My lot from God

A grateful heart is quick to give you perspective, mindfulness of blessings received, and a faraway view of what you don't have.
My lot from God viewed from a place far from God is bitter, sad, lonely, hopeless, and useless. Unfortunately, I am sad to inform, this is where I have been living: away from God feeling sorry for my lot.

I wish I could write a more positive post. I wonder if I am in the wrong to share these hard and broken feelings. I am waiting to write something inspirational, and because I have nothing inspirational to write, I've written nothing.
I cry most days and no one knows or sees me.
I feel I can't share that anymore because you're tired of feeling sorry for me.
I don't blame you. I would too.

I am currently hating my hair. It's in a stage where it is too short to style and long enough to stand up and look bulky. I am struggling not to shave it all off because I felt and looked better that way than with the hot mess I have now. One of the things I miss the most of my bald head is that it was my clear "she has cancer" sign. At the time, it was the thing I hated the most. People would stare and immediately know I had cancer. It made me different and I hated it. Now, I miss it. (I will tell you right now that I don't understand many of the things I am feeling and I am aware of how crazy they sound, so bare with me.) Now people in the street look at me and are not filled with sympathy for my ordeal; they are filled with pity for the regrettable encounter I must have had with my hair stylist.  
This is what I think people think happened when they see my hair. 

I miss people being able to see my hard through my bald head. Now, I look like a normal person on the outside, if you consider having no breasts normal. I can be viewed as flat-chested I suppose.
I am far away from normal, but I don't look it anymore.
My husband has a hard time remembering. He sees me and still thinks of me and treats me like my old self. He expects me to be able to do the same things. He expects me to have the same mind.
I warn him over and over not to trust me. "Don't trust me to remember to do 'x'. Don't trust me to know how to do 'x'. Don't trust me to have the strength to do 'x'." Me not being able to do everything I put my mind to is uncharted waters for my husband. When he is feeling neglected because it's been a week since the last time I served him dinner and I have been leaving the girls alone with him to go lay down, I have to remind him I'm too broken by the time he comes home. Sometimes, I am broken from the moment I wake up, and I have to pretend I can do this thing called living. Sometimes, I feel dying would be easier. Some days, I feel nothing at all. Nothing! Just a numbness I carry quietly and alone.

And then I came across this quote:
“If your life is broken when given to Jesus, it may be because pieces will feed a multitude, when a loaf would satisfy only a little lad.”
The person who shared it on Facebook said it was an Elisabeth Elliot quote. I googled it and it wasn't. She wrote a newsletter reminiscing the quote from a chapel leader in her college. Here are a few portions of the letter that hit me hard.
"The portion assigned to me each day is precisely measured by God, not only for my good (although it may appear quite the contrary) but also—let me not forget—for the good of all the others whose portions He is allotting. My cup may have a bitter taste. Shall I suppose, then, that my Father either has had nothing to do with choosing my portion, or that He is not dealing with me in mercy and grace? Such thoughts are from our ancient foe who seeks to work us woe! It is the Lover of Souls who hands me the cup of suffering, giving me the priceless privilege of learning a fellowship with Him which can be learned in no other way."

I need to do a better job at living with purpose.
I can't keep viewing my lot as random.
Elisabeth wrote: "No matter how monstrous an evil may have been perpetrated against us, both by intention and act (think of Joseph’s brothers’ treatment of him!); it is mysteriously transformable into great good by Him who is Lord of the Universe and my Redeemer. It took Joseph’s suffering to accomplish God’s will for Israel. The sufferer himself became the redeemer for his father and his hateful brothers. They meant it for evil. God meant it for good."

I am moving to Panama city April 16, 2017.
The move has given me mixed emotions, has contributed to my numbness feelings, and has made me feel my life is on hold. We have no idea what our life there will look like, no idea what we will do to earn a living, how I will care for a house, homeschooling, and my freelancing job. We have no idea of anything but the wonderful fact that we will live next door to my mom and sister.
I pray that God can use us there, strengthen our faith, give us community, ignite in us purpose and spiritual awakening, and bring us closer to Him.
I pray He can use my lot the way He did Joseph's, that He may use me in my current state even if I am not inspirational. I ask these truths can permeate my soul and make me say:
"Whatever my lot You have taught me to say 'It is well with my soul'."


Can we be real on this social network world?

I love Facebook.
It has it's advantages and disadvantages, as everything in life, but I love it.
I love to see baby pictures of friends I haven't seen in a while or live far away.
I love to see pictures of your travels, so I can live vicariously through you.
I love to see your graduation pictures, new job pictures, weight-loss pictures.
I love to share in your joy.

But sometimes, I feel sad of the face you feel you have to put on.
We are accustomed to showing our best side in social media that we are now doing it all the time.

