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4/26/2018

Can you meet me in the "half empty"?



The Lord is so wonderful with me. Every time I am struggling with something He has a way of talking to me and letting me know He cares. Today, He did that through this Sunday's church service.
But before we get to that I want to ask something of you. Please read this until the end. I want you to read this. You need to read this! I do not want you to listen to me or cause you to pity me. I want you to understand because, and I really wish this wasn't so but it most almost certainly will, one day you or someone you love will be in a place like this. My prayer is that you remember what you read on this post and it made you conscious of what you do or say.

Like I told you on my last post I have been recently been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after Cancer treatment. I have only said that to a very few people. Their response had left me a little battered. ALL of them said the same thing to me: it's OK; I am sure you can get better if you just try.
I remember once watching a Facebook video of how it would look like if people spoke of physical diseases the way they speak of mental diseases. In the video, the guy is ridiculed for a very visible ailment and told to "just try harder" or "don't give up." I know this is something said to people with mental disease, who are stigmatized for needing therapy or pills. The kicker to me is when in the video a friend watches him getting his insulin shot and suggests treating his diabetes with natural remedies. Most would jump to call out the ridiculousness of the suggestion, but we cancer patients have to endure that day in and out.

I would say cancer left me with a better spirit capable of seeing beauty in ugly places and being capable of empathy I was not capable of before. The hurting seek out each other because only among us do we feel understood. Everywhere else we are not heard but served with ways to fix us.

"How are you doing?", they ask.
"It's been tough. I can't sleep every night because of my legs are in CONSTANT pain due to the chemo-induced neuropathy," I respond.
"Oh! That is lack of exercise. You need to do more exercise to fix that."
"You have to sleep with your legs raised in a pillow."
"You should take 'X' pill that helped me with my (not-neurophathic) pain."
And I wasted my time explaining why in my case that didn't apply, but I am never heard. They'll just start serving me with more ways I can "fix" myself.
"I was just told I have chronic fatigue syndrome."
"But that is something you can overcome with exercise and good sleeping," replies the person who has never heard of chronic fatigue syndrome or has absolute no idea what that is.
And good sleeping as an answer to someone in pain EVERY night! Seriously?!

Humans don't naturally know how to be supportive. They just can't see someone in pain. They will try to fix it.
A mother is sad she can't have more children. "But at least you have a kid."
A teenager is sad she didn't get into the college she wanted. "But there are more you can apply to."
A parent is frustrated her child is going on a wrong path. "Be happy. This is a teaching moment."
A father just lost his job that sustains his family. "God will open new doors. Don't be sad."

Why can't you meet people where they are? Why try to bring them to your side of reality? Come to their side for once. You know, if someone opens up about his or her pain with you, they are not doing so to hear your input on their situation. Trust me, we the hurting are smart enough to try any means to alleviate our pain. Pain is not always fixable and feeling it is not always bad. I was feeling very upset with my encounters with friends who I open up to about how I feel just to end up in the receiving end of a sermon on what to do or how to feel. I used to be like this and I am grateful cancer gave me a better spirit. Now, I seriously wonder what gives anyone (including myself) the right to tell another one how he or she should feel about something.

Yes, she has a kid, but hat doesn't take the pain of her inability to have the children she desires.
Yes, she could apply to other colleges, but she had dreamed and worked hard for that college all through high school.
Yes, it is a teaching moment, but lately those parents feel all they do is teach and that teaching is not sticking. They worry for their child and feel lost on what else to do or try.
Yes, that father will be able to find a way eventually to provide for his family, but he is fearful of how long that will take and the sacrifices his family will have to make.
Yes, you might have the RIGHT answer. Your answer MIGHT not be wrong. This doesn't mean you HAVE to give it.

