In Good Company

Wow, it’s been a while, blog.  Nice to see you again.

There are many things in this world that are beyond my comprehension, such as pretty much anything having to do with astrophysics, or why kale suddenly became a ‘super food’, or why the entire city of Atlanta forgets how to drive when the slightest of rain showers passes overhead, or why there are such things as ‘teacup’ sized dogs.  Just, no.

I know there are a ton of world-wide issues, both near and far, that I can’t quite wrap my head around right now and maybe I never will.  But, that discussion is for another day.

Today’s thoughts are on more of a personal level.  Before I go any further, let me explain a few things: 1) I do not write this to make you feel sorry for me or the people involved in these stories; 2) I am NOT a victim–sometimes, crappy things happen as a direct result of my poor choices and other times, crappy things just freaking happen because we live in an imperfect world; and, 3) I write for cathartic reasons and to put these words and thoughts on the intrawebs in case someone else out there is feeling exactly like I do and needs to know he/she is not alone.

That being said, I think it’s only realistic for a stubborn, strong, Southern woman such as myself to be allowed to have a ‘pity party for one’ for a short time before putting my big girl pants on, cranking up the radio, and getting sh*t done.  (Oh yeah, disclaimer:  I love Jesus, but I do cuss a little, so…just beep it out in your head when you read it.).

So, welcome to my momentary party.  Pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink of choice (mine is a Kentucky Mule), and join in the chaos.

Remember a minute ago when I said I’m a stubborn, strong, Southern woman?  Well, I am stubborn and most definitely Southern.  I mean, I’ve lost count at the monogrammed items in my possession, I have more strands of pearls than I will probably ever need for any outfit, and I could drink sweet tea by the gallon.  But, one thing I’m not feeling very much of recently is strength.  Or peace.  Or confidence.  Or happiness.  Or security.  Guess that’s more than one, huh.

You see, 2017 has brought a lot of unwanted unholy messes with it and I’m just tired of them all.  February brought a broken heart for me as my fiancé and I decided to call off our engagement and end our relationship.  To be brutally honest, I’m still not entirely sure of all the reasons why that happened and while I’m not going to discuss them here, just know that while I’m trying to move on in healing, I’m still finding myself having moments of, “wait, what the hell just happened?”  March was bittersweet as I found myself doing one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in packing up (most) of the life I’d relocated to Texas for him into a U-haul and driving away from the house we’d made our home.  THANK GOD for three dear, lifelong members of my village who flew out to Dallas to help drive me back to the eastern standard timezone.  I couldn’t have done it without you, Anna, Abby, and Jill.

March delivered a one-two punch as my dad also had to start chemotherapy treatments for his metastatic prostate cancer.  I will never forget as long as I live the day he walked into the kitchen with his head hung in disappointment as he held his hairbrush and said, “well, I guess it begins”, choking back tears as he was finding more and more of his already disappearing silver hair falling out by the day.  Damn chemo.  April thought we needed to hear more of the big “C” word because my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and required a double mastectomy in May.  Now, at this point, I have to admit that ‘fragile’ did not begin to describe my state.  I was irrationally and temporarily convinced that part of my purpose in coming home was to help take care of both parents who are fighting cancer.  They have taken excellent care of me over my life so I figure the least I can do is try to be there for them if/when they need me.  You know, the whole circle of life thing.  But, I think they’d both agree they wished things were different.  Speaking of the circle of life, can I tell you what a daunting realization it is to be suddenly faced with your parents mortality?  I’m blessed to still have both of my parents alive and together and I never want to take that for granted, but the impending truth that one day, I will have to say “see you later” to them is just too much for my head and heart right now.

Late May/Early June announced the findings that the chemo was not working for my dad and his cancer, thankfully slow growing, was not responding to treatment.  Late June showed up with a terminal cancer diagnosis for my brother-in-law’s dad and 21 days later on July 19, I watched my dear brother-in-law get the heartbreaking news that his dad had passed away.

And now, just a week ago, the vet told me that my sweet senior dog, Beasley, has cancer and while amputation and chemo is recommended, Beasley isn’t a candidate for that course of treatment because he already has arthritis in his hips and can’t very well have only one out of the remaining three legs working properly at that point.  So, I wait and watch him, make him as happy and pain-free as possible until I have to make that dreaded decision of sending him over the Rainbow Bridge.