I recently had the opportunity to pray for two married couples who were on the brink of destroying their marriage. I found out of the fact that their marriage was failing when it got to the point where it was evident and pretty much everyone knew. I was able to counsel these couples and pray fervently for them. Today, both of them are on their way to saving their marriage and making it work. Now, I don't mean to say that I had anything to do with them saving their marriages, but I was glad I could be a part of it. I could pray for them. I could send them Bible verses. I could remind them of God's love and mercy to them. I was able to be there for them.
Why didn't they opened up when the struggle began? Their Facebook page made it seem like everything was perfect. How come it was a shocking revelation when it had been happening for months!

I want to be there for you.
I want you to be there for me.
If I open up that I am struggling with depression, like some of my previous post have clearly showed, I want you to say something about it. Go ahead and send me an encouraging message or Bible verse. Go ahead and ask me how I am doing with those feelings. Go ahead and pray for me. I desperately need it.
Stop treating your friends in real life like you treat your friends in Facebook.
Don't put on your best face.
Tell me if you are struggling in your marriage, so I can tell you you are not alone.
Tell me how motherhood sometimes feels like too much and you feel like quitting.
Cry with me if you are in pain and need someone to cry with you.
Everyone feels the pressure of "keeping up with the Joneses", even in the Christian world and especially at church.
I love these verses:

Titus 2
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

This is what I want to do to be there for you and I want you to do for me.
This is what I want to emulate for you. 
But this is the hardest part of life and where we struggle the most. 
How can we be that to each other without being accountable and opened? 
How can I help you with your struggles in motherhood if I don't know them?
How can I help you grow in kindness to your husband if your Facebook page makes it look like you are but at home you aren't and you haven't opened up about that to anyone?
How would it help you if I post about my perfect marriage and my perfect grasp at motherhood?
That only helps to make you feel inadequate and alienated. 
How does it help to post about holiness and seeking sanctity without sharing my struggles about it and my daily walk to seek it?
I don't mean to say to lay it all on Facebook. Only nut heads like me do that in public places. 
But, be more real, please.

I want to see more real Christians. 
I want to see more relatable Christians. 
I want Christians to grasp what Jesus said when He said this:

Matthew 25
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


A Charlie Brown Christmas Fourth Birthday For Emmalee

This is a great post to change the mood around here a little. First I would like to let you know that I am doing much, much better. Part of my uncontrollable sadness was due to menopause. Now that I am being treated for it, I am feeling much better, better perspective, more energetic, and seeking the Lord with more motivation and joy.

Boy! Did I enjoy making this birthday!
A Charlie Brown Christmas has a very special place in my heart. 
We made a Christmas play out of it for school when I was in high school. I am still a little sore I didn't get to play Lucy as EVERYONE agreed I was a perfect Lucy. Nonetheless, it was a great time with my friends and my favorite teacher ever, Mr. Jaime Greene. 
I wish I had pictures of our play to show you. 
I also had a remake of the play with my own students back in 2008. That was 9 years ago! What??!!

When my girls fell in love with the new Peanuts movie, I knew I had to make a Snoopy birthday, and since Emmalee's birthday is in December we went for the Charlie Brown Christmas. I wanted the birthday to feel like a cozy Christmas dinner with friends, so we did it in my in-laws' living room. I loved making every detail of this birthday and reminiscing on my childhood days watching Peanuts.
These pictures are from Emmalee's fourth birthday December 17, 2016.
Hope you enjoy it.

Isn't that a cute dessert table?
How perfect is that tree from the movie? It even has the Linus blanket around.

Most people had a hard time reading Emmalee's name because of the peculiar "a", but I love it. 

This is one of the only pictures where you can appreciate the handmade Snoopy beside the cake. He was my favorite of the Snoopies I made and was glad my dad took it home with him. 

The happy birthday banner was simple and Peanuts-y.
Let me break down the dessert table for you.

This was meant to be Christmas tree brownies, but I overcooked it and they were a little hard. It didn't matter because people actually thought they were cookies.  

These were meant to be small Christmas trees, but the little fondant star that went on the top never hardened. They would have made all the difference, but no one cared because these where carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on top.  

These snowman cake pops were a catastrophe. I took them out too early, set them near a window, and it was a very hot day. They fell out of their sticks. I wanted to throw them away, but my mom told me to just serve them like that. Poeple actually like the "melted" snowman look.

These where supposed to be frosted with white frosting. Silly me painted all the cream cheese frosting with light green. I added blue food coloring and just went with it. 

Whimsical krispy treats. 

The cake is red velvet with cream cheese frosting. It was cream cheese frosting galore. It bugs me to no end that Charlie Brown's ear broke when I was placing him. Sigh. 

But that snoopy is my crowning jewel. How adorable is he? And the little Woodstock? Perfection!

