The Mammogram

Today was my yearly mammogram. However, the doctor was concerned about something and ordered a 3D diagnostic test plus an ultrasound.

I’ve had a mammogram every year since I was 26. Believe me when I say I’ve gone through every emotion possible over the years. But this time, I was full of angst. I had not seen a doctor’s concerned expression like that since my first test. And because she was concerned, so was I. I haven’t slept well for days and have had terrible dreams.

On the way there, a familiar song came on the radio. “I lift my hands to believe again. You are my refuge, You are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful, God, forever.” I often lift my hand in the van (safely) in worship. Today was no different and I gave Him this appointment all over again.

However, worry unlocks the gate in my mind and lets my imagination run wild! I thought about the worst-case scenario. So, what WOULD I change if I was told I hadn’t much time? Evidently a lot according to my rambling thoughts. Hmmm….

While waiting in the office, I caught a friend’s smile from across the room. She is a special friend to me; someone with whom conversation is always thoughtful and deep. She is a tender soul and is a compassionate and kind woman. She is Chinese and noticed my necklace that I often wear. She said, “Your necklace. It is the Chinese symbol for faith.” “Yes,” I told her. “I bought it in China and wear it almost every day.”

It began a conversation where we talked all about faith, her family in China and her home country’s lack of faith in God. She talked about faith and trust and how we are called to live it every day. I smiled and listened. She had no idea that I had this same exact conversation with God mere moments before walking through the heavy, wooden doors.

While she talked, I noticed a woman walk in with her husband. He was gentle with her and protective of her. He waited in line with her. He wrapped his arm around her tight while she filled out her forms on the couch. They sat close, folded into each other…and waited. When her name was called, she slowly stood up. He still held her hand. He held her hand until the steps she took toward the technician pulled their tender hands apart. His back was to me, but after the door closed behind her, I saw him wipe his eyes and nose.

I thought about their journey. Was she in the beginning, middle or post cancer? Was it cancer or just a horrific scare? Was this her first mammogram? Her tenth? Had she lost a loved one to cancer? What made this appointment so hard for them? I don’t know them, but I deeply cared about them because, without a spoken word, they told a beautiful love story.

Still listening to my friend, we talked about faith. I wondered if this man, who sat directly behind her, could hear – and if so, what did he think about our conversation?

My name was called. I hugged my sweet friend and we parted. I know exactly how this goes. No deodorant, no perfumes or powders. Use baby wipes just to make sure. Undress from the waist up and put on the disposable blue half robe with white snaps, open in the front. Then wait for the tech to come get me. Yep, got it. This was my twenty-first time.

It took a little while for the tech to come back, and Fixer Upper played on a small tv monitor in the tiny room with well-worn magazines and sugar cookies under a glass dome for patients. I thought, “I can worry or I can relax and watch tv. Either choice doesn’t affect the outcome of the test.” So I watched tv, ignoring the pit in my stomach and lump in my throat as I kept seeing the doctor’s concerned expression play in a loop in my mind.

Every year I forget to take Motrin first. Shoot. Mammograms hurt. They really do! Not gonna lie. But, it’s short. As the tech worked through the process, I gritted my teeth and held my breath, squeezing my eyes tight, she said, “Now place your hand here.” I had to raise my arm to the spot she wanted.

Just then, I sang to myself, “I lift my hands to believe again. You are my refuge, you are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful, God, forever.” It was not a coincidence that song played on the radio as I pulled into the office.

See here’s the thing. I believe God and I trust God. Period. Walking into the office I quoted Psalm 139 in my mind over and over. “Every one of my days were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Walking out I quoted the same verse.

I praise God that my results are normal. I felt my knees grow weak from relief on the way to my van and I shed happy tears in the parking garage. I was so ecstatic that after putting back on my bra I turned to leave the dressing room, topless! :O

But, I also carry love for my precious friends who are my age and are also mothers – one is suffering from spinal cancer and the other from lung cancer. So I don’t even want to quote the over-used phrase, “God is good” for me, lest someone think He is bad for my friends.

None of us know the number of our days. I can get a pass on this breast test, but then be killed in a car accident on the way home five minutes later.

The reality is that what we’ve all been given is today. Not tomorrow. Today. How are we going to spend the 86,400 seconds that make up this day?

