A city surrounded by water built as a mean of protection from “barbarians” according to our guide on the water today. We explored the waters and a few more churches. As I mentioned before churches are everywhere. Set on hills to be the center of a community. Although I’m not catholic I find I am drawn to them. Their beauty speaks to me. Built by hands many years, these buildings ago hold a history for the people of Italy and their devotion to God.
We even did a tour of an underground cript at a local church. Surprisingly it scared my daughter. It did have somewhat of a catacombs feel to it. That’s exactly what what I imagine catacombs look like in Europe.
We stopped for cappuccinos and the most decadent croissants I’ve ever tasted. Yet for as delicious and satisfyingly good they were it paled in comparison to the joy I felt that my son had gifted us a little taste of Venice. Nothing is as decadent than love.
Today was a dream. I walked thru Venice with my kids and created memories that hopefully will live forever in their hearts. Those types of memories stand even grander than the greatest of cathedrals in all of Italy.
Our first day in Italy was pretty amazing. There was never a moment I wasn’t in awe of the architecture, cobblestone streets and the people. The beauty of the country epitomized love and romance. It’s not lost on me that I spent Valentine’s Day with my children in the most lovely places in the world.
As we walked around downtown we slip into one of the many churches that pepper the landscape of the country to find a catholic mass in full swing. While my daughter wanted to slip back out as if somehow we were intruding I felt called to the pew. I’m so grateful we stayed because seemingly out of no where I understood the priest. Spanish is very similar to Italian and growing up my mother always recited the Lord’s Prayer. So when I heard it in Italian it ministered to my heart.
I’m not sure if we stood out in the crowd but for a brief moment I felt at home among Gods people. The things that bring us together in the faith are moments such as this…
Traveling is hard. We had not boarded our first flight and I was already tired. If only we could skip over the hustle bustle of the airport and dreaded long flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Visiting Italy sounds fabulous but traveling is not.
We were pretty miserable at the start of the trip when my daughter realized she forgot to bring scrunchies. I wish I could explain the laughter that followed us both as I marveled at her beautiful long hair. She’s spent an hour straightening it for the trip. Deep roaring belly laughs served as a much needed release valve of anxious travel jitters. Then the question came – “Mom do you have one?”. Even more laughter as I reached up to touched the inch and a half of hair that has grown since losing my long hair to chemo treatments.
I would never leave the house without one. She was out of luck with me. So off we went on the hunt for scrunchies at the airport and after a little search the holy grail was found. Disaster was avoided.
After landing in Paris we found a bench where I was able to fall asleep for a couple hours before learning a few lessons at the airport. One, French people’s idea of personal space is a lot smaller than in the USA. Second, macaroons are better in Paris. Third, everything taste good with a cappuccino.
So after boarding out next flight to our final destination we settled in once again for the adventure that surely awaits and was overwhelmed because I’m super excited to see my son.
Traveling may not be glamorous but arriving is always worth it.
In the same way, your journey in life may be hard and unpleasant at times. However, if it takes you to the Son of God arriving at your eternal destination will all be worth it. Is your destination leading you to Jesus?
It has been a little over a month since I finished my treatments. My next steps will be a carefully planned regime of doctors’ appointments every six months to monitor me for the next 10 years. Recently, at my first follow up, my doctor was happy with how quickly I was healing but he also encouraged me to be a little more aggressive with my stretching in order to get back full movement of my arms.
Interesting… Made me ask myself how aggressively I was willing to be to be stretched personally to become the woman God has called me to be. That’s a tough one. Physically I can tell you it hurts to stretch at the moment because stretching breaks up scar tissue that is currently really tight on my chest. It’s almost as if cancer came to break up, shake up, turn me upside down and inside out. For what purpose? I can only hope to give me full movement of my spiritual muscles.
Cancer had a way of forcing me to consider not only the notion of my own death, awakening a desire to truly live the life I had been gifted but also giving me the opportunity to value what I had taken for granted, my life and time.
How do I intend to live my life and how will I spend my time? Learning, growing, admitting to my own shortcomings and submitting myself to the knowledge that I need God more today than ever. One of the best parts about this journey are the scars. Scars to remind me to value my family, to treasure my friends, to remind me that I was given a second chance to see life through a Godly scope.
So, I seized the day and booked a trip to Italy to see my son. I leave tomorrow and plan on writing about my amazing journey – from scars to Italy… Imagine that. I get to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel. When I find myself looking up to view Michelangelo’s Hand of God painting don’t be surprised if you see me close my eyes for a moment while I say, “I love you too Lord” as I imagine how He has touched my heart.
It’s been almost two weeks since I rang my final bell at the Tate Center signifying the end of my treatments and I am feeling pretty good about it. Fatigue has been a source of nuisance for weeks but I am healing as I steadily return to a normal life without cancer or treatments.