Here is another angle of the Emmalee banner (aren't those Peanuts characters gorgeous?) and of the cake. You can appreciate Sally and Peppermint Patty.

Side view of the dessert table. 

I didn't want that Lucy from the McDonald's kids meal toys. Then I saw a picture of her in an adorable Psychiatric booth and searched everywhere for her. A mom on Facebook was kind enough to bring it over. People loved my Snoopy jars. It took me forever to fold the green napkins into Christmas trees. 

I went a little overboard and had a little more time with being at home recovering, so I made the ornaments for the tiny Christmas tree. 

How cute are the favor bags? Plus, they were super easy to do.

I always make felt characters for the girls birthdays. They play with them until they fall apart. I was appalled when someone just took them without asking, all four of them and Woodstock. 

The paper comics cones were later filled with popcorn. Loved the idea.

Cozy up to watch the Peanuts movie with one of these.

More characters on the piano. A cute manger on the back.

These were the centerpieces homemade Snoopies. You can find many plushy templates on Pinterest. 

They each got a different colored scarf.

As always, this were gifted to guests.

Love those expressive eyes.

Some hanging balloons changed the feel of the dining room.

Completely in love with the Snoopy house. The girls still play in it. We recently used it during home school to reenact the Three Little Pigs story.  

My favorite photo booth to date. Andres, the cutest model, showing how it's done. It may have been a little to high. 

It was awesome to share this birthday with everyone who has been there for me during the hard season we've had. 
I was especially grateful and happy that my mom could be here in Honduras and be a part of the festivities. 

Here are some pictures of the party. 

My piƱata got wet, but it was still very cute.

Mommy and the birthday girl.

Kaylee finally agreed to a picture on the photo booth. Daddy is good convincing her, but he wasn't in front of the camera to make her smile.  

I love my gorgeous, smiling mom!


How are you doing?

I apologize for my last post. It was so grim and uninspiring.
The thing is, I write my heart.
I try to have my heart in the right place, but sometimes I don't, just everyone else.
But we cover those times, hide them, keep them away from the public.
I don't like that. I like sharing my whole self.
Ever since I was a twelve year old writing my journals that go all the way back to 1998 to 2010 in journals and then on this blog, I always thought I was writing them so my kids could get to know the real me at that specific time.
Being honest and true and remembered is more important now than ever.
These are the words by which my daughters could know me if my nightmares come to life.

You see, I am afraid of spiders.
Most that know me know this, but most don't know why.
It all goes back to my parents divorce when I was 7.
I had a recurring dream about a black dragon. The dragon first appeared the day my mom told me my dad would no longer be her husband. She was taking a shower and I was sitting on the toilet cover when she told me. She was so nonchalant about it. " He is divorcing me, but not divorcing you."
The dragon would follow me through a poorly lit street where I would fall after running vigorously away from it and be devoured as I woke up.
Recurring means I dreamt it many times.
When I was in fourth grade I saw some classmates secretly passing a playboy magazine among them. I told the teacher.
The class bully was among them. In retaliation, during lunch time, he tied me to a chair in the back of the school with other boys and placed a spider on my face as I cried and screamed for help.
And people wonder why I don't want my girls going to elementary school. This was FOURTH grade!
My fear of spiders, which is substantial and conspicuous, was a forever trait my friends knew of me.
But it is a lot more deeper than you think.
My dragon dreams where replaced with spider dreams.

I don't know at what point I started viewing my spider dreams as prophetic.
I started seeing a pattern with them. When something bad was going to happen, I would dream with my black spider a few days before.

The day before I got the lab results from my tumor biopsy, I had a dream visit from the spider.
I was almost certain when I went to the lab that the result would be cancer. My spider had told me.
Any psychology doctor would tell me the dreams are not prophetic; they are a manifestation of my stress for a specific situation. I believe this is true.

I try not to think of it as having any meaning, but alas I am only human.
Last week my eight legged friend visited me in my dreams.
I woke up crying and scared to my core.
I wanted to wake up my husband and have him console me and tell me everything was ok, it was just a dream. He was so tired I didn't. It took all my strength to go back to sleep.
Right now I am writing this post to avoid continuing to read on recurrent breast cancer.
I can't shake the feeling the spider dream means cancer is returning.

People have been asking how am I doing?
I usually answer that I have a hard time answering that question.
I know they want to hear I am ok, fine... cured?
But I am none of those or one of those.

I am not ok.
The plethora of symptoms from chemo, radio, surgery, early menopause plague my every moment so strongly I don't know how I keep it together in front of people.
Today I was feeling fine and then, for a moment, I wasn't.
I called my husband crying. "What is wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing. Everything. I don't know. I just felt like crying." I replied.
And then I kept on with my day as nothing happened.
I don't understand this.
I don't understand myself, my thoughts, my emotions.
My girls giggling brings me so much joy and the next second I am back to feeling empty.