Wiping the tears away, I recounted the list I had made about what I would change if the tests had rendered a different result. What do I do with that list now?

And on the matter of faith, I need not look farther than Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had a moment with King Nebuchadnezzar that I have used to define my life in words for the last three decades –

Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

God can do anything. A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Why He does some things sometimes and not others other times I have no idea.  But I know He is sovereign. He sees. He knows. He cares. He fights for His children.

I think we get tangled up in our thinking that this life is our happily ever after. It’s not. This is a life where we were born into sin and live in a broken world controlled by the enemy of God. Does it have awesome highs? Yes! I can name many. But with the mountaintop comes the valley in this life.

For children of God, our perfect life still awaits. Our reward awaits. Hebrews 11:39-40 says it best, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Unless Jesus comes back first, we are all going to die. My pastor said it well once, “We’re not afraid to die. We’re afraid to suffer.”

As a believer, I only have today to make it count for Christ. Do I want to stay on this earth longer for my husband, children, family and friends? Yes! Do I want to complete the work He has called me to (Phil. 1:6)? Yes! Do I have hopes, dreams and goals? Yes! Does it utterly break my heart to hear of people who don’t get that chance? Absolutely!!

I read a story of a married mom with young children. She was dying of cancer. The family photo in the article had all of them piled on Mom & Dad’s bed like a sleepy Saturday morning. They were smiling while playfully knotted in the sheets. She said she wasn’t afraid to die, but she “loved her life and wasn’t ready to leave the party yet.”

My heart BROKE for their sweet family.

Those us of who haven’t been told a time or date still have a time and a date, though we walk around in a hazy stupor as if that were the farthest thing from reality.

Maybe it’s my age that I am acutely aware of how short life is. Nah, it’s not my age. I learned that lesson when my mom died when I was only 16 from breast cancer that spread to her lungs in less than a year. Since June 13th, 1987 I have never lived a day in a euphoric state of ignorant bliss that life should be our Disney princess dream.

No, that life is coming. And because it is, even today I had a brief moment of sadness that I am going to have to wait a little longer to see God face-to-face. The overriding joy is that I get to see my family’s faces tonight, and Lord willing, tomorrow.

Lying on the table during the ultrasound, I stared at the ceiling, trying not to peak at the monitor because I have no idea what I’m looking at. But, every single time she paused the ultrasound gun and snapped a picture I thought, “Is this something? Did she find something?” And I peeked at the screen. With each time, I wrestled with what to do with my emotions. “Is this where I fall apart? Is there where I run to the roar? Is this where I stand strong or emotionally crumble and weep?” I only had one answer.

I said to God, “I did my part. Now you do yours.” Meaning, I came in for the mammogram. What you do with it is up to you.

It is a familiar, though not very eloquent, prayer because I’ve been praying this prayer since I was 14. Not about mammograms, but about our roles in our relationship, His and mine.

I am not a “saved by works” girl (I’d NEVER, ever be able to do enough to save my own soul!!), but we do own the first step. We have the choice to believe. When I made that choice when I was 14, I gave Him my life and I’ve never taken it back.

He’s had every second, minute, hour, day, month and year of mine in His hands. When I chose to follow Christ, I have never looked back. So I see life’s timeline in a continuum of sorts. This life is just a blip on the radar; a piece of a much larger puzzle. There is so much before and after it and so many parts to it.

I accepted the cost of following Christ no matter what back then and still do today. My only prayer is that the suffering I am called to experience (physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual) for Him draws others to Him so they will know God as their One True God and Christ as their Savior.

So whether that is to succumb to an illness I cannot control; be killed while serving others for Him; or live a long, healthy life and quietly pass in my sleep – I just want my life AND death to bring others to life through His saving grace. Through medical tests, gunfire I recently heard while we were on mission, and dashing to my car in a massive thunder and lightening storm last night, I want every second to count for Christ.

The solar eclipse is coming and people are so excited about it. It makes me wonder how many rotations this ‘ol world has left. How many rotations does this ‘ol girl have left?

I am somberly grateful for my good report today. It makes me pray harder for my friends who are suffering from this wretched disease that I hate with a fiery passion. But I can tell you one thing, these women are running an amazing, magnificent race – one worthy to be called a child of the King.