Y’all.  Are you freaking kidding me with this??  I have two words for you, cancer, and while my mother will be embarrassed that I say this, I can think of nothing better to say than F*** YOU.  In fact, 2017, I am over you.  I want to break up with you.  I didn’t invite your bullsh*t into my life and I will be glad to see you go.  All I have to say is that you owe me a kickass football season for my Auburn Tigers and Atlanta Falcons.  If you deliver on one or both of those, I’ll consider you somewhat redeemed.

Of course I’m grateful for the good things that have happened through all of this–for the friendships, love, support, laughter, and new opportunities that have come my way this year.  But y’all, I’m just worn out.  I’m emotionally drained, physically exhausted, and spiritually dry.  I’ve lost count of the tear-filled prayers I’ve cried out to God to the point where I feel like the only thing I have to say right now to Him is, “what more? I’ve been stripped of a relationship that I thought was going to be forever, I’ve been hit with cancer happening all around me, I feel like a failure when it comes to taking care of myself, and if my already broken heart has to endure much more, I think it might be impossible to pick up all of the pieces.”

My friend and pastor, Derek, told me not too long ago that I’m in ‘good company’ when it comes to lamenting and wrestling with God with all of this chaos, loss, grief, disappointments, heartbreaks, and shattered dreams.  He reminded me that nearly half the Psalms that David wrote in the Bible are exactly that–David groaning and crying out to God, asking the proverbial “WHY?”  I figure if King David felt that way for a good portion of his writings, surely God can deal with my fragility and lashing out.

I am broken and imperfect in so many ways.  I am impatient and want God to fix everything right now.  I am tired and wounded.  But, as one of my favorite songs says, “even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise you.”

I will keep going.  I will find joy.  I will not succumb to bitterness or cynicism.  I will smile, even if through tears.  I will laugh.  I will heal.  I will praise you, even if it’s beyond my comprehension, I will praise you, Father.  Your grace is sufficient for me because your power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”  Amen to that.

Keep going, my loves.  God doesn’t waste hurts and He sees every tear you and I cry.  Joy comes in the morning.  Just…keep…going.

 

 

 

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Giving Myself Permission to (sort of) Quit

Confession 1:  My house is still decorated for Christmas.  Yes, I know what the date is, and no, I don’t care.  It’s too pretty to take down on this night, so I’m giving myself permission to enjoy it until Saturday.

Confession 2:  I do NOT like running.  Like, not at all.  AT.ALL.

[I’m picturing all of my running enthusiast friends gasping and choking on their Powerade and terribly-flavored nutritional gel packs right about now while silently judging me.]

This admission came to me as I was pounding the pavement last night in the cold Atlanta evening, trying to push myself through walk/run intervals in preparation for the upcoming insane commitment I made several months ago–RunDisney’s Glass Slipper Challenge.  That means not just finishing the Disney Princess Half Marathon (hopefully upright and at least semi-conscious), but adding on the Disney Enchanted 10K to be completed the day before just for kicks and giggles.  I have lost my mind all in the name of being awarded with shiny, sparkle, Princess-themed medals and a freaking t-shirt.  I think they should at least throw in a real tiara for my accomplishment of not dying during the races.  It is Disney, after all.  They can afford it.

In the early spring of 2011, my friends asked me to join them in the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon that October.  Because of the mental, physical, and emotional state of mind and body I found myself in at the time, I decided this might just be the jolt I needed for a bit of revival.  I was fairly serious about training and by race time, I’d shed some decent poundage and worked myself down to about a 13-13.5 min/mile.  Pretty good for a beginner who had never run a long distance in her life.  And, in all honesty, deep down I wanted to prove to my friends that I could do it and that I was worthy of their approval and attention. (More on that twisted thinking later.)

But, as I tend to do, I had a one woman with two internal voices debate in my head last night while training.  It was cold and windy.  Each running stride sent shockwaves of pain through my legs.  It felt like knives were stabbing my shins.  ‘Oh, sh*t…not shin splints again!!!’  I’m convinced that shin splints are directly caused by Satan himself, by the way.  I freaking hate them.

‘Why am I doing this?!?’  For the last several months, I just could not muster up the motivation to properly train.  This last year included several ups and lots of downs personally, leaving my psyche beaten and bruised with zero desire remaining to do much of anything.  And, considering myself to be decent enough Behavior Analyst, I knew the principles of behavior surrounding this situation:  if there was no establishing operation acting as motivation for me to engage in the running behavior, then there would not be sufficiently effective reinforcement following the running behavior to increase the likelihood of me running again.  Yeah, I know. . .#nerd.