Sometimes, we want someone who will cry with us. Just acknowledge our pain and cry with us. Sometimes, we just want someone who will pray with us (right there and now) and leave it to God because only God can say or do something. Sometimes, we want someone who will ask: "How can I make things better for you?" without suggesting what else I can do in my seemingly unchangeable situation. Sometimes, we just want to remind you what our reality looks like not to provoke pity but to remind you to cut us some slack. Maybe we are feeling a greater burden because we can see our pain is starting to get to you, and it only adds to our pain.

I was feeling really down about the lack of empathy around my new reality. The pastor spoke of this at church, and his take on the issue was really refreshing. "Is the glass half-empty or half-full? It is both. When Paul says in Philippians 4:4 'Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice!' he is not talking about happy-clappy joy. Paul showed in the book of Philippians that he had learned to rejoice in some pretty harsh conditions. But it was not an 'always smiling, laugh out loud' joy. To ask that of someone in pain, concern, or fear would be disrespectful. The best way I can describe that rejoice always is: a positive, hopeful, optimistic knowledge that everything will be OK because God is in control and He is Who we trust." I can see the glass half full because in whatever circumstance life throws at me He is still with me and He is my side of full. I can rejoice in my future in His hands, but that does not negate pain, hurt, or fear. He meets us there. He gives us promises from which to hold on to on these circumstances, but not before reassuring us that He understands us.

I was talking with a girl at church who lost her mom to breast cancer. It was hereditary cancer, and she fears for herself and her sisters. I asked her if she knew why Jesus had been born. "Why didn't God just send Jesus down as a full grown man? Why did He have to live among us?" I asked. "This is the beauty of Him being among us: He can say He understands us because He walked in our shoes. He understands us because He suffered for us. Isn't that amazing?" Oh, how our loving Lord, creator of everything, is able to meet us in the half-empty.


1 Kings 19
4... He [Elijah] came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep...
8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
What a beautiful picture. He passed by in the whisper. He whispers His love and hope to us. He is gentle, soft, kind, and loving. He listens and sustains. He understands and responds. He is not late. He is ALWAYS there. Can we be more like Him? We are nothing compare to Him, yet He understands us. Can we seek to understand first? Can we listen before we speak? Can we refrain from speaking?

I hope you never have to see a loved one in long-term suffering. Don't lose patience, even though it is frustrating for you (the non-sufferer) too. Don't tell them what to feel or what to do. You don't know how hard it is, even if it has affected your life as well. Don't give up. Even if it feels there is no hope or joy: pain and joy, suffering and hope are not mutually exclusive. I hope this helps you be better prepared to be there for someone who really needs you to be there.


3/25/2018

Palm Sunday and the Glory of God





John 11
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

These are the words Jesus speaks when Martha tells him not to move the stone from Lazarus grave because he has been decomposing for four days. 

What is the glory of God?
This is what I asked myself when I read the passage. 
I have sought the answer to this question as I seek to understand what are His promises for my life and what must I believe. 
I quarreled with God for the past year for this verse:
John 14
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

See, I asked healing in His name for a darling four year old little girl named Kinsley from cancer. Kinsley died in January 6, 2017. 
My whole belief system was shattered, even though I was undergoing cancer treatment myself.

Today we had a wonderful church service that shed some light on this question with the story of Palm Sunday.
If you think that the glory of God is prosperity, peaceful times, easy life, and no hardship, how come Jesus said this and a little time later He would be crucified?
Well, the Jews made my same mistake on Palm Sunday. 

When Jesus first said we would see the glory of God He had just brought Lazarus back to life. This began a wave of acceptance towards Jesus. Gossip began spreading of the miracle accompanied by rumors arising that He might be the promised Messiah. People started getting excited about this Jesus whom they at first had rejected and scorned as their coming hero who would deliberate them from Roman oppression. This is marked by how He was received that Palm Sunday. 

