Thursday, October 22, 2015

Is it morning yet?

"Is it morning yet?" Malachi asked me that today while it was still dark outside. Although it was 6:00 since it was still dark, I told him "no, it wasn't morning."  But as I listened to the sound of the rain outside, I began to think of the verse "weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning."  For those who are experiencing an incredibly difficult time they often ask God "is it morning yet?" because the weeping that they are enduring may last months and even years. And even though there is the hope and the faith that morning will eventually come, while a person is weeping and experiencing the pain of the night, they need the support of others.

It is not enough to offer support and love in just the early days when someone passes away. Long after the casket is buried in the ground those who lose a loved one will need support because even though they know that joy will once again come, the night they are enduring is painful. After the funeral passes, the night continues for those who are mourning. And a family needs more than flowers sent.  When someone loses a loved one they are encouraged by the support they receive in the early days. But they need support for months and even years because the night they are enduring is lengthy.  Every birthday, holiday, anniversary is going to be incredibly painful for a person who lost a loved one. The mourning period doesn't end when the funeral is over. Years pass and a person still experiences pain. Their night is lengthy and the weeping will endure for awhile and they need the support of others.

It is not enough to offer support in just the early days of a cancer diagnosis. Long after the shock of the diagnosis wears off a family needs support because even though they know that joy will once again come and one day it will be morning, the night they are enduring is lengthy.  The night continues for those who are facing hospital stays, tests and chemotherapy. In the early days of a diagnosis a family typically gets an overwhelming amount of support. But their life has been placed on hold for months and even years. The weeping they are enduring is painful. Each hospital stay is more difficult than the previous one. Each cycle of chemo produces side effects. Each test makes one wonder if the cancer has returned. And while a family may know that eventually morning is going to come and joy will return, the night they are enduring is lonely and they need the support of others.

Those who are enduring the most difficult time of their life need people who will be with them for the duration of their night. It is not enough to just ask a person how they are doing at church or when you see them at work. You may think that because they have a smile on their face they are strong and are holding it together. It is likely they are just putting on a facade and a mask. More than likely, if you are not sending them text messages or calling them during the week to ask them how they are doing, they are not going to share with you how painful the night is. They aren't going to share with you the lonely road they are enduring. They aren't going to tell you that their heart is broken in pieces. They aren't going to share with you the lack of strength they have. They won't tell you they feel depleted and worn out.

If you ask me how I am doing at church or at work, I will lie to you. I won't tell you that there are moments I feel like I am falling apart. I won't tell you that my heart is shattered in pieces because our plans have been put on hold. I won't tell you that it hurts because I feel as though my children have been robbed of childhood innocence because of the cancer diagnosis. I won't tell you that it is stressful knowing our expenses exceed our income. I won't tell you that this has been a lonely road we have had to take. I won't let you know that the night has been long and difficult and that the weeping has endured. I will tell you I am fine.

But it is an incredibly painful road that a person endures when cancer hits their home. It breaks my heart every time my kids ask why the germs aren't gone. I cry every night when my husband is in the hospital. It is exhausting trying to balance work, children and hospital visits. It is depleting to know that we have experienced almost 300 days since diagnosis and half of those days Mel has spent in the hospital. And while the initial visits and flowers sent uplifted us in the dark days after the diagnosis, the night has continued and the weeping has endured. And the support is needed now more than it was needed then. Because the road has been long, it has been exhausting. And the night has wore on.

 It is not morning yet. A family who experiences the pain of losing a loved one or the pain of a cancer diagnosis needs people who will be with them for the long run. The initial support is not enough. They need text messages during the week. They need phone calls asking how they are holding on. They need hospital visits where even if you just sit in silence you are showing support. Invite a mourning spouse over for dinner. Send a grieving mom a note with your memories of their child. Take a child who lost their parent out for a fun day with your kids.

Eventually morning will return. Eventually the joy will come. But until that happens a person needs support during the weeping that endures during the night. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dear Cancer

Dear Cancer,

You suck. You suck the life out of people. You suck the finances out of bank accounts. You suck out the ability to plan for one's future. You suck all the strength a person has.

You cause tears to fall. You cause hearts to break in pain. You cause life to stand still. You cause sleepless nights. You cause exhaustion. You cause depletion.  

You cause people to have to choose. Do I go to work today and get paid? Or do I take an unpaid day off to spend time with my loved one who is sitting alone in a hospital bed? Do I spend the night with my children who are too young to understand why their dad isn't at home? Or I do spend the night in the hospital so my husband isn't alone? 

You create financial instability. You cause families to lose income. You make spouses to stay up late at night looking at the finances wondering how the amount in the bank account is going to last. You force expenses to grow. You create financial uncertainty.

You have made life stop for families. You have prevented families from planning their future. You have prevented vacations. You have prevented little league sign-ups. You have prevented spontaneous trips. You have prevented care-free days. You have prevented family dinners. You have prevented so many things.

You are all consuming. You never go away. You are cruel and ruthless. Even when the cancer cells disappear you force families to endure lengthy chemotherapy treatments. You make life unbearable at times. There are no time-out's. There is no pause button. You keep going and going.