One of the ways we are returning to normal was taking my daughter to dance class. After class she made a comment that resonated with me. She said it felt “as if she was returning from an injury”.
Returning from an injury can be hard for a dancer and every step on the dance floor can be marked with apprehension. Especially for a dancer who has broken her foot twice while dancing. It’s slow building up muscle strength and trusting your footing is strong but it’s a moment of complete joy finding that connection with the music again.
I have never experienced the joy of returning to the dance floor after an injury but I understand the type of injury that hurts your ability to move forward. An injury to the heart hurts your ability to trust again.
Moving forward is hard, apprehensive at best, holding onto the notion that the other shoe may still drop. But it also holds moment of joy. My daughter’s first step on the dance floor was hard as insecurities made her wonder if she could in fact make a comeback. Taking that step into the studio was a comeback moment for her.
Now to stage mine by taking God by the hand. He’s the author of the greatest comeback story known to man. Jesus conquering death. The power of God to bring us back from fear, the bondage of sin and death… into hope.
As sure as the beat and rhythm of the song propels my daughter on the dance floor the beat of my faith propels me forward in a perfect dance with Jesus. Returning from an injury is safe as long as He leads.
I may not understand the joy of returning to the dance floor after an injury but I am enjoying being cancer free. Now that’s something I can dance to.
Two treatments left and I will finally be done on January 3rd. My last day was originally today but repairs forced a delay. I was looking forward to ringing their bell to signify the end of my treatments on New Years Eve. Leaving cancer in the old year was symbolic so imagine my disappointment.
The last few weeks have been so hard I’ve had no words. Halfway through radiation and I slowed down so much I became stuck. Radiation burns were so severe my life was turned upside down. I am living in pain. Can you blame me for looking for some meaning in ringing a bell on the last day of the year. Another reason to dig in my heels deeper into the mud of sorrow I was burying myself in these days. Stuck.
Then church happened and from the pulpit a Sunday morning message ministered to my heart in so many ways I was forced to examine my own heart. I was growing weary and felt beat down. So a message on old year resolutions struck a chord. My desire to start the new year cancer and treatment free was not more important than finishing strong regardless if treatment ends New Years Eve or January 3rd.
I needed to start a new conversation with God. My prayers lately have been center around my hardships and everything that’s gone wrong in 2018. My prayers needed a tune up and although God wants us to ask for help, He also wants to hear our gratitude.
Thank you Lord for helping me live. Thank for my husband and my family. For keeping us together and in love with one another. At a time when hardships can break families we grew stronger in love. Thank You for the countless friends who prayed for us and rallied around us in support during our darkest days. Thank you for medical benefits that covered the cost of all my surgeries and treatments for practically nothing. Thank you for the generosity of family and our closest friends. Thank you for scars that will always remind me of our win and not the actual fight. In retrospect 2018 happened to be a blessed year in light of all these blessings.
Finishing strong can mean many different things but today it means I purposely create a space for God to show up. I’m ready to receive what Isaiah wrote in chapter 46:19 when God told him “I’m doing a new thing!… I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”.
Where are you stuck my friends? Join me in creating a space of gratitude and invite God in for 2019. I promise you He will show up to the party.
Finishing is better than starting…
2018… Thank you, next.
Halfway through radiation and I am starting to struggle with fatigue. From outward appearances it would appear I am just fine but it’s hard for me to write and gather my thoughts at times.
This morning I was able to share a very important lesson with my daughter. In response to what I thought was a moment of encouragement, I was told “but that’s you” when referring to strength and overcoming storms in my life. As if I was born strong. When in reality strength is learned and something we build up. In fact being strong is hard work.
Since I was a young girl I have witness my family work hard. Despite the circumstances, whether we found ourselves on a mountaintop or in a valley there was always one constant in our home, work. But work is not limited to employment.
In Genesis 2 it states that God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to take care of it. In Proverbs 14:23 it states that hard work brings a profit and mere talk leads to poverty. In Proverbs 12:11, it states “the desires of the diligent are satisfied” while in 2 Tim 2:6 it talks about “the hardworking farmer is the first to receive his share of the crops”. God will bless the work of our hands but in order for that to happen we need to put our hands to the plow.
Now why is work important when facing hardship? Well we can’t fight a battle laying down. That would be giving in to despair. The bible states in Ephesians 6:11 that we are to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against…”
In addition to stating we are to “put on” the armor of God, it tells us to also take up and stand firm in subsequent verses. Clearly, there is a responsibility on our part to take action. Even the humble, yet impactful and life changing act of praying requires work on our part.
What are you standing against? Whatever it is I pray you find yourself taking a stand against it. Stand with me in prayer, putting on the armor of God and standing firm in His promises. Storms never last forever and sometimes it takes a lot of work just to hold on for dear life but we can do it.
As of today I have 14 radiation treatments left. Just a little more to go…