our particular machine and how to sew a French seam. I also didn’t realize the straps (included in the kit) were made from bias tape until I searched for “bias tape” online!

About three and a half hours later, I was done! There were several moments of frustration as I struggled to get the elastic casing closed. I about lost it when the needle on the machine broke off as I tried to backstitch over a pin! Rookie moves. Fortunately, with a quick call to my mom, I discovered one extra needle in the side tray of the machine. Felt like an answer to a prayer!

I kept making frustrated noises and at one point Dennis asked me, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy a dress to donate?” I sighed and said, “That’s not the point!” But, it was pretty funny because of course it’s true: it would be easier but not nearly as satisfying as investing the time to create something.

As I started this project, I thought of how great it would feel to actually finish the dress. Boy, it was exhilarating! Not because the dress turned out perfectly (don’t look too carefully at the seams!) but because I pushed through the uncertainty and relied on God to overcome my frustration and sit in the discomfort of not knowing what I was doing.

Sewing a dress had become symbolic for me of something I avoided doing when perfectionism reigned in my heart and mind. A couple years ago, I couldn’t fathom sewing four dresses with Sienna for her play, because I didn’t know how to do it well. This little dress meant so much to me because I didn’t let fear of failure keep me from trying something new. I accepted the feelings of frustration and ignorance but kept going.

That evening at bedtime, I was still marveling at the completed dress as Teo and I read and prayed. He said, “I didn’t think you were going to do it,” with childlike honesty. What a teachable moment! Teo also struggles with perfectionism and doesn’t like trying things he doesn’t know how to do. I replied: “Right?! It was hard and I was frustrated. But, it was like the growth mindset we talk about. I didn’t know how to sew the dress, but I could keep trying and learn something new. Also, I prayed for strength and peace, a lot.” He nodded and patted my arm.

This little dress brought such fulfillment, peace and hope into my week. Thank you, Lord!