But cancer please take note you do not win. You will not defeat us. You will not cut us down. You entered our life 10 months ago but we are still standing. You entered the body of an amazing husband, father, son, sibling and friend but you will not get the victory.

Cancer you try to not only destroy the body but you try to destroy a person's relationship with God. But I know that we will never give up. I know we will never back down. I know that we will never throw in the towel. There will never be a day where we don't praise. There will never be a time when we don't worship. There will never be a time when we don't acknowledge that God is good and He is good all of the time. There will never be a moment where we walk away from our relationship with God. There might be times when we are crawling to the altar, but we will crawl. There might be times when it takes all the strength in the world to make it to the House of God, but we are going to make it to the House of God. There may be times when tears are falling down our face because of the pain we are enduring, but praises will still be given to God. 

I might be crying. I might be in pain. I might be hurting. But I know the Author of my story. I know the Creator of this universe. I know the One who knows my name. I  know that God holds our life in His hands. I know that no matter how long this journey is God will not leave us. I know that with every tear that is shed, His loving arms embrace us. I know that even though our heart is in pain, God will mend it. I know that even though we can't see the end, God will be with us every step we take. I know that when we are strength-less, God will give us strength. I know when we are in despair, God will give us peace. I know when tears stain our pillow, God will comfort us. I know when we are racked with fear, God will give us assurance. I know when we feel as though we cannot take one more step, God will lift us up and carry us. I know that God will be by our side every day of this nightmare. I know that when we don't know how we will get through it, God will encourage us. 

So cancer, take note you don't win. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

I used to cook

I used to cook...

You wouldn't know it from looking in my grocery cart today. In place of ingredients for homemade meals has become frozen dinners, take out and the occasional bowl of cereal.

But I've been known to make homemade sauce letting it simmer for a couple hours to fill the the lasagna. I've let the ribs marinate for 8 hours.  I would search the Internet for new and tasty recipes. I would plan a monthly menu making new things every night. Our meals would include penne rustica, kung pao chicken, chicken tortilla soup, meatloaf, parmesean chicken and enchiladas. My grocery cart used to be filled with ingredients for great family meals but now frozen dinners fill the cart. I used to cook.

I used to make pancakes, French toast casseroles and waffles for breakfast. I would bake blondies, scones, oatmeal cookies, and other baked desserts.

I used to cook. Its just been a hard year. So instead of homemade it's been takeout, frozen meals and cereal for dinner. And it hurts so much that I used to cook. Because it represents so many other things I used to do that I don't do anymore.

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer so many things change. And it's a long road. It's a difficult road. It is a road filled with many "I used to do...." Because my husband has thankfully responded so well to treatment, besides his bald head, no one would know just by looking at him that he's had to endure 6 going on 7 cycles of chemo. No one could tell looking at us while we are at the zoo together as a family that Mel has been separated from the kids for over 150 days this year. No one could tell that the snacks I bought this weekend weren't for lunches during the week but are snacks for Mel while he is in the hospital. While I am out and about with the kids by myself the next 15 days people would probably assume my husband was at home or work, no one would know he's in the hospital. No one would be able to tell just by looking at the smiling pictures I post that our heart is shattered and in so much pain.

And no one can tell by looking in my grocery cart that I used to cook.

Monday, October 5, 2015

I told God I couldn't take another step

There are some days I feel as though I can't take another step.
I feel as though no matter how hard I try, one foot will not go in front of the other.
I feel paralyzed and stuck.
I don't have the strength. I don't have the courage. I don't have whatever it takes to take another step.

I feel depleted. I feel exhausted. I feel drained.
I feel as though this fight has gone on for one too many rounds.
I feel as though this mountain has grown taller since we first began the climb.
I feel as though this valley has grown longer and deeper since we first began the journey.

I feel as though the tears are blocking the view.
I feel as though the heartache is all consuming.
I feel as though the pain has grown deeper with each passing month.

And so I tell God "I can't take another step."
I can't move from the place I am standing.
I can't go forward.
I don't have the energy to fight.
I don't have the strength to carry on.

It is not from a lack of faith, I know that He will get us through.
It is not from a lack of trust, our dependence is still on Him.

I am just tired.
I am just exhausted.
I am just weak.

And so I tell God "I can't take another step."
But I am not giving up.
I am not quitting.
I am not throwing in the towel.

But I ask God to take that step towards me.
I ask Him to pick me up from where my feet have planted themselves.
I ask Him to to give me fuel for this journey.
I ask Him to pick me up from where I seem to have fallen.
I ask Him to carry me for a little bit.
I ask Him to hold my hand.
I ask Him to walk towards me.

Because I feel as though I can't take another step.

But I know if He picks me up the strength will return.
I know if He holds my hand the peace will be restored.
I know if He carries me for a bit I will be able to make it.
I know He will help me climb the mountain.
I know He will help me endure the journey.
I know He will get us through the valley.

And I know He will help me take one more step.