I've been talking to a fellow PTSD friend on what are our life-lines.
He shared his was holding fast to God's promises. I told him mine was intentional aggressive gratefulness. I told him I was having trouble being grateful, and he told me he was having trouble having quiet time with God seeking those promises. We agreed on exchanging life lines.
For the first time in a very long time, I read my Bible diligently.

I've been feeling a lot better since grabbing hold of a promise in Romans.

Romans 5
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I wrote in my journal that I might feel this love poured into my heart as I wasn't.
I have. 
I like how it says hope won't be ashamed. 
I feel that is one of the main reasons I try not to hope. 
What if I hope I am cured and it turns I am not?
What if I tell everyone God made the miracle with me, and then I find myself battling recurrent metastasic stage IV breast cancer? 
I would give it a good spin and say the miracle was within not in healing my cancer, but deep inside my hope for a cure would be ashamed.
The hope this chapter is talking about it the hope of heaven, life after this broken world. 
That hope won't be ashamed. 
But I want to hope for healing. 
I want to hope for watching my girls grown up into beautiful ladies. 
I want to hope for growing old with my husband. 

People ask how I am doing from a true place of concern and also of hope I am doing ok. 
But I can tell they want me to tell them I am ok. When I don't, they reassure me I am ok. 
That hurts a little bit. 
I am not ok, and I don't know when I'll be ok again. 
And I can't rush it. I am trying to. Trust me, I would rather skip forward and get to the ok part. 
People want to rush it for their own well being as well. The sooner I am ok, the sooner they feel better about my situation. But the rushing makes me feel unacknowledged and an inconvenience. 
And that just makes me feel guilty. 
But what else is people suppose to do? Not ask how I am doing? 

This falls into the zone where only God can provide any comfort. 
Oh, how I must hold tight to Him. 
I need to let go of my anger with Him. 
I need to thank Him for Kinsley and for her death. 
As oxymoron as that sounds, it is what my soul needs: to thank Him for her death. 
Thank Him for my sufferings. Hold to the promise that my sufferings are a partake of Christ's sufferings to perfect my faith. 
My faith is far from perfect. I am not even able to hold my tongue from using bad words when hitting my pinkie toe with the edge of some furniture. It is far from having the fruits of the Spirit present to have one day of homeschooling where I do not raise my voice to my girls. 
But I am still here. I am persevering... ? 
Will I finally get some Christ-like character next to reach that desired hope?

So my answer to how am I doing?
I am done with treatments. 
I am recovering from my surgeries. The hysterectomy cut still hurts. The mastectomy cut has opened in one place, but after a week of oozing, it's finally... normalizing? 
Neuropathy is ever present. 
My most-hated lymphedema worsens and improves intermittently. 
Menopause has yet to hit me full force. 
Trying to eat ketogenic.
I am trying to battle with all my strength my stress from my fear of cancer coming back. Learning to navigate the turbulent waters of hormonal mood swings. Trying not to care so much for my physical appearance, even though it does bring me down.
I am trying to thank God for a most-hurtful "no" to a prayer. 
I am having a blast with homeschool, learning to keep my cool, learning from the girls, and loving being with them. Admiring my husband more each day, learning not to snap at him, learning to be more present and not drift to my hideaways. 

I'm a wreck, people. 
That is the honest truth. 
But I will hold unto one more promise, which I hold to very tightly:

2 Corinthians 12
9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.


A Despondent Heart

My heart is despondent.
When I write I always have in mind three things to accomplish: Share my true heart, share the raw story, and seek God's insight in everything that happens. This is not what I have in mind for this post
I have no insight, inspiration, perspective, Biblical revelation to help me overcome my despondent heart.
A dear mentor of mine recently called me out for cursing in the most public place ever: Facebook.
She said she understood how I must feel, but that it wasn't ladylike and I shouldn't lose my sweetness.
But you see, I'm going through the stages of grief, though not in the right order. Now, this is no excuse or justification for foul language; it's just the reality of where my heart is.
I don't know if you can call hopefully pleading and praying as denial. Bargaining and depression came later, and I am stuck in anger.

Here is the post that sparked the admonishment.

My post was edited to the present #cancersucks. 
That was not my post. 
My sentiments matched Kinsley's mom's sentiments: F*** cancer! 
I even wanted to write it in caps as well.
I felt like a hypocrite changing it to what it is now. 
I feel upset changing it.
My heart is pounding fast and strong while yelling it in my inside. 
I want to scream it with all my might at the top of my lungs for everyone to hear.
I want Him to hear.
I want to scream it... to Him.
I don't blame Him for cancer.
I am not angry with Him for her and me getting it.
I am angry at cancer.
I am angry she could not be spared.