Whatever may come my way, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, whether God chooses to walk in the fire with me or deliver me from this life through it, either way I will follow Him. I will continue to lift my hands to Him – in the car, during a mammogram and in every moment in between.

I want my life to be seen as a symbol of faith, like the necklace that rests on my chest. I want people to look at me and say, “Your life, it’s a symbol of faith” like my friend said of my pendant.

Whatever has to happen to make this reality, come what may. Because I believe God and I trust Him. We are inseparable, like the couple in the waiting room. He is gentle with me and protective of me. He holds me tight. The difference is that He never lets go. He walked with me into the mammogram. He kept me company in that tiny room. He drove home with me in rush-hour traffic. He sits with me now. Why? Because I asked Him to. Will you?

Merry Christmas!

A little note to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

More than anything we could buy, give, receive, unwrap, exchange, return or even make by hand, may the love of God and the saving friendship of Christ be yours today and always.

The Shepherds and the Angels – Luke 2:8-20

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Just as Mary treasured these events in her heart back then, may they be written on our hearts and reflected in our lives today.

Merry Christmas to you! 🙂

Warmly,

Kristi

 

Off The Grid

This summer has to be one of the most interesting ones I have ever had.  Great experiences, new friends, some tears and lots of laughing.

It’s late, and just now I looked at my calendar.  Yes, on an old-fashioned calendar with big squares to write on and a real blue ink pen.  I can’t seem to embrace electronic calendars – visual girl that I am.  I do this weird thing of crossing off the days because it gives me some sense of satisfaction or accomplishment – even if there isn’t much to show for my day’s work.

So I looked down and saw that I haven’t marked off a day since last Friday.  On the outside, that doesn’t seem like a really big deal.  On the inside, it reflects this season of summer – disconnected.  We have thoroughly been enjoying our family’s recent visit and for once in a really long time, I don’t really care what day it is.  I am not stuck to a time schedule of people, places and appointments.  My emails are temporarily nonexistent and my Facebook status has been blank.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to fall off the grid every once in a while.  Very soon, I will jump back on the hamster wheel and will begin a new season.  Until then, I am soaking in the fact I can’t keep track of the day, much less the date.  Think I’ll just let that ink pen sit right where it is for now.

There is so much to share about lessons I’ve learned this summer – I can’t wait to share.  In these last few days, I’ll be content to simply keep reality at bay.  A few more moments of empty thoughts, and listening more than speaking, is good for the soul.  It’s amazing how much life has to offer when we simply look up and see it.

Happy Selah Day!

It’s a beautiful Sunday, and we’re taking the time to enjoy a day of rest.  Join me in simply…resting.  Lord willing, I’ll be back Monday and hope you will, too. 🙂

Have a blessed Sabbath!

Kristi

Family Travel Review – New York City, Part 2 of 2

<<Continued from Part 1>>

4. Things to do:

* Apple store.  Toy store for adults.  🙂 Plan to spend some time in here, but there are many hands-on displays to keep the kids occupied.

* Hershey World in Times Square.  If you need a chocolate fix.  They offer varieties not often found in stores, give free samples, and if you agree to take their survey they pay in chocolate. Kids love this stop!

* Midtown Comics comic book store.  A secret hidden away off of Times Square.  Take the small stairs up to this amazing haven for all superheroes.  It feels like something out of a movie.  Very cool.

* LEGO store and Nintendo World in Rockefeller Plaza.  Go here when parents are ready to decompress for a while.  It’s also a good diversion from the site-seeing for kids – if they brought their spending money. J

* American Girl store.  This store has multiple floors, and you’d better like the color pink.  They have a restaurant with all the bells and whistles.  Nice bathrooms.  Pricey, but fun to do once with a special little girl or young lady or those wishing to relive their childhood. ;0

* Grand Central Station.  Fun to walk through and say you’ve been there.  Who knows, a flash mob may break out any time!

* We rode the escalators in Macy’s.  I’m not a shopper (and definitely not for those prices), so we just looked and left.

* Little Italy.  Prettiest at night.  A small strip that packs a big punch.  Lots of places to eat and shop.  Product prices are negotiable most places – great for a good deal!

* Chinatown.  We got lost here and wound up on a back street that smelled like rotten fish.  But, on the front side of the street it is amazing to see the different foods offered.  Definitely worth visiting.  Once, we approached a fire truck decked out Chinatown style and asked for a photo.  The firefighters were more than happy to let the kids jump up on the front bumper and these community heroes hammed it up for our photo.