‘So, quit.’  No, I can’t quit.  ‘Why not?’  Because everyone will think less of me.  I’ll disappoint my friends and feel like a failure and be ashamed.  ‘Who cares?’  I care!!  Don’t you know that my worth is determined by what other people think about me?? ‘No it’s not.’  Yes it is!  ‘NO, it’s not.’  YES it is! ‘NO, NO, NO, IT’S NOT.’  Okay, okay.  Maybe it’s not.  I mean, my family loves me, my friends think i’m pretty cool, my clients seem to appreciate me, and my boyfriend thinks I’m beautiful and loves me just the way that I am.  So, yeah; I guess it’s not.

Why do we do this to ourselves, my friends?  Why do we continue to think that it’s crucial to make sure that everyone around us–from those who love us most to those who barely know us–approve of our every decision?  Why do we hold on to the thought that “self-esteem isn’t what I think of me; it’s what I think you think me?”

Get the promotion.  Make more money.  Get the right education.  Get even more education.  Get the PhD.  Have the right address.  Get the best spouse.  Lose the right amount of weight.  Look a certain way.  Have the picture of perfection so that no one thinks otherwise, preserving your ever-growing internal fragility.

That’s the world’s view.  I do not ascribe to the world’s view.  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2.

Was God testing my thinking and acceptance of His grace for myself on the neighborhood roads last night?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I don’t know, but I choose to believe that regardless of the answer, I’m sure He’s proud of my conclusions.  And, in the end, that’s what really matters.  He wants me stop beating myself up.  He wants me to stop measuring my self-worth by what I think others’ perspectives are.

So, I’m giving myself permission to quit running, or more accurately, trying to run.  There are about 87 other ways I can get and stay in shape other than running and that’s okay with me, my shins, and my knees.  I will continue with the upcoming Glass Slipper Challenge and if that means that I walk the entire 19.3 miles, then by golly, that’s what it means.  If it means that I don’t finish the challenge, then that’s fine. THERE IS NO SHAME IN EITHER OUTCOME.  (All caps to indicate me yelling at myself and anyone else who needs the message.)

The shame would be in not even trying anything outside of my comfort zone.  And, that’s just not acceptable because I have had some awesomely fantastic experiences outside of that zone.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, to stop, to change, or just to try?  Whatever it is, forget the fear, comparisons, and most importantly, your projections of other people’s perceptions.  Just do it.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.  It’s a freaking beautiful vast landscape of potential and interesting opportunities.  Join me there, won’t you?

~HR

Chaotic Voyeurism: Speculations from the World of Online Dating

Well, I did it.  After the poking, prodding, and persuasion from several of my closest friends, I succumbed to the pressure and began my venture into the world of online dating.  And, what an enormous calamity this is turning out to be.  It’s only been about 6 weeks and I believe I already have enough material to write a book.  But, for now, I’ll settle for a blog entry.

I find it ironic that the movie “You’ve Got Mail” is on TV right now in the background as I write this.  For those of you who haven’t had the entertaining pleasure of knowing first hand what online dating is like, it is essentially just like this movie. . .except on crack.  Instead of an occasional email hitting your inbox, you’ve suddenly got about 18 ways that someone can indicate they are interested in you.  Cue the onset of communication that will inevitably serve as the weeding out process.  Winking, smiling, checking the interested box, emailing, chatting, following scripted questions, answering open-ended questions, yes, no, maybe, or just going directly to text or a phone call.  It. . .is. . .overwhelming.

I decided to give eHarmony a try first to ease into things.  With the help of my dearest lifelong friend, I sat there coming up with flowery language that made the truth about me somehow sound so appealing that guys would be suddenly saying “pick me! pick me!”  That, however, was not the case.  One of the issues that I find disturbing in this online world is the number of people who seem to misrepresent themselves–AS IF there’s not a chance in the world of us eventually meeting!!?!  Enter Exhibit A.  Good-looking guy, loves football, highly involved in his children’s lives.  All good things, right?  We talked off and on for about 2 weeks or so and then it dawned on me:  why has he not talked about us meeting in person?  Upon further investigation, I found my answers.  Turns out Mr. Handsome 47-year-old was not only really not in a financial position to date, he had been divorced not once but twice, and he’s been living with his parents for the last 2 years.  Oh, and did I mention that I had to carry on the entire conversations??  Probably because the remaining brain cells that poor guy has were working overtime to put coherent thoughts together.  Bless his heart.  And, don’t even get me started on the next guy they matched me with.  Um, no thank you, creepy cat guy who chose to talk about how much he likes porn and who looks like he ought to be on America’s Most Wanted list.  Yes, you read that correctly.  [Exit stage right.]