Was that really my denial stage? Knowing the doctor's had said in September there was nothing to do for Kinsley and still pleading to You with all my heart everyday for a miracle? Was it really useless and was I in denial?

I asked You to bargain with me. Take me instead.
With so much at stake, I still asked you to take me and leave her.
I didn't even want to enter surgery knowing there was more doctors could do to try to save my life, and Kinsley was dying that morning.

I am not sure I am over depression. I'm stuck between the two, anger and depression, like the psalmist stuck in the slimy pit.

Kinsley's mom posted this picture a few days ago. The picture is from when a pre-cancer Kinsley met her little sister.
Kinsley should be here.
She should be playing and being an awesome big sister.
She should be brightening everyone's day with her big smile.
Goodness,my despair feels deep and it's but a drop in the ocean her mom and dad feel.

My heart is griefstricken.
I find no solace.
I look at my two girls and remember the similar posts of them like the photo above I shared.
But my girls have 50% chance of having my cancer gene.
They have 1 in 2 chances of having to walk this cancer journey.
I want to spare them.
I can't protect them.
I want my girls to save up money to get marry, start a family, buy a house, take their dream trip. I don't want them saving money for their breast implants and mastectomies.
I want them to live long and well, not age prematurely, like I am, from getting their ovaries removed.
And what if my life is claimed in one or two years? What will be of them?

"Don't lose your sweetness," my sweet mentor said.
"There is no sweetness left after cancer," I replied.
My goal and pursuit has been kindness.
Diplomacy is as close as I've gotten.
Will I be able to get to sweetness?
Cancer took sweetness away.
Kinsley was sweetness.

I don't mind someone reminding me not to sin in my anger.
I just wish she had used a different word.
"You don't look ladylike," she said.
Ha! That is an understatement.
The pain from my scars makes it hard to walk erect.
I have my flat chest, hunchback, pregnant-looking belly (from all the swelling), tomboyish short hair, and dark circle under my eyes from almost a year of bad nights. I am the furthest thing from ladylike.

I'm bitter.
Like Ruth's mother-in-law Naomi, whose name means sweetness, I want to be called Mara (bitterness) for the Lord has dealt bitterly with me
I mourn Kinsley as I mourn the babies in my dreams I can no longer birth.
Where once I felt pure joy and endeavored to pray fervently for them, now I feel envy and anger when my friends announce their pregnancies.
I know I am blessed. I know there is much to be grateful for.
I look at my daughters and know I should feel bliss.
I try to find my way back, my mind back.

I am not rejecting God. If anything, I am talking to Him more.
I am just..... angry.
Is it wrong?
I guess it is normal for a child to get angry at her parents.
I have a two year old with anger issues. I mean clench her fist, dog-like growling, you-are-dead-to-me stares, feet stomping, banshee-type screaming angry.
The last time she had an anger episode I held her from the arms and pulled her close while she kept screaming. I started praying. "I don't know what I am doing. I don't know how to guide her. Help me. Help me be the mom she needs." My poor little girl suffers from neglect in an important developmental year from an absent mother battling cancer. She is angry. She is demanding attention. She deserves a good mom.

Do I have a right to cry out to You, Lord, my heavenly Father?
I am not sorry, Lord.
I still want to go back an change my post.
I still want to write down my true sentiments about cancer and have everyone read it.
I know You don't approve.
Do You reproach me in my state?
I felt sorry someone would reach out to me for my language in a post instead of reaching out to love the broken.
Please forgive my weakness in my mourning.
I wrote of my despondent heart to a friend and this was her reply:

"Thankfully, our hurt, anger, doubt and questions do not upset God or anger Him. He receives them and welcomes our hearts, even when they are shrouded in pain and anger.
Continue to ask Him. Continue to shout at and wrestle with Him. Continue to speak your heart, ask your questions and feel your feelings. He will be faithful to meet you in that place.

I have no words. I have no insight or wisdom.
My heart aches for you. I will pray fervently for your heart.
I love you."

I hope she is right.
I pray time can heal my despondent heart.
I hope sooner rather than later I can reach the acceptance stage of grief.
I hope I can make sense of all this despair and grief.

I just want to thank the friend and family who have been here for me.
Thank you, Aunt Juanita, for coming almost everyday to help me with the dishes, with picking up the girls from school and caring for them, for rubbing my aching body, and being such a wonderful comfort.
Thank you to the friends that open their houses to me to escape my days spent locked in my room, to those who visit and give me wonderful company, to those who bring me food and laughter to my sullen days.
Thank you to my mom, who is my greatest strength. I know this post will make her sad because I know she wishes she was here with me. I know she wishes she could make it all better.
Thank you to my husband for sticking with me in my low.