* Ice skating – Wollman Rink versus Rockefeller Plaza.  Rockefeller is nice, but is small and always crowded.  We prefer Wollman Rink (owned by Donald Trump).  It is nestled in a picturesque setting in Central Park a short walk off the beaten path.  Typical skating prices.  Food is expensive for what you get.  There is a fee to watch and not skate.  This is a great rink and very fun to do in NYC.

* Staten Island Ferry cheap and a break from walking.  Nice water tour – much less that the “official” water tours.

* Ground Zero – we visited in 2006, so there was still a lot of damage and construction was under way.  It bothered us that vending carts capitalized on this tragedy selling patriotic paraphernalia around it.  This is something very humbling to pay respects here, and we look forward to going back and seeing what it looks like now.

* Central Park playgrounds.  There are many playground scattered throughout Central Park.  A great way to let the kids run off some energy.  Map them online!

5. Accommodations:

If you can do it, stay in Times Square.  That’s where all the action is.  Our favorites…

We also have family nearby, so staying with them and day-tripping in is the best financially and more fun with more people!  When driving in, we take the Lincoln Tunnel, which spits us out at the mouth of a public parking garage “Park & Lock” on 42nd & Dyer St.  From there, we walk or take the subway.

6. Transporation:

Walking is cheapest and good for you. J Wear comfortable shoes.  I love my Lands End all-weather mocs (I have both brown and black – goes with anything I wear in NYC).  In this case, I think brand name does make a difference.  Then I add memory foam insoles in them by Dr. Scholl’s and I can walk the entire day without tired feet (which is typically 12hrs of walking with our crew).

Subways – we’ve personally never had an issue on any subway.  Some are definitely nicer than others, like the express subways, and some are pretty gross.  Once my shoe actually stuck to the floor and wouldn’t lift up.  Bleck.  But, as we make the most of our ride time discussing our next target stop, New Yorkers are very happy to help give us the best route, offer suggestions on where to eat, etc.  They are also very helpful picking from the myriad of subway routes.  Be prepared to get on at least one wrong line.  You get off and start over.  No biggie.

Taxis – We have only taken one taxi just to save a very long walk from upper Manhattan to lower, and yeah, it was kind of fun.  The taxi driver laughed at me as I was feeling all Law &Order-ish zipping in a taxi  through the streets of NYC (that was on first trip there – now we plan our routes better).

Personal vehicle – when we drive in, we tour the city at the end of the day at our leisure.  It’s free except for gas and lets us get a scope on what we want to further explore next time.

7. Dress code:

Yep, anything goes.  On our first trip, I asked my husband, who periodically travels on business there, what I should pack to “blend in.”  I didn’t want to stand out as a tourist.  He smiled and said, “It doesn’t matter what you wear, because the camera hanging around your neck gives you away.”  Rats.  He also said, anyone who walks down the street looking up and around at the sites – tourist.  Oh well.  Still, I dress seasonally, but try to step it up a notch to help camouflage the camera.

Useful Apps – Have2P (it locates nearby restroom facilities) and subway apps.

We’ll add more as we return back to this beloved city as we tend to return to our favorites and add one or two new things each time.  We hear there is a great fish market and zoos to visit.  Can’t wait to go back!  We’d love to hear your favorite finds!

Next review, Orlando, Florida.

So long, control freak

The warmer weather we’ve been blessed with this spring is good for both the body and soul.  Joggers, runners, walkers, dog-walkers, kids playing – everyone seems to be overjoyed at the temperate climate.  We, too, just have to get out and savor it!  One thing our family loves to do is bike ride.  Long rides.  Hours-long rides.  I make sure sunscreen has been applied; we check our tires for air; stock up on water and protein bars; dig out the sunglasses; make minor adjustments to our bicycle helmets; make sure everyone is wearing good socks; double-check that everyone has gone to the bathroom; grab my cell phone and a few band-aids and then set off for an adventure once Mom’s checklist is complete.  I take my job as mother very seriously.  While our chicks are in our nest, they are our responsibility.  It’s my job as a mother.  The job I’ve wanted since I was a very little girl.

