September 30, 2010

"Radiation Off" and Gaggles of Geese

That's right, radiation is officially off. I brought home my monstrosity of a green radiation mask on Monday. Do I want to keep it? I don't know, but it sort of seemed like if someone should throw it away it should be me and not some hospital employee. I'm playing with the idea of paper mache... I mean really, how often do you get a perfect mold made of your face?

Three days off of radiation, two weeks off of chemo and I am already feeling a million times better than I was. My platelets are still low and we have yet to discover whether or not I will need a platelet transfusion. Now we wait to let my body recover in the next four weeks. After that comes another MRI and we find out what happened during the last six weeks and a new baseline for the future.

James and I have decided that we really don't care much about what the outcome of things will
be. It changes all the time anyway, and it is always based on percentages of this and that. Nothing is concrete, nothing is known, therefore we choose to ride the less emotional rollar coaster of taking every peice of news with a grain of salt.

Fall has certainly arrived with all of its stunning beauty here on the prairies. Last Sunday, James and I left the boys with my parents for the day and spent the day driving in the fall beauty together by ourselves. For those of you familiar with Manitoba, we went out to Hecla Island and Gimli (picture). It was truly beautiful and refreshing to be in nature and to be alone. We chatted about important things like our mutual dislike for Obama discussions and the ecological situation of the coral reefs around Indonesia. We had lunch at a little Greek diner in Gimli, walked the pier and giggled together about a rediculous Chinese name we invented for the duck we saw swimming around the docked boats. All in all, a very good day filled with normal (for us) interactions, without any overwhelming needs to discuss heavy topics. Those topics did come up, but they did so naturally and fluidly, not forced (the way that it should).

An amusing part of our new home is the duck pond that is in the park behind our house. They are rediculously close to us and all we can hear at any hour of the day is Canadian Geese squabbling amongst themselves. Night time is especially bad, and as they bully each other around, I find myself imagining that they are all simultaneously saying to each other, "Squack! Squack! I'm a goose! Squack! Are you a goose too? Squack!" I have to admit that I have never spent so much time contemplating geese before as I have in the last few weeks. I've started thinking about them as large football shaped torsos with cylindrical necks and zero brains. James and I have been concocting all manner of ways in which we could sabotage them and throw them into even more chaos (ie. large area net systems for trapping, timed shooting as they fly over our house so that their velocity would carry them downward through our kitchen window into the waiting boiling cauldron of water, or just sneaking up behind them and slapping them on the back of the head).
No I am not an animal hater, but trust me, after this much exposure to them it is really easy to start thinking about them as a bunch of idiots!

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time working on a project. The project is to turn our blog into a family scrapbook of sorts. I don't mean a cutesy scrapbook, but just a means turning our China experience into book form so that we can page through it at our leisure and look through it. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I also have this idea that it would really suck to lose all of this writing if the internet were ever to collapse. This is something that I really want the boys to have to look back on. The other thing is that I can put things into this book that we were never able to put on the blog. I plan on including email exchanges between James and I when we were off traveling, news stories that were happening while we were there etc.

The only problem with this is that it requires me to spend a lot of time on the blog, which as you may have figured from the last entry, can be very painful. It has been very hard for me to look at the blog and not compare "life then" to "life now". Thus, I have spent hours copying and pasting, formatting, changing etc., only to come away from it feeling very sad.

On Monday, after spending a morning doing this, I took a step of independence and announced that I was going to pick Ari up from school by myself. This is of course a calculated risk... what if I had a seizure during the half hour that I am gone? But I knew that what I needed more than anything at that time was some time to talk with God, be alone, and hear his thoughts.

This is what I came away with, and it has helped me more than anything else I have received in the last few weeks. If Satan throws fiery darts at me, they are intended for my demise. I am a child of God and he hates me. These darts are intended to turn everything about my life into something so painful that I can't think about my life without feeling pain. Me being aware of my mortality and possible death has made everything about my entire life hard for me to think about. Even absurdly small things. But what am I going to do? Should I stop thinking about and reflecting on my life? I would be submitting myself to Satan's highway robbery if I allow him to make all of the good things in my life into something that is painful, just because I no longer have it.

God showed me that Satan has been using the things near and dear to me to deceive me into opening up to the pain that he wants me to have in my life. His fiery darts come in the form of things that are dear and precious to me, memories of China, memories of my life etc. Because it is precious to me, I want to hold on to it and even hold it close to my heart. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a fiery dart that is meant to hurt me. Satan will always want to take good things and turn them into things that will hurt us. So what do I do with this?

As I walked to pick Ari up, I realized that I need God's help to extract the bitter from the sweet. I need his help to extract the poison that Satan has inserted into the good things in my life. Those weapons would not be effective if they did not carry something precious to me. As I walked, I poured out these things and slowly but surely I could feel the poison and the pain that has been flooding me for the past several weeks seeping out of me. Suddenly I could remember my life again with joy and rejoicing, instead of looking at it through a thick lens of death. I can remember our time in China now without wanting to weep. What a gift!

For days now I have felt so good! It almost feels unfair. I have found myself questioning if it is right to be able to so freely give the bad things to God, while I keep the good. But then I remembered that this is at the heart of what we believe as Christians. We as people are all destined for death, but Jesus came and he died in our place so that we could experience life instead of death. He takes our ruined lives, and in exchange gives us his life and his beauty. He takes my ruined and seemingly hopeless life and gives me beauty in its place.