After the frustration of the constraints of eHarmony, I decided to add in Match.  These two services could not be more polar opposites.  I went from little to no interaction to a freaking onslaught of attention.  Now, like most girls, I can and do appreciate the attention, but too much at one time quickly causes me to just shut down.  Way too much stimuli for my already taxed brain to comprehend.  But, I think I’d rather have a nice stream of interaction rather than waiting on some overly complicated calculated algorithm to decide which gem of a guy I should be matched with next.

So, after several weeks on both services, here are some observations and friendly suggestions:

1.  There really should be a box that the guy has to check to indicate whether or not he is still living with the parental units.  I can understand a transitional period, but by definition, a transitional period should not be the length of two years.  Get your sh*t together, dude.

2.  If you are a Bama fan and you choose to send me an email with “Roll Tide” as the only two words in the text, you will be automatically deleted.  No questions asked.  (Though, I did have fun responding to him with:  “Would like like one second to rethink your message?  How about just one second?  Think that’s long enough?”  That got rid of him. 🙂

3.  If your clothes are fitting you tighter than a girdle, you look like you have sunbathed on the surface of the sun for too long, and you have obvious bleached blond tips in your hair. . .the answer is no.

4. When you ask if you can call me, I’m going to need you to have more conversational points prepared other than “hey, you’ve got pretty eyes.”

5.  If your usernames are things like “Sasquatch37”, “YouDoMeIDoYou”, or “ATLChocolateMan”, I’m gonna need you to back the hell up with that nonsense.

6.  For the love of all that is holy, please stop posting shirtless bathroom mirror selfies–especially when you’re over the age of 30.  When these show up on your profile, I automatically deduct about 40 IQ points to what I already perceive to be your approximate functioning level.

7.  Some of these guys really do need a good girl friend in their lives to say “don’t say that, say this, that picture is terrible, or that picture is appropriate.”  I swear the majority of them are probably good guys but they just don’t have a clue as to how to communicate it.

8.  Just be yourself!!  If you’re a nerd, jock, executive, used car salesman, or cattle purchaser (oh yeah, I’ve talked to him), just OWN it.  Don’t try to be something you’re not because girls with the slightest bit of perceptual skills will pick up on the inauthenticity.

9.  This process is basically a form of voyeurism, so you better be ready to deal with the creeps, the stalkers, the psychos, the drunk marine (yeah, I talked to him, too) in order to maybe, just MAYBE, find a decent normal guy that will take you on a nice date and treat you the way a lady should be treated.

10.  Voices can be a surprising turn on or a turn off.  I highly recommend talking to the guy on the phone before agreeing to actually meet him in public.  I can usually tell within about 30 seconds which way the guys voice will lead me.  Call me critical, but I’ve got to WANT to listen to my man the rest of my life.

So, I am going to continue the journey and see where this yellow brick road of chaos leads.  I can’t very well complain about being single if I don’t at least try and get myself out there, taking chances all in the name of finding “the ONE”.  I keep asking God to just shine a spot light on the right guy and for him to do the same on me, but I guess that would be the “easy button” version and the last time I checked, God doesn’t really teach me important lessons during the easy parts of life.  All I ask, God, is that you make this crazy roller coaster ride through the desolate land of singleness worth it.  While I enjoy components of it and even prefer it from time to time, I’m ready to leave singleness behind and find my partner in crime for the remainder of the journey.

And, God. . .I know you have a hilarious sense of humor with things, particularly your timing, but if you could bring this blessed man sooner rather than later, that would be awesome.

~HR.