Here came Jesus riding not even a full grown donkey, but a humble colt. And the people gave Him a hero entrance.
Here is how it is narrated in Matthew 21
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Finally acceptance for Jesus! But why? Because He would fulfill all their expectations. 
What were your expectations from walking a "Christian" walk?
What did you expect God would do in your life when you "gave" it to Him?
You would find a good husband or wife? 
You would have a good family?
You would raise good children?
You would serve in a good ministry?
You would have a good life?
But... you do remember Jesus said to Martha she would see the glory of God in front of her brother's grave grief-stricken... right?
I immediately knew my cancer journey was to bring Him glory and I would see His glory in that journey, but I couldn't reconcile that truth in the death of a child.
Some things in our journey are hard to reconcile with the glory of God: cancer, disease, war, violence, death. The Jews were suffering from all of these and thought Jesus would deliver them.  
And when these expectations where not met, they completely turned on Him and in a matter of days crucified Him on good Friday. 
And the story goes: Jesus dies in the cross. Jesus is murdered in the cross. The people shouting "Hosanna" one Sunday are exclaiming "Kill him" next Thursday. And kill Him they do. 


BUT!!!!!!



But...



...



Oh, the story doesn't end there.




OH! It doesn't end there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



And His glory is seen!




I pray for my pastor friend, Tony, who still suffers greatly from the terrible passing of his 14 year old daughter Giana.
I remember dearly and still online-stalk every video of Kara Tippetts, a great mother and wife who lived fully for God and was taken home from breast cancer at the age of 36.  
I pray daily for Kinsley's family and every family stricken with cancer and terminal illnesses. 
I was recently diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It turns out it is most common after the cancer treatment of a specific cancer... You guessed right: breast cancer. 
This is not the journey I thought God would use to show His glory. But I believe. 
Even after all the pain and the ongoing struggle, I believe it. 
And more importantly, I see it. 
I see it in Kara, Tony, Kinsley. 
Don't let your unmet expectations rob you from seeing that glory and turn you into crucifying Jesus. 
I quarreled with Him and felt nothing but loneliness and misery. I longed for my Saviour so badly, yet felt so away from Him. 
But He is such a loving God. 
In the mist of all the hurt, the pain, the heartbreak, the unfairness, the injustice... ALL that is wrong with the world is not strong enough to keep you from His love. And ALL are able to show His glory because that is how great it is. 
And the best part of the story:
The story doesn't end there. Not theirs. Not mine. And if you believe, not in yours. 

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

3/01/2018

Emmalees's Woodland Camping 5th Birthday

I knew it's been a couple of months since Emmalee's birthday, but I still wanted to share with you our first birthday celebration in Panama. My apartment and my mom's apartment are really small, but we have the advantage of living next door to each other. So we came with the solution of having my living room be the "play" are and her living room be the eating area. 


I love her showcase model pose.

Love the many monograms I've found online for free.




The cake was a lot easier to make than I thought here in Panama.


The camping tent had to be improvised because I forgot and ran out of fondant.


The buttercream tree bark was extreme easy.


Cinnamon rolls pops

How lovely are these? And they were also so easy to make.





These were specifically requested by the birthday girls


 l love how these buttercream fire pits turned out. I can never get that red color, but I somehow did this time.

Cute favor boxes courtesy of Grandma Linda.


Our Canadian beaver to remember our Tio Ditto and Tia Lia.

In love with my topiary!


How gorgeous is that fox pillow for a reading nook?


Our "Le Petit Prince" fox. He surprisingly sleeps with Emmalee; I thought he'd be Kaylee's.

All the frames are made from cereal boxes. Amazing recycling!

I have also recycled that green banner for 3 events now!





The centerpieces were an assortment of felt woodland animals. The fox is still my favorite in all this theme.

Bear!

Squirrel!

Bunny!

I have yet to make a felt owl I like.

Racoon!

The photo booth was simple and pretty.

And we had some whimsical masks to go with it.



My Panamanian bestie!

Mom, sister, and me!

For play, we had some magnetic fishing rods for some camping fishing. 

And set up the TV in the living room to play Start the Party with the Playstation Move. (Boy do I miss that Playstation... Mean robbers!)

We had a woodland creature visitor with the adorable Chugui, Aunt Lilly's ferret.

