Friday, September 23, 2016

You are still...

Just now I randomly decided to see my blog. I needed to remind myself.

My surgery came back negative for cancer. I've had scans again since then. The lymph nodes were smaller. Not gone but smaller. The oncologist said she's too chicken to wait too long to see me again so she'll see me in January for scans again. I'm okay with this. I want to be wise even if it feels like a step backward from where I was before.

Sometimes it feels like the twilight zone reliving the spring. Did that really happen to me? Again? While we were trying to open a restaurant? But the long scar underneath my arm confirms it. The slower drainage of lymph fluid from losing TWO more lymph nodes confirms it.

But I don't have cancer.
He is still good.
He would have still been good even if I had cancer. That's Who He is.

Other things have changed. Good things. Our restaurant has been open now for almost 6 months. This feels so surreal as well. It has been impossibly hard and yet here we are. But God. Not to us, but to Your Name be the glory. When we came to the place of trusting Him fully with the restaurant, there was such peace. The success of the restaurant rests on the Lord and our diligence to work for Him. Nothing more and nothing less. I am so incredibly grateful each day that my husband is getting to see his dream fulfilled. That people are enjoying food that we've prepared. That we are helping Project Zero and Living Mosaics (albeit in small ways now, but hopefully big ways later).

And I'm teaching again. Hard core. 6th grade, 5th grade, 1st grade, and kindergarten at home. Two sections of freshman writing at UCA. One online class of nearly 30 students taking freshman writing concurrently as homeschoolers. I can't even believe I'm doing all of this.

Not to us, but to Your Name be the glory.
I owe this place my presence. It feels hallowed here somehow. It is a place of wrestling for me. It forces me to be intentional, to think thoughts and process them, to share them. It is a place where I've been afraid and a place where I've shared joy. It's a place where I have said hard, honest things and unintentionally caused pain that damaged relationships. Out of that place I saw a deep, dark, hell pit that I never, ever want to see again. But God lifted me up out of it and so this place matters because that experience is forever intertwined with this place.It's a place that taught me I can be brave in my writing, just like I teach my students. A place where I can be free, but I need to steward that carefully. It's a tool of communication. It's a place of worship. It's a tool of ministry. It's an artifact of my life.

It's still here.
I'm still here.
I'm still a writer. Maybe not your favorite one, but it is still a gift I am so thankful God saw fit to give me. Particularly when I fail to steward it as well as He would want. He is so merciful to me.

I may not get to come here as much as I would like anymore, but I am thankful that this place still exists for me.

Lord help me to write more. Better. Stronger, More passionate. More gracious. More loving. More real. I hold this treasure in jars of clay. It is my act of worship to You.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Deep breath

I know it's been so long and this is definitely not the post I would want to write coming back, but nonetheless I believe it's time to write it.

The last Sunday in February I started running fever. I rarely run fever when sick, but I didn't think much about it initially until I had the fever for a week. I made a doctor's appointment and they checked me for mono (both the short and long test) and strep (both rapid and culture). She also put me on antibiotics assuming it must be strep. One week later my fever was increasing and my body was hurting and my stomach was hurting and I was winded all the time and I was panicking. Mono and strep had been negative. I went to the ER worried I might have meningitis or something crazy. My CBC remained normal but my lymphocytes were elevated over my neutrophils. I had a crappy ER doctor who acknowledged that but assumed it was something viral. He did say maybe I should go see my oncologist, but pretty much acted like I was a hypochondriac. I was due to see the oncologist in April, but I called and they moved me up to March 23.

The end of that third week I was at the end of myself. I had spent two weeks fighting the Lord. "God I don't have time to be sick! We are opening a restaurant!" "God please heal me!" "God I need answers!" Finally with my 102 temperature and exhaustion and being bed ridden I opened my hands to the Lord and said, "God I don't need answers or doctors or medicine, I need YOU. Would you just speak? I don't care what You want to say, I just need to hear Your Words." He began to show me my fear. I feared that He had abandoned me during our fiery trial with our adoption. I feared He had abandoned me during my deep hurt with the church. I feared Him. I doubted Him. I cried out to Him with Dwayne and told Him I was sorry for agreeing with a lie because I know He never leaves us or forsakes us. He was always there. He is ALWAYS good.

I woke up the next morning with no fever.

The following week I had scans. I saw the oncologist the next day. For the first time in the 8 years since I had breast cancer, I had bright lymph nodes show up on my scans. Two in my right arm pit. In addition my spleen was enlarged. Very enlarged and I had four lymph nodes that lit up around my spleen. The crazy truth is that I was not surprised by this. My fever had broke and I knew God had done a massive work in me regarding trust, but my symptoms were still there aside from fever.

The oncologist wanted to wait two weeks and then do a PET scan. In her mind if this was a viral illness, my lymph nodes would be smaller or gone in two weeks. So last Wednesday I had a PET scan. They called me Thursday while I was teaching 12th grade composition at Homeschool Academy to tell me that all the lymph nodes that lit up before were not only still there, they were bigger. I broke open and poured out all my tears. I was held by my husband, my parents, even my 12th graders who rallied and jumped up and prayed over me. Blessed be the Lord.

So tomorrow morning I am having one of those lymph nodes biopsied. Based on the scans, the radiologist's report, and the tone of my doctors, it seems I have cancer. At this point they are just trying to decide if it is lymphoma or a recurrence of my breast cancer. My breast surgeon, who is removing the lymph node, looked at me square in the eyes yesterday and said with confidence, "It's not breast cancer." I believe him. I had both breasts removed. I had no lymph nodes positive for cancer. I had radiation. I had 6 years of anti-cancer meds. My scans have been clear for 8 years. No, this seems like lymphoma. My symptoms. Weight loss. No appetite. Fever. Night sweats. Exhaustion. Swollen lymph nodes. So I have already prepared myself mentally for that word.