One particular day, we chose to take a long ride on the less-traveled, country road versus the congested city path.  This back road is quiet and pretty.  There wasn’t another person or dog or vehicle anywhere.  My kids and I took our time cruising along the tree-lined street.  We were all well-spaced apart, because we could be on this lonely road – with no threat of danger.

I noticed my youngest son had lagged a bit behind, so I stopped my bike under a large shade tree to wait for him.  Birds sang, the breeze blew the tall, golden grass as if it were bowing down to the sun.  It was such a picturesque moment.  I was about 10 yards ahead of my little guy, patiently waiting, when all of a sudden a huge, black Suburban came barreling around the corner.  It came up behind my son like a shark locked on a target in the ocean.  My heart raced and palms began to sweat, as I stood wide-eyed and helpless – just out of reach to help my son.  I held my breath and said to myself, not wanting to startle him on his small bike, “Steady, steady, just don’t fall.”  Right as the Suburban passed him, my son hit a hole in the road and fell into the street.  I mean, exactly as the enormous vehicle whizzed by him, he fell directly into that space of road – narrowly escaping the large, heavy tires.

I gasped!  Then screamed!  Thankfully, he was okay.  The Suburban just missed him.  I ran to him, in shock of what had just happened.  We were on a desolate street.  Birds were singing, and we were enjoying such a wonderful bike ride, when in a split second everything changed.  I saw my son’s young life flash before my eyes.  Where did this vehicle come from?  Why did my son have to hit a hole in the road at the precise moment the vehicle passed by him?  Everything happened so fast. I was clearly shaken – more than him.

I asked him repeatedly if he was okay – both body and mind.  He was fine.  I was not.  He was young enough to shake it off.  I wasn’t ready to move an inch.  Not only did I witness something terrifying as a person, but this was my son and it is my job to keep him safe.  I felt like I had failed.  Miserably.  Physically, there was nothing I could do.  I was just far enough away that no matter how fast I can run, I couldn’t have intervened in the nano-second long moment.  For the rest of the long bike ride, I was haunted by the image of seeing him fall into the street, narrowly missing the large, ominous vehicle.  I replayed it over and over trying to think of anything I could’ve done to prevent the situation.  Nothing.  There was nothing I could’ve done.  That brought me back to feeling like a failure.

If you ask my husband, I can be a little over the top when it comes to keeping my kids safe.  Although this was a freak accident, I kept thinking that it must have been – in some way – my fault, because I couldn’t stop it.  Deep feelings of anxiety and angst welled up in my heart, and I nearly had to get off my bike to breathe.  That’s when God reminded me that He is the One who controls all – not me.  He is God of time and space – I am not.  He sees all, knows all, and is in all.  My job title as a mother is simply manager.  His job title as God…is God.  The two are not equal.  This was my lesson for the day.  Bad things do happen, and boy do we have stories of ER visits from school injuries, hardware store injuries, sports injuries, etc., because we live in a fallen, sinful world.  No one can escape that.  And I never thought I was God, that would be ridiculous and insane, but I had bought the lie that I could be the end-all, need-meeter for my kids.  Clearly, I cannot.  That was never written in my mommy contract.  I suppose my maternal hormones kicked in when I first became a mom and I hand-wrote an addendum to my mommy contract because Mamma Bear just can’t help it.  What that lie did was create an enormous amount of pressure on my myself to be the perfect mother.  Not to have perfect kids, but I believed that I could always be there, every time, for them.  This bike ride proved I cannot.

What I can do is release my children into God’s care.  Try as I might to be their best mother, I will fail sometimes.  A lot.  And that’s okay.  Because more than being dependent on me for every need, I want them to be dependent on God.  He is the One that knew them before they were born, knew their names first, counts every hair on their head, understands their every thought, every dream, and watches their every move – both past, present and future.  He is their all-in-all.  He’s mine, too.  Much peace returns to my heart when I remember His omnipotent presence.  Below is an excerpt from the devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.

“This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control…You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence…The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes…As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand.”

Both Psalm 139: 1-17  and Psalm 121 roll around in my mind and speak Truth to my restless mother’s heart.  When I remember who God is, I am free to be who I was called to be – a mom, saved by grace, doing the best she can.  And, I have much peace knowing that God’s got my kids in His hands, even when they aren’t holding onto mine.