 

Finding It Again

I know it has been a long while since I have taken to the blogosphere to allow some of my internal wonderings into cyberspace, mainly due to the demands of grad school sucking up every ounce of writing energy.  But, today I was inspired by an article in Relevant Magazine written by Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996.  He spoke of how he rediscovered faith while writing his newest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, in which he examines the paradoxes that exist “where our intuitions about what an advantage or a disadvantage are turn out to be upside down.”  He goes on to describe that he was interested in studying the “weapons of the spirit–the peculiar and inexplicable power that comes from within.”  Essentially, what exactly IS that??  It is not something that can be objectified or measured and yet I am sure I know what he is speaking of.

Faith, particularly faith in God, is a tricky thing.  It requires you to, as Phillip Yancey said, believing in advance that which will only make sense in reverse.  Sermons, prayers, verses, and even well-intentioned friends tell us to just have faith even in the midst of our trials.

I find it easiest to have faith in others, in God, in His timing, when things are going well.  Don’t you?? (Please say yes.)  When things are going well AND are going MY way, it’s super easy to have faith.  But faith doesn’t grow in the easy.  Faith grows in the dark as it fights to find light.

~~~”I have always believed in God.  I have grasped the logic of Christian faith.  What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power.~~~

I agree with Malcolm.

It is very hard to see sometimes.  Maybe you can identify with some of these things:

  • I feel like I pray and pray and pray and the prayers never leave the room.
  • I thought I did everything right and my marriage still fell apart.
  • I am a good person, why are these bad things happening to me?
  • I am mad at God and I don’t think he cares.
  • I loved him and he left or I loved her and she left.
  • I feel that I am being punished for something.
  • I must not be good enough for good things to happen to me.
  • I have been forgotten by God.

Struggles come in all forms, whether internal or external.  When we are in these struggles, we can feel suffocated, isolated, ignored, depressed, anxious, rejected, or lost.  We look for and pray for some kind of savior from the situation.  It is hard to see God’s power amongst all of the, well . . . crap.  I’ve been there, people I love have been there–some are there now, and we will all be there again.

Might I suggest an alternative perspective.

Instead of being continuously downtrodden, start looking for the extraordinary among the very ordinary.  God’s power is not reserved for the catastrophic moments.  God’s power is everywhere, and is the very foundation of the weapons of the spirit.  We just have to have eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and a heart to feel it.

I would like to believe that his power is found in the speck of courage of the one whose heart has been shattered when he/she decides to love again; in the one fighting depression who decides that today, he/she is not going to be bound by mental and emotional exhaustion and stay in bed; in the one who decides to move past the memories of abuse and live without fear; in the one who finally can look in the mirror without shame and guilt for the reflection looking back; in the one who holds the hand of a grieving friend; in the one who is not afraid to fail and then get up and try again; in the smiles and laughter of a child; in the arms of a loved and cherished one.

Whatever giant you are facing today, I encourage you to ask God to reveal himself to you among the ordinary, and I pray that God gives you and me the eyes, ears, and heart necessary to experience it.  You never know what he may have to show you.

 

 

 

Change, from my favorite deck

I am sitting on my favorite deck with the sun finally shining down on me (after several cloudy days) while Beasley takes up residence at my side after our morning jaunt of playing catch on the beach.  The breeze has just enough crispness to it to maintain a lovely level of natural air conditioning.  In a few hours, I have to pack up and say goodbye to this place.  Admittedly, having to say goodbye to a beach house and to an island is such a “first world problem” and I know it probably sounds a little pathetic considering all of the other more important things going on in the world right now.  However, this is my happy place.  This is the place that I usually picture when I need a mental vacation, when the stresses of every day life are so overwhelming that I feel like I’m suffocating.  This has been a place of great memories, chocked full of laughter and tears, friends and family and friends that are like family.  Let’s face it, not just anyone gets the invitation to the beach house.  It’s too special to allow the casual passerby to come rummaging around.  Walls talk, you know, and there might be some things that need to stay right here, including my first real experience with scotch. . .but, I digress.  But, I will say goodbye to this house (as it will soon belong to a new family that I hope enjoys it as much as we have) and life will continue to move on among all of the changes.

 