Collateral Beauty- Movie Review

I don't know if you can call it a review nor do I pretend I can write one, but I will try to write one nonetheless. It won't be your typical review because I'm not a movie critic and because it will be very personal.
There are two reasons I feel I need to write this:
1) As soon as I left the movie theater I knew critics would be giving the movie grief. I just felt it in my gut and I was right.
2) The movie is a true gem for us, the hurting. 

Spoiler alert: This is a review for those who've watched the movie.

The movie's trailer is very deceptive, and it was the first critique the movie receives. The trailer shows us Will Smith's character, Howard, suffering from losing his child and being visited by an anthropomorphic personification of death, love, and time and engaging him in conversations. This is and is not the what really happens in the movie. Critics called this a marketing strategy to deceive moviegoers to see this movie. Why is this an issue? I don't know. Yes, it was a marketing scheme, but it in no way robbed the audience from a surprise that was gratifyingly to watch. 

It turns out the so called death, love, and time are not "angels" but actors paid by Howard's cowokers to deceive him into thinking he is truly speaking to death, love, and time. It was actually refreshing for me, because the former idea of the movie has been done before. This time around, we get to see the actors prepare for confronting Howard with the help from his coworkers, who happen to be his closest friends, and we get to see how the actors feel from the experience.

Death, played by the wonderful Helen Mirren, is delightful to watch because she is so excited about the part and Howard's reaction to their encounter. Critics attacked this for causing humor in situations that should be more sullen. This might be true sometimes, but the movie was dealing with a two-years-have-passed situation where some moving on should have happened. Dealing with death shouldn't always be dark; after all, it is a natural part of life for all. It doesn't cause any humorous reaction in Howard, but it jolts him out of his stuck state of mind.

Each of Howard's friends are respectively paired with one of the actors with one currently dying of cancer, one with her biological clock ticking, and one losing the love of his daughter after divorcing her mother for cheating. The critics called this cheesy and a far fetch. How was this far fetched? My own cancer story has deeply touched many around me even if they are not personally dealing with cancer. My writings on living each day to the fullest, being grateful for all that you give for granted, and find peace in a despairing situation strike a chord with everyone that reads them. Just because you are not dealing with a life changing situation, where everyone can see your pain, doesn't mean you are not struggling or hurting. The struggle to love well, use time wisely and not waste it, and the fear of death is universal. It was great to see these secondary characters' struggle and pain acknowledged.

The critics also jumped on the moral wagon of the wrong these so called friends where doing to Howard by making him look demented before a business board to take away from him the power of decision making. Howard's decisions have brought everyone around him to the brink of losing everything they've worked for all their life. Honestly, these coworkers should have never had to go to such lengths to take the power of decision making from him. Howard is the first to admit that and admit he was not in the right state of mind. My husband still consults me in the decision making in our house, but the power is always his. I am not in the right state of mind. Giving decision making power to someone in a bad state of mind is irresponsible and damaging to the hurting. We want to be treated like a normal person, but our helpers in this hurting time must set boundaries. This is the first recommendation psychiatrists give to help people with clinical depression or with mental health issues. 
I am not dealing with either, like Howard clearly is, but cancer has a very powerful blurring tool to reality.

Now let's tackle the big issues critics had with the movie. The movie gave no answers or any sort of enlightenment so Howard can come back to the land of the living. I actually found this refreshing. The woman that leads a group of beareved parents Howard joins says it clearly "There is no way to fix it. There is now way to make the death of child right." That is the main problem with those who try to help the hurting; they try to fix you. I have the tons of emails of people sending me links to the miracle pill or miracle fruit or miracle diet I should be taking to get cured. When I cry from the despair of the ongoing cancer treatment, surgeries that mutilate my body and take away any trace of my womanhood, and the permanent new me I need to learn to embrace, people around me jump to give me their platitudes. 
"We are all dying","You are lucky to be alive", "Don't cry, everything will be alright." "I am convinced you are already cured." "Now you can stop being afraid of death because you are in remission." And the ones that truly turn my stomach: "God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors" or "You are such a strong warrior." I am sorry, but I will scream in caps now. NO!!! I AM NOT STRONG OR A WARRIOR. I HAVE NO CHOICE! And the really irking "Everything happens for a reason." NO! WE WERE NOT CHOSEN AND THERE IS NO REASON FOR THIS PAIN!!! These things happen because we live in a fallen, broken world and it's part of life. It just sucks, but we try to keep living. I've said this before but I'll say it again: If you don't personally know what it's like limit yourself to say: "I am very sorry", "At what time can I come to your house to do your laundry, or your cleaning, or your cooking, or do your grocery shopping, or babysit your children", and "I love you." The typical "I am here for you" and "Call me if you need anything" does nothing. Don't say it, be there. And the hurting will never call for help; we don't even know what we need.

