from an article originally posted September 7, 2014…
I had my first big chemo, we took pictures, then ran away for a week. It was a hard pill to swallow seeing me meet that bottom again. But we know how to manage it. But who really wants to be managing awful? We want to be living! On the day my big chemo started, they started my 2-week cycle of oral chemo. I had learned to live through the haze of their yuck, but on top of the giant chemo, well, I met my bottom. Jason and I know this dance. I fight for good moments on bad days. Often, I don’t remember the good moments and need reminding of them. And my people are gracious to remind me.
We ran away to simplicity. We watched television more than we ever do and the kids spent hours upon blissful hours in the pool. As I was able, I joined my people. As I found strength, I met my loves in living. We ate meals, read books, and went on short walks. It felt good to be on a slow schedule trying to figure out my new treatment.
I asked Jason if we could come home a bit early. My heart was feeling so heavy yesterday, I simply wanted to be home. We drove home in a familiar silence. There is always something painful about leaving a beautiful time away. There is always a measure of grief and fear saying goodbye to a beautiful season. In the silence, we both knew what are heavy hearts were feeling—would we have another opportunity like this one, another summer, another September?
These feelings are too big for us to manage. Almost too big to discuss, but we try our best to navigate our heavy feelings. We cry and share our heavy hearts and fears. Then we fight for gratitude. Gratitude in what a gift we were given by a friend and reader we have never met, but love—to run away to beauty of the mountains and return to our home that is filled with new beauty. But it all feels hard. The bearing beauty in the midst of having to hold life with an open hand. Some days we grasp too tightly. We want to stop time, and forget the grace awaiting over the next corner. We so quickly forget.
My dear Jen had our pictures ready for us upon our return. I barely remember this day, but these pictures bring back moments of goodness on a hard day. My poor Jen—as soon as I opened my pictures I noticed my cock eyes. I started texting her like she’s my doctor: Do you think it’s a brain tumor? Do you see my eyes, have they always been like this? My poor friends that must carry the random ramblings and fears of my heart. I don’t always express them out loud. But I couldn’t help it when picture after picture showed my crooked eyes. My friends have been asked to carry such strange burdens with me. But they do, I keep waiting for them to run, but they remain. They beautifully and faithfully remain. Grace.
Jen sweetly captured my fears and answered me kindly. She reminded me how medicated I was in these captured moments. In many of them, you can see my bed head. I barely remember this day. I think I asked all the kids to brush their hair and put on solid colors. I told Story she could wear patterns. But I simply wanted solid colors; I didn’t care which colors and brushed teeth and hair. My standards have changed. I used to stress photo shoots for days. Now I tell the kids to brush their hair and forgot to brush my own.
Something about coming home has lightened our hearts. We love, we treasure, we embrace our time away and love our intentional time spent in love together. Each moment feels like a gift. But coming home, returning to our known life, we feel comforted by our life we know. Going away grows gratitude for coming home. Vacation is beautiful like that. It’s as though we walked in our home, and remember how to remember grace. Home is where I’m next to my people, so on vacation or home... Next to my people is my favorite. But something about home, well, it’s good to be away to come home rich in gratitude.
In the quiet of the car ride home, Jason and I knew we are returning to a scary snort, bald, and more chemo. We know this. It sometimes feels impossible. Impossible when we forget that we are kept, loved, walked with in our hard. When we sit and imagine future hard without the grace that is provided to walk in it, then we are walking away from the very air that helps us breathe. We sin when we imagine our futures. We are lonely in that future place, because we are too finite to understand how Jesus will meet us in those impossible moments. But we do, we spend moments wondering over those future fears.
But we do forget. Returning home, we are keenly reminded we are not alone in this struggle. We walk into freshly painted rooms and know we are loved. I enter my bed to new, beautiful sheets, and I know God cares about the small details that help me feel loved. I read cards of readers asking me to press on, telling me they are praying. Praying for all the honest hard we are facing. And finally, a dear reader, someone I have never met, but love, found a puppy for my son. And when that sweet love entered our home, we all knew she was going to be a special member of our family. I could even see it on Jason’s face. I saw that he knew this gift was a good gift for our family.
We may be wildly crazy to invite a new dog into our family in this season of life. But my goodness, the love of a dog is a beautiful thing. This new pup has already delighted our hearts in one evening. She’s a bit of a ditzy blonde (our favorite). She runs into glass doors and has little spatial understanding. But what she loves most is to be loved. I will share pictures of her here soon. Today is my day to share love from our favorite Jen.
I never want to sound as though I’m complaining. I’m a woman sitting in the midst of blessing upon blessing. I am loved in big and small ways through each day. I have a community I do not deserve. A community that absolutely extends themselves in giant love towards our people. I see such love and I’m reminded of the big love of Jesus. His love is big and careful. It is giant and intentional. He loves me in big ways, and small gentle ways. Just like our community. He cares about my heavy heart and deep fears. He wants me to hand them to him to carry. Some days I forget. Some days I live in my own strength.
I’m sure you can tell, we are a kissing family. Lots of kisses remind me a lot of goodness. Kisses and bed head delight my heart. My people, my people, my people, well they are such a reminder of goodness. Goodness in grace. The gift of love I did not earn. The moving in love that came from love unearned. I could never earn all this beautiful love. When I look upon love, I’m able to turn over the heavy burden of the scary snort, the future bald, the cancer that devastates.
Jen, every photo shoot, I think, This is my most favorite. Then you top it. You are such a gift, Jen. Capturing our today in a brief click of your shutter. It matters. I look upon these pictures and remember there was goodness on an awful day. There will always be goodness and grace. I simply need to keep looking. And if the snort reveals something in my brain making my eyes caddywhompus? Well, we will face that edge, and I know ya’ll will be there to remind me of grace and Jesus, and my kept life in heaven. You will remind me that the story for my children and Jason is good. And there will always be puppy breath. Sweet puppy love that reminds us of the unconditional.
I cannot ever spend my words in thankfulness to my community well enough. Laundry love, painting love, sweet flowers, cards, delicious oils and candles. Knowing my kids love. Knowing me love. It feels too much to take in. But we are grateful. We came home yesterday with heavy hearts. But we were met in such love, we simply could not remain there. You have reminded us to look for grace. It’s always there.
I’m heading to worship to be further reminded of God’s love for my family, our story, our going. I’m heading in to have my cup filled to overflowing so in my limited way I can overflow onto another. But I suppose it’s not limited, is it? It’s only limited when I’m living, loving in my own strength. But what I have learned on this journey—my strength is a farce. Living in the strength of the truly strong One is all I have for this breath.
Who in your life needs reminding of goodness today? Who in your home needs your specific big love today? Who is God asking you to overflow upon today? I have a friend that is hurting today, I’m praying how God would have me love her today.
Thank you dearest Jen. Thank you. All of these images were captured by the gift of my dear Jen. If you are local, you will not regret time spent with this gift. She has a gentle way of capturing your now. She’s tender, she’s soft, and she knows how to encourage the best pictures from my people.