Chugs was a total hit!

God bless him!

First time breaking a piƱata in an apartment parking lot.




It was a great day. We were so happy to have Grandma Martha with us that day all the way from Honduras. Emmalee really enjoyed time with her friends and loved everything about her birthday.
Here are some more pics of the time we got to share together. 



Lovely bunny photo bombing!

Happy munchkin!


Emmalee birthday interview Age 5

What is your favorite TV show? How to Train Your Dragon Series.
What is your favorite movie? Ferdinand.
What is your favorite thing to do at school (School for her is church's Sunday school)? Play with blocks.
What is your favorite color? All the colors.
What is your favorite toy? Skates and bicycle.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A mom so I can get my baby.
What is your favorite book? My prayer book.
Who is your best friend? Maria Jose, Graciela, Kaylee, Sarah.
What is your favorite animal? Horse.
What is your favorite place? The park.
What is your favorite thing to do with mom? Cupcakes and cookies.
What is your favorite thing to do with dad? Play.
What is your favorite thing to do with Kaylee? Play and do school.

Dear Emmalee,
My sweet, sweet girl! I have been basking in your sweetness for five years, and you only get sweeter, my darling. You are always the kindest and most loving little girl around. You love snuggling, hugging, kissing. Your grandma Linda has the greatest time with you as she is just the same. I love how you still delight when I take the time to just hold you and tell you to your ear how much I love you and how you are the most beautiful girl my eyes have seen. You blush, hold my face, and say "I love you, mom" with the most sincere look filled with love. Your eyes are so expressive. You can see the light come into them when you are happy or excited. You remember everything. It always surprises me how you remember things even I have forgotten. You would never get lost. You always know where you are, where you've been, and where you are going. I hope that is true all your days. I pray you find that guidance in God's will, delighting in His love like you delight in mine. I delight in my love for you. It only gets better. You are so good in following orders. You still battle with trying to get your way at all costs when you don't want to give in, but you are quicker to listen. You have taken a better attitude on discipline. You no longer fight me and you understand the reason and purpose for it. I am glad you have such a strong desire to be excellent. You strive for greatness and you are a little perfectionist. You got that from your mommy. You got from your daddy your tenderness. You got from your Grandma Linda your kindness. You are such a wonderful big sister. When Kaylee has misbehaved and mommy feigns her "OK, I'm gonna leave you here and we are going to go without you" to make her hurry up, you run in front of me and start advocating for your sister begging me not to leave her. "No, I love my sister. I want her to come too!" You are such a darling. You love Jesus. This is the first year I can say that. You love Him. If I tell you something you did would make Jesus sad, it honestly concerns you and you earnestly try not to do it more. Also, when mommy gets upsets and starts raising her voice or yelling, you remind me that Jesus wouldn't like that. Ha! Well played, baby... Well played! It makes mommy stop yelling almost immediately and the guilt trip makes mommy be more mindful through the day. I really don't mind you calling me out on not upsetting Jesus either. I pray I am not failing you as a mother. You are so smart. I feel you are not more ahead in your education because of my inconsistency as a teacher. I am sorry. I am doing my best to be healthier for you. And you are so understanding and helpful. You are just five, but if mommy can't get out of bed because her head hurts, you will caress such head until mommy feels better. You are so patient with me. I wish I was as patient as you are. You teach me so much how to be better person. I love how you already grasp the fact that you speak two languages and you adjust the language according to the audience. Your sister cracks us up when she speaks in English to everyone even if they don't understand her. You are still her translator, as you have been since she was 2. Mommy is not the one who understands her most; it is you, wonderful big sister. I love hearing you laugh with daddy. I love how you want to show him everything new you learned how to do that day when he comes home from work. You are growing more and more into a daddy's girl, but mom will put up a fight. Baby, I beg the Lord everyday to let me see you grow up into the wonderful soldier for His Kingdom you will undoubtedly be. I love you, my princess. I love you forever.