The hurting learn to take your platitudes and reply with a "Thank you", even if you don't know you are making our cross more heavy. You see, we know you mean well, but your good intention comes from a place of selfishness. You are in pain because you se me in pain. The sooner I feel better, the sooner you'll feel better, so you want to speed that process. You don't know what it's like to cry with those who cry, to be there through the tears and pain without saying anything and really, truly being there.

Howard's second encounter with death was truly beautiful. You can see he has tried. He has tried to not fear death and see it as natural. He has researched and tried to see death from the different points of views of religions and cultures. The critics said the movie's cheesiness makes you want to vomit. The only time I regurgitated was when Howard shares the ugliest platitude he has been given that is way too common: "God saw the most beautiful rose in the garden, and He had to pick it up for Himself." It makes me want to vomit that people actually say these things, and I'm glad the movie addressed them. Death says nothing. What was there to say? Time and love do say something to him around the lines of "Stop wasting the gift of time" and "You cannot live without love." This only made Howard angrier, but it caused something in him because he once again reaches out to the grieving group. 

Where is the collateral beauty? For some, like me, it's pretty obvious. For others, it's a mystery. I can still see the collateral beauty of Kara Tippets two years after her passing. You see in the movie a parent seeing that beauty, being that beauty. You find purpose in your pain, not because that was the reason for it, but because humans are resilient and surprising. You find that beauty in the connections and the compassion you never knew how to harness before.

Death does say something, but not to Howard but to Howard's friend dying of cancer wishing, like me, to live to see his son grow up. She says "Some things never truly die." This could be a platitude if it's given by the wrong person or to the wrong person or in the wrong time. I know it in my walk with Kara. I know it in my sweet Kinsley, my four year old cancer buddy that was called home a week ago. That is the main thing Kinsley's parents have been sharing: the little ways and things that makes them know and feel Kinsley is still with them. They're never truly gone. We carry them in our hearts. 

The final critique was the movie's two plot twists. The first one is very plausible given Howard's state of mind and it added to the story, though I'll admit it was not necessary. The second one I'll admit was a far fetch and unnecessary to the story, but it didn't make the movie tank. Cancer has taught me not to sweat the small things. Maybe critics can learn a lesson in that.

From someone living in a hard place, I can vouch for this movie. It was truly beautiful. There's no fixing pain and grief. Grieving is ok. At the end, all we can do, which Howard does, is go through the stages of grief, hopefully reaching the last step. We don't find answers to life and love and why. We live.

Will Smith, Helen Mirren, and Kate Winslet where a delight to watch. Critics got this one wrong. Just check most forums.

Images from Warner Bros.


The Power of Prayer

We had the infamous talk.
Not because it is necessary, but because the "what if" is always looming.
"What are you going to do if I die tomorrow?" I asked my husband.
He sighs. He hates those questions and hates that we've been put in situations that warrant those questions often these past year.
I go to bed with the question hanging over my head, but not in too much distress.

The morning of the surgery I am crying my eyes out.
I go into the OR in deep despair that is discernible in my countenance.
Everyone around me thinks it's because I'm scared. It is not.
No one makes a question and they even try to ignore my red eyes and shivering body and pretend all is good. But I went into that surgery without a single thought for myself.
You see, that morning, just minutes after I was admitted to the hospital, I read that Kinsley was dying.
We had been praying for a miracle from the Mayo Clinic. Kinsley traveled there January second. They said there was nothing else they could do. She seemed fine on her pictures traveling to Rochester. How was it that the doctors were giving her only hours left to live that morning?
"I knew it! I knew she would have a good Christmas, but that was all we were going to get," my mind raced. "Til the very end... I will believe and pray to the very end." That is what I had promised of her and of me, to believe God could do a miracle until His answer was no with one of not breathing anymore. I thought I could stay true to my promise and believe, but I was heart broken. I couldn't pray for a miracle anymore. I just writhed in pain knowing she was taking her last breaths. This was the state I entered surgery. She was the last thing in my mind before I went to sleep.

I woke up three hours later in excruciating physical pain. I couldn't speak, so I started banging my finger monitor thingy against the bed. My face again said it all for the nurse asked me if I was in pain, to which I nodded. I would then dose off after the nurse administered pain killers, and would wake up to bang the bed once more a few minutes later. This went on for various hours. They informed me they had given me plenty of pain killers that would soon have an effect and asked if they could transfer me to the room. They asked if pain was the only issue at the moment. Only issue? Let me see if I can convey the severity of my pain and only issue.

