Today I am 40. I’m thrilled to be able to say that! I am also thrilled to say good bye to my 30’s. I’m thankful…. and honestly, I feel honored. I know there are many who have gone before me who would have loved to have seen 40 and didn’t. I do not take it lightly that each year is a gift. I look forward to aging and I will not dread my birthdays because it means I am alive to see another year. I also do not want to slow down time with my children because I want to be there to see them get old too. I remember asking the Lord two years ago to let me be there for my oldest daughter’s first day of kindergarten and now she’s in first grade! I am thankful that He gives us more than we ask! Now I am asking for more. I want to be old and get wrinkles and do things old people do. I want to be there for my husband if he one day needs a push in a wheel chair. I want to see my grandchildren. I want to experience old people problems and remember I asked to be there to have them. I have promised the Lord that I will not complain or take for granted getting older because I can NOT hate what comes along with what I am asking Him for. I am asking Him for many, many more years, but most of all I am asking Him that He helps me be FULLY ALIVE for the remaining years and days that I am blessed with.
This past week was my three year breast cancer diagnosis anniversary. Being cancer free for three years seemed farfetched to the medical community who walked me through all my surgeries and treatments. All week I have been processing the past three years and honestly, I have been secretly a mess inside. If you could look inside me and see my mess you would see thankfulness and frustrations. Disappointments and joy. Sadness and hope. Anger and resolve. Bravery and intense fears. There is often a collision going on inside of me in which I cannot communicate effectively. I don’t want to “feed” the negative parts of my cancer journey or my daily life, so you will typically see me with a genuine smile.
For a short minute I want to tell you some of the negative parts of my journey because I have to be REAL. I hate that I don’t have breasts. My scars are much worse than the pictures of mastectomies look like on the internet. I hate shopping now days because they don’t make clothes for a person with absolutely no boobs. I hate that every time I do, I end up doing the ugly cry for an hour in the dressing room and embarrassed to come out. I hate when people compare their small boobs to my no boobs. I hate that I have gaping hole on the left side and a flap of skin on the right side that they saved in case they would ever need it for future surgeries. I hate the pain I still have in my chest wall. I hate that my kids will have to learn what breast look like from other women and that my husband will miss out on breasts. I hate messing with health insurance. I have been doing it for three years now. I can’t take a break from it and I can’t disregard it. I have to have it but I hate dealing with it. I hate that I still have medical debt. I hate that I will be dealing with health insurance for the rest of my life because of my diagnosis. I hate that I started clenching my jaw the night of my diagnosis and I have not been able to stop since then. I hate that nightly I wake up anxious that cancer will come back. I hate that I lost 5 friends under the age of 45 to cancer last year. I hate that I will meet and befriend many who have cancer who will die of it. Whoa! Now I am sorry if that was depressing. I am glad I got that off my chest. That’s real life. That’s part of my mess.
Now the other side of my mess is the part that keeps me sane…well kinda (it depends on your opinion of me). But it keeps me moving forward with a smile on my face. In every battle there is an opportunity to grow and become a better version of yourself. It doesn’t matter what the hardship or heartbreak is, there is beauty hidden in it. You cannot be passive. It does not come to you. It has to be sought after, ascertained, grabbed hold of, and fought for. It is what makes us beautifully human. We will be victimized at some point but we don’t have to stay victims. And pain is absolutely inevitable because it is just part of our human experience. It gives us an opportunity to be great….an opportunity to be a better version of ourselves. That being said, Cancer gave me back my life. The past three years have been some of my best years. Here are some take aways.
1. Fear has lost its grip
Something about almost dying and facing a terminal disease made me realize that I do not have TIME to live fearful. I have to live BRAVE and be FEARLESS. Living brave and FEARLESSLY is not living in the absence of fear, it is learning how to co-exist with the fear. Fear is alive and well and I respect it. It is going to be traveling with me on my journey of life, however it is NO longer going to be driving and directing my path. Fear will be limited to do two things: to help me not do something really stupid and to help me determine if I am living fully. Every day I try to recognize my fears and do something that I am afraid of. It may be something as simple as talking to a stranger or as big as taking a financial or career leap. Fear of what people think has long been gone but fear of the future and fear of making mistakes is constantly being battled. Recognizing your fear and speaking to it is a powerful way to overcome it. I cannot tell you how many times a day I have to verbally speak to fear. “Fear, I hear you but you have to shut your mouth because God is calling me in a different direction”. Fear is meant to submit to you. Let’s all stop letting fear drive our lives. Fear will lose its grip!