Change is hard.  It can be good; it can be stressful. Change is uncomfortable because it roots around in our innermost parts and peels away the layers and forces us to face new realities.  Three years ago, I walked along this beach in a few moments of solitude.  I was here for a long weekend with several of my girlfriends and we had just finished a study called the The Search for Significance.   A lot had happened in that year leading up to that weekend.  My husband had passed away, I sold our home and moved into my own place in the city and was learning to navigate single adulthood.  During my walk, I found myself praying to God about all sorts of things and in those intimate moments, I experienced a deep level of necessary spiritual healing.  Change was once again upon me.  I finally found the significance I was looking for and it started with the realization that I am enough.  God is enough, and He chose me.

 

Life has been fairly stressful lately.  Between a full time load of responsibilities at work and deciding to return to grad school—for the LAST time—and seek my doctorate degree, I feel like I don’t have much room to breathe.  Lots of change.  As a result of the continued feelings of being out of balance, I have, in fact, become completely out of balance.  I’ve forgotten what that healing significance looks like, feels like.  Yep, sort of in a spot where the phrase “hanging on by a thread” is applicable.  Not to sound all dramatic and melancholy, but it is truth.  And, life isn’t always sweetness and light.  There are mountaintop experiences and journeys through the valleys.  This is one of the latter.  (Writing is cathartic for me, so thanks for allowing me a few minutes of therapy.)

 

Maybe you can relate.  Thank goodness I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way, who has gone through periods of time where the journey of faith seems like a never-ending desert and you’re so parched that you’ll reach out to anything to relieve the dryness.  Why is it so easy to reach out to the wrong things?  Over this particular time in the desert, I’ve turned to all sorts of poor choices and sit here disgusted with myself for doing so.  Then, starts the self-loathing cycle where doubt and automatic negative thoughts start clouding the mind and punishment goes into effect for the behaviors because “I should have known and done better.”  I recently sat among some friends sharing some of these things and one of them said, “you know, that’s a lot of ‘shoulds’ you’re saying; why are you holding yourself to such a higher standard than anyone else does?”

 

Good question.  One to which I’m not entirely certain I have the answer.

 

For the sake of this entry and all of those who are reading it, I’ll push pause on the analytical self-psychoanalysis for the moment.  Honestly, I feel the need for some more reflection and prayer and I’m only so talented when it comes to multitasking.  J

 

As is the norm, songs speak to me.  Here’s an excerpt of one that I need to go swim in for a little while: (“Oceans, Where Feet May Fail” by Hillsong United)

 

“So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

                                                                                                               In the presence of my Savior”

 

 

To be continued. . .

 

Halee

 

That dang “C” word

I am currently sitting on my couch in one of my many Auburn sweatshirts (always loyal even though our football is tanking!) and my pajama pants. It’s been an exhausting week that was just capped off with back-to-back professional development days that would have been taxing on any behavior analyst’s brain…much less my already frazzled one. Most of my writings come at times like these, which may be a little bit scary considering I feel like my mental capacities are compromised right now. Work, doctorate program, work, coursework, throwing in some much needed social time, turning 35 this week (when did I become an adult?!?)…it’s a lot for a girl to think about. But, last week, one big thing was added to the list of things that occupy my thoughts on a daily basis.

Last Wednesday, my mom called while I was on the long commute home. Now, I’m a behavior analyst, remember, so it’s my job to recognize behavioral nuances in people–and my family is no different! First of all, it’s not my mom’s typical behavior to call me during the work day and second of all, I can read her tone of voice probably better that she would like. I could tell right away that something wasn’t quite right.

Biopsy results were in…much more quickly than anticipated. Dad has prostate cancer.

That freaking dang “C” word that has affected too many people in my life had now been infiltrated its nasty way into my family…and not just my family, but my immediate family. It’s my daddy.

I chose to deal with this news by going home, camping out on my couch for the remainder of the night, eating 4 pieces of pizza, and watching a ridiculous amount of television. Not exactly the healthiest approach, but hey, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I cried. I walked around in a fog for a couple of days as if dazed and confused. But, if you know me at all, you know that I preach not to stay in the “pity party for 1” state of mind for too long and that sooner rather than later, you’ve got to put on your big girl pants and deal with it. I figured I should take my own advice.

I started to think that I was being a little bit silly because after all, this kind of cancer is one of the more treatable and curable types of cancer a man could have. However, being the nerd that I am, I started researching statistics, treatments, specifics of the diagnosis, etc, etc. One in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. Some of the statistics are encouraging; some aren’t so much. But, at the end of the day…it’s still my dad. And, he still has cancer.