I told the nurses that a cotton belt like the ones they use on postpartum women after c-sections always helped my pain after my own c-sections. They told me a belt was waiting for me in my room. I begged all the way for them to make haste. The poor nurse trying to put the belt on me was shaking from all my pleading. "Please, get it on me. Please, tighter. Please, hurry. Please, please!" I really thought the belt would ease the pain. It did nothing. I asked for more pain killers. The doctor informed me I had already been administered three vials of morphine. They gave a fourth shot of undiluted morphine. Nothing. My pleading just continued and intensified. I didn't scream because they warned me that screaming would fill me with gas making me hurt more and longer. It was now 3 p.m. and the pleading continued with my pain not diminishing one bit. I didn't think of Kinsley in all that time. I don't think I thought anything at all. Pain was all-consuming. Pain was the only issue, but pain was all there was. The doctor gave me Fentanyl, which is supposed to be 4 times stronger than morphine. He explained that if that didn't work, he would have to give me an epidural. I wanted the epidural right away, but he said we had to wait. When an hour had passed and my pain had not subsided, I begged for the epidural. The doctor was on a personal errand and would not return for the next four hours. I was in totally agony. Such was the agony, I didn't feel a thing when he put the needle in my spine. I just kept pleading and pleading. That finally worked and I found release around 8 p.m.

Pleading. My mind, finally free to reappear, made me think of that word: pleading. "Why had I not pleaded more for Kinsley? Why did I stop begging with all my heart before the only One Who could do something? My mind went back to Giana. When she was going to have her surgery, her dad posted on Facebook asking for prayers. I remember how nonchalant my prayer was. "Please may the surgery be successful and help speed up Giana's recovery." That was it. We, his dad included, didn't even fear the surgery could be fatal; it was routine. Could I have interceded for her better? And Kinsley? I stopped rubbing everyone's faces on her dire situation in search for prayers. I should have been a more inconvenient beggar. I should have begged for more knees bent in supplication for her. My husband was the only one to ask of my tears before the surgery. When I told him the tears were for Kinsley he became exasperated with me and I became irritated with him. I should have given him more credit. I should have known he was in distress for me and had only room for that pain in his heart at the moment. His Facebook page too had requests for prayer. When he came into the recovery room and saw me open my eyes he said "Now I can breathe." This was the same remark my mom made when I came back from my second trip to the OR and color had returned to my lips and I was no longer tightening my teeth from so much pain. She too posted prayer requests in her social networks.

At 12:05 a.m. of January 6 Kinsley gave her last breath. She was six months shy of turning 5. I know the severity of my pain was closely linked to the entirety of the brokenness in my heart in anticipation to that moment. I have no idea how her parents kept breathing past that hour. I was having a hard time doing so, and I never met her. I couldn't stand the thought that I was still breathing, even if I can't yet cry victory, and she wasn't. My smiling cancer companion was no longer in this world. Before surgery I thought how I wish I could change places with her, that it be her having surgery with more to do to try and save her, even if I had to give her my chance to be saved from wretched cancer.

But the power of prayer perhaps is not in the answered prayer, but in how it makes us one. Wasn't that what Jesus prayed for us? My heart had to understand taking her was Your will, as it was when You took Giana. So, so many prayed for both. So many hearts were one for both. I have mothers and strangers write to me saying they pray for me as if praying for themselves. I believe them. I believe they hurt with me deeply when they pray for me. Prayer is that powerful. It bounds us to Your will, but places us in Your hands. Was there a better place for us to be? Is there a better place for Kinsley and Giana now than on Your hands? Prayer made me one with Giana and Kinsley. My girls know those names perfectly for they prayed with me and heard me pray for them every night. They saw me cry out in tears to the Lord for their lives like I prayed for them and myself. They prayed for them. I talk about them and think about them constantly. I am happy I carry them.

Ephesians 1
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength
20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms

John 17
15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one
23 I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Ephesians 6
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Psalm 141
2 May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Romans 12
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 8
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Matthew 6
9   This, then, is how you should pray:
     Our Father in heaven,
     hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
     your will be done,
     on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

Please, be one with me in praying for Kinsley's family. Oh how my heart has hurt for Giana's parents this Christmas without their beloved and the memory of the accident that claimed her. How my heart hurts for the emptiness Kinsley's parents have been left with. Oh, that the wicked may depart and they could come back to us instead! But they know not anymore of suffering, despair, brokenhearted, deceit, and horrid pain. It is us who grieve and still know the tremendous pain we are left with. Pray God consoles us all. Let prayer answer Jesus´ prayer for us. Kinsley is survived by her mother Matelin, her Father Aaron, her big brother Jasiah, and her little sister Taytum, and many relatives and friends who love her dearly. I love her dearly. She is forever a part of me, engraved in my mind and heart. Pray for a cure, pray for peace, pray for rest. 
Thank you, Lord, for having formed Kinsley in her mother's womb so perfectly. Thank you for the smiles she shared with all who met her. Thank you that theirs is Your Kingdom. Thank you for your Son Who gives us hope to see each other one day in a better place with no more pain. Amen. 

Team Kinsley forever!