2. Death has lost its sting
Compared the eternity I have in heaven, whether I live 40 years or 80, it is not important in the big scheme of things. What’s important is how we live. Life is short and can be snuffed out in a moment. I don’t want to waste my moments on frivolous concerns. I want to concern my time and energy with things that count. People count. Moments count. I have spent more time being ALIVE in the past 3 years than I have my whole life. I realized that living FULLY is not always realized in the moment and that it cannot be forced. Death will happen. It is really the only thing guaranteed in life. We do not have control over the timing of our inevitable death, but sure do have control of how we are going to spend the time between now and then. I will live fully with no regrets. I invite you to do the same. The seeds we drop now will continue to grow long beyond our death. So sow good seeds and know that the grave does not have power over the growth of what you have planted. Death will lose its sting!
3. I found my voice
I have my found my voice! It was hidden deep inside as I just went through the motions of doing what I was “supposed” to do. Each step I have taken toward living from out underneath fear I find MYSELF more. I have a strong voice, and so do you. It is unique in each of us and the world around us needs it. There is no one in the world like me and there is no one in in the world like you. I am constantly amazed of how creative God is to be able to make so many variations of humans in our appearance, personality, passions, and talents. We each have something to offer and it is found when we know our identity. I have found my identity in who God says I am in scripture, as well as who He says I am when He speaks to me. He did not make any of us to be walked over or overlooked by the world. We all were meant to shine in different ways. Your voice can penetrate and create change. Your voice is unique to you. Find your voice and use it!
4. I have found my purpose
My purpose is to change the world. I knew that in my head before cancer but it has been transferred to my heart. I have a limited time on earth to improve my life as well as well as lives of others. This in turn will create more change. Are you frustrated with politics and issues of this nation and others? Me too. Let’s just stop there because we cannot put hope in our government or any other human entity to fix our problems. They were never meant to because WE were meant to be world changers! God gave us the ability to make a change. To create a movement. To change the atmosphere. Until the people of God become like the people of God and act like the people of God, then we will sit there and keep waiting for someone else to fix the brokenness. Despite our brokenness and humanness, God gave us the power to make changes. The more we are willing to change ourselves and link up with other people on the same path, the more momentum is created to make changes. I have passions and talents that I need to complete purposes that God gave me. The purposes are not burdens or heavy, but exciting because I was made for this time. So were you! You were also gifted and called to make changes. It will not look like anyone else’s. So spend time looking deep inside and asking God to give you vision. You will be on the ever changing path to finding your purpose!
So I would say that Cancer lost its sting and that no matter what the outcome, it doesn’t have the final word. Here are some positives that collide with the negative in my inner mess. I love that I can sleep on my stomach comfortably without boobs. I love that my children will know that identity as a female is not in their looks but in their inner beauty. I love that I do not have to wear an underwire bra ever again. I love that my husband and I are closer than we have ever been and that he is a “butt man”. I love that I have learned to trust God for finances in a major way. I love that I do not have to figure out all the insurance issues because God will lead me and take care of me. I love that I have gotten the opportunity to trust God in my heart and not just in my head. I love that I know how to identify with hurting people. I love that I can identify with sick people. I love that I have so many friends who have had cancer, they have been an encouragement and comfort to me. I love that everything broken in my life is being put together and will be stronger. I love that when I am awaken by fear that God meets me and speaks to me in my terror. I love that cancer is gone. I love that I have today. I love that I am 40. I love that there is a heaven. I love that God put new friends in my life. I love that He uses all the “hard” to make me more alive. I love….. I love…… I love….. I could go on and on.
The collisions in our lives are okay. They are hard and beautiful at the same time. Your collisions look different than mine but they are the same. It is us…..humans finding hope, joy and peace in the brokenness of this world. It is us trying to make sense of our pain and disappointments, as well as other’s pain and disappointments. It is us learning how to be okay with being fully human and yet taking hold to our calling to be AWESOME.