I'm sure I will update again soon, But before I go, I want to leave with this:

1) God graciously led me to repentance so that I would stop fearing Him. So that I would trust. So that I would rest. I feel so unbelievably held and confident in Who He is. This would not be if not for that night of Him leading me there. Nothing is wasted.

2) The Body of Christ has become so tender to me again. Saturday night 15-20 precious friends gathered and prayed with all their hearts over my family and I. They spoke so many encouraging and loving words. I felt and feel uplifted, held, loved on. God was so kind to give us the Body. It is so immeasurably important, even in all its brokenness. The strongest word, and the one I keep coming back to is this from Luke 22:

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

A: Satan has to ask to sift us. God allows it when He knows the other side of it brings Him great glory and us great good.
B: Jesus is praying for me!! He is praying that my faith would not fail. Wow!
C: He wants this to be faith building and strengthening for the whole Body. Wow. Daddy God wants to use little me. What honor. What mercy. What kindness. What LOVE.

Because of these things I am held. I wait with confident expectation on the Lord's rescue in His perfect way.

We love and appreciate your prayers right now. Thank you for taking the time to read. I will post an update when I am able.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Longer than Five Minute Friday: It's Time

I am sad to not be participating in "Write 31 Days" this year. It's amazing to me how quickly one year has flown by and all that has happened in my life in the span of these last 12 months. Last year when I wrote for 31 days, I told my story. It was healing and uplifting and encouraging and good. Apparently not just for me, but the many, many other people who told me so. I felt so in the thick of where I belong: as a writer, a storyteller, a life seeker. It makes sense then that the enemy would come along and try to steal all of that away from me. Oh he did try. Many days I felt like he won.

In my head I feel like all of this died. This place here felt, just gone to me. How do I do this again? What do I say after all of this time? Even now I get weepy looking back at how I tried so hard to do this, to make it work, and all I knew to do was walk away from the tomb. "He means what He says, Shana."

I died as a writer this past year. 

It feels so quiet and soft that I don't even know how to explain it. How do you verbalize what it feels like when the most real part of who you are and how you connect with the world is crushed into microscopic bits of sand? And kicked and blown about? Stomped on? Like a massive bullet blew right through your middle leaving a gaping hole. Air blows through it, but you walk around empty and vulnerable and uncertain of who you are.

Yeah that.

But here I am. God has been so graciously pursuing, drawing me out, healing me, loving me, whispering to me Truth. Baby steps. I see how even this hard death has taught me much. Taught me about the lengths the enemy will go to destroy. Taught me about why I write and don't write and who I write for. Taught me about freedom and grace and love.

I've had all these people go, "Where are you? Where's your writing? We need your voice. Your voice counts. God uses your voice. Come back!" Unexpected people and unexpected places. I found out someone I've never met who knows someone I know, told them she loves me just because of this place. My small group leader from last spring told me he saw me as a writer and I needed to do that again. And then a few weeks ago, I read this:

"So now I’m in the returning part, which has its own challenges. I feel so grateful. But I also feel fresh—new—baby-like, vulnerable, exposed, skinless. Like a soft shell crab that has outgrown its previous shell but hasn’t quite found a new one to wear yet.
For me, these depression times are exactly like an eraser. They come and stay and when they leave they take everything with them. The only way I can describe it is that I feel totally new—like I’ve forgotten all the wisdom I learned before. Like I’m starting over. It’s a little distressing for a writer. I don’t know anything again. It’s like spiritual amnesia. I am Dory from Nemo: Wait! Where are we? Hold on: Here I am and I SWEAR I KNEW some things yesterday! What were those things! Oh, who cares! Look! A whale!
I hate it a little bit. I feel untethered. But when I talk to God about it, when I say to God: What’s the deal with all the erasing? God says: Honey, take heart. I am doing a new thing.
And when I say: But I worked so hard to know all those things, God. And it’s my job to know things. People line up to hear me say things I know…
God says: Silly. You know nothing. You don’t teach by knowing, you teach by loving. You can do that. They don’t come to hear what you know, they come to hear your awe. And awe comes from having childlike eyes. Fresh. Post-erased eyes. "
(This is from Momastery. I may not agree with every word she speaks, but she KNOWS how to love and I think we can all learn to how to do better with that. She has a gift of loving well.)
And I was all like whooaaaaa. Yes? Yeah. Yeah that. I feel just like that. And then the Spirit was like, "Yes!! YES! That's what I've been trying to tell you too! You don't have to have it all figured out or have something super enlightening to say, to share the truth of who you are in Me and all the things I'm showing you."

So this is me. Me with fresh eyes and a new heart and some scars. But I'm new. I have no idea where we are going forward in this blog journey and I'm okay with that, because the reality is that I never really knew before either. Lots of people say you have to have a theme, a main idea, something you do every time you come to your blog. I don't have it. I promise it won't hurt my feelings if that means I'm not good enough for you, and this is why: If you are here, I really would like to think you love me for me, because I most definitely want to love you for you. We are all flawed and none of us will get it exactly right, but we keep moving forward, keep trusting, keep dancing with the One who knows us and made us. There's so much grace for all of us.
From the beginning this blog has been about my life, my people, my observations, all my dancing with Jesus has taught me. If there is a constant, it is that one. Aside from that, I know nothing. ;)

(I do really like Starbucks. I know that.)

I will update again soon about life, Nephresh, and all the things.
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