My first concern was how dad and mom were dealing with the news. My dad processes things very similar to me, often with a ton of covert self-talk and analysis that plots out every possible contingency so that we’re prepared for whatever comes. The downside to that way of coping is that it can produce a by-product of anxiety and worry…often before all of the concrete facts are known. My mom is immediately the practical one who can most certainly say, “it’s going to be okay.” She has an amazingly graceful strength that is out loud when it needs to be, but most often quietly in the background, as if running as an undercurrent to the way she lives her life each day. However, one beautiful gift that both of my parents have is the peace that passes all understanding that only come from our Heavenly Father.

The next few months will likely be up and down, but we as a family believe that even in our ups and downs, our constant is a power that is supernatural and that is made perfect in our weaknesses.

Cancer sucks. I hate it. I hate it even more now that it has touched my family in a very personal way. When I was on the phone call with mom that day, she asked if I wanted to talk to Dad. Of course, yes. But, I couldn’t get anything else out of my mouth except a very tear-filled “I love you, Dad.” In truest form from the man that I know that has more strength than he gives himself credit for, he chuckled and said, “honey, I plan on being around for a long time.” Amen, Dad.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, we press on in faith. . .and deal with this head on in the ways we now how–surrounded by loved ones, carried by the prayers of many, laughing (through tears, if necessary) all the way to the day of complete healing. And, for good measure, throw in the occasional consumption of wine and pizza. Because you know what? It’s all going to be just fine.

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Tension: Between the 2 Creations

As I write this, I’m running on a few hours of decent sleep and coasting on the remaining fumes left from the many ounces of Diet Coke I’ve consumed today.  I hesitated to even write, but something kept nudging me to log in and start typing.  If you’ll allow me a few moments to empty my brain, I’d appreciate it.

I have just returned from the hospital where I spent most of the day with my family in a small ICU waiting room.  My Uncle Bill–my mother’s younger brother–is lying in an ICU bed at the VA hospital here in Atlanta being supported by medicines and machines to keep him alive.  I suppose it is somewhat ironic that a man who spent part of his life fighting for our freedom (like countless others) is now fighting the battle for his own life.  And, if I may add, he is receiving the excellent care that he deserves.  Seriously, the staff is incredible.

We’ve heard phrases like “we’re doing everything we can” and “the next 24-48 hours are critical”, but no matter what happens in the very near future, those are not the words that I will remember.

Instead….

I will cherish the stories of the past that were shared today among family and friends, telling of family members that have already departed this world.

I will take to heart the strength that I’ve seen in my mom, her sister, and my uncle’s wife and son.

I will remember that my family is where I can take refuge and where we can lean on one another.

I will remember the laughter that filled the room.

I will remember taking each other’s hands and collectively petitioning our Lord and Savior to mightily intervene and heal our loved one.

 

The fact is we all are living in tension.  My friend and pastor, Derek, recently preached on the topic of “Living Between the Two Creations.”  As believers in Christ, we are living our lives in between the first creation of the world and what we believe will be the new creation of a new heaven and earth as described in the scriptures.  So what does the in between look like?  Chaos.  Tension.  Trials.  One big hot mess.

But we know and believe the best is yet to come, for Bill and for all of us.

So, we hold on…in faith, in hope and in love and we draw on divine strength because we know we can not do this alone.

 

Leaving the hospital, my ‘to-do’ list quickly flooded my thoughts.  As much as I try to compartmentalize thoughts and feelings, sometimes I fail miserably.  Honestly, right now I’m finding it difficult to focus on any one thing.  I started my doctorate coursework this week and already feel behind since I have 8 more chapters and written assignments to complete by Sunday evening.  My mind is elsewhere, trying to comprehend the tension, attempting to fully process what is going on around me and what exactly I need to do.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that at the depth of it all, I have peace…a peace that can only come from knowing that my God is in control.  My uncle and the rest of my family are being held in the best set of hands possible and for that, I have wept with gratitude.  I find that when words fall short of properly expressing, tears tend to wash the soul in the most cathartic of ways.

On my way home tonight, a song came on my iPod playlist by Matt Redman called “Endless Hallelujah.”  If you know me at all, you know that music speaks to me…in so many ways.  I think that no matter what comes of our current situation, the first verse couldn’t be more appropriate:

When I stand before your throne, dressed in glory not my own, what a joy I’ll sing of on that day; no more tears or broken dreams, forgotten is the minor key, everything as it was meant to be; we will worship, worship, forever in your presence we will sing, we will worship, worship, an endless hallelujah to the King.”

Amen, indeed.