On a human level, my life has literally been sentenced to death and for a number of weeks I have allowed the sting of that death to infiltrate itself into all parts of my life. But because Jesus is stronger than death and because I am learning to trust him, that sting is being removed from my life day by day. I feel joy again. I feel peace again. I no longer feel that my life has been taken away from me. I do not want Death to take slowly over my life with its deceptive ways. Instead I want give it up freely to the only one who conquered Death.

You may have noticed that I have not included any options that do not have Death. I think that in my situation Death is unavoidable, whether or not I physically die. My choice is either to die the way that Jesus did (with the hope of a resurrection), or to let Death take over me. If I follow Jesus to Death, then I have the great promise of Life. But if I let Death take over me, then I have no hope at all.

Thank you Jesus for Life.

September 28, 2010

Every so often...

...Every so often I need to put up a ridiculous picture of myself (James) on the blog. Here's one. In this particular photo, I am in a 3-D movie theater in South Korea. The video was in Korean, which explains the tiny wire in my right ear. English in one ear and Korean in the other!

September 25, 2010

Fiery Darts and Faith

I have been wondering over the last few days at how so many things have been hitting me like a physical pain deep in my heart. Here are a few examples:

- Carrying a sleepy Jude to the bathroom last night. He cuddled right up and pain shot through me to think that he may not grow up with the personal experience of knowing how much his mother loves him
- I was looking at old photo albums yesterday that I had not seen since before we left for China. Physical pain shot through me as I looked at our wedding pictures and pictures of the first few months of Ari's life.
- Pictures of James and I together looking carefree and happy. What if the boys look at these pictures as if they are a far off dream and not something they have ever personally seen. What if they don't ever get to witness the carefree dynamic and James and I have with each other? What if they never get to see for themselves how mu
ch we love each other?
- The boys watching Peter Pan and being so excited when the children learn how to fly. "They can fly! They can fly! They can fly!" They are so precious, such gifts!
- Seeing any picture of myself before three months ago.

I have been really shaken by the fact that any little thing these days has the ability to send me rocketing deep into a pit of pain. What is wrong with me? Where is my faith? The Bible tells us that our faith is to be used like a shield and it can protect us from all of the fiery darts that are thrown at us by our enemy, Satan. It is his goal to deceive us and to cause death in our lives, more than just physical death. Why are these darts racing right past my shield and hitting me in my weakest parts?

I woke up this morning with a song in my head, with these words (based on Philippians 3:7-10):
All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres and wars to own,
All I once found gain, I now count loss*
Spent and worthless now, compared to this,

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you
There is no greater thing
You're my all, you're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love you

I realized today that I can sing less than half of these words honestly. Actually right up to the part that I have marked with a star. I have mentioned before that I have led a charmed life up to now. I have never struggled with self confidence (those of you who have fought this losing battle for many years officially have permission to hate me). I have held dear the person that I am, and I have built my life upon the things that this world longs to own. I have known and experienced things that many people never have had, but long for: a happy marriage, beautiful children, university education, opportunities to live in another culture, a nice appearance, many friends etc.

It is humbling for me to admit that it has been easier for me to believe that God is good and that he loves me when I come from the charmed life I have lived. It is even more humbling to admit that part of my faith has been built on these things. Why else would those darts be hitting me so hard? Perhaps the most humbling thing to admit is that I am not yet at the point where I can call these things worthless. I love them, I want to hold on to them. But I will never truly have faith until I can truthfully say that the things of this life that change and do not last, have no worth compared to Jesus. He doesn't change.
When I look at myself three months ago and myself now, I want to cry. This family picture pretty much sums it up for me. It is a physical representation of what I once "counted gain" but now feel I have lost. Look at that happy, beautiful woman with a happy handsome husband, two happy beautiful children! Look at their shining future together! Look at their adventuresome spirit!

That is the only me I have ever known. I don't understand the me that has taken the place of the woman in that picture. The new me is a stranger. The new me has ugly patches of hair, a puffy face (notice that I have not put up a comparison picture), and acne. She sleeps a lot, can't see very well or hear very well. She can't concentrate. When her husband says he loves her, she can't help but wonder if he is lying (the new me must be as much a stranger to him as she is to me).

I literally feel stripped and my faith is part of what has been stripped from me. I see now that I have placed a great portion of my confidence and worth in the things that I have had. Now that I have lost them or at least feel like they are slipping through my fingers, I see how shallow my faith has been. No wonder these darts are hitting me so hard! I am not ready to let go of this "faith" I have held yet, even though it has/is being torn to shreds in front of my eyes. It reminds me of a verse in Isaiah (64:6):
We are all infected and impure with sin,
When we display our righteous deeds,
They are nothing but filthy rags,
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
And our sins sweep us away like the wind.

My faith and my righteousness has been built on a foundation that does not last. Beauty, relationships, being smart, independent, helping people etc. These things do not last, and if I seek to make my life valuable and righteous through these things, I will lose... I HAVE lost. The funny thing is that I would never have known that I was basing my faith and my value/righteousness on these things unless I lost them.

There is not much comfort in what I have written. There is not much comfort in knowing that I am shallow enough to prefer my rags of righteousness over the real thing that is offered by Jesus. But there is the hope that this can change. There is the hope that I can learn to place my value in things that last forever and are true and not in "leaves that blow away in the wind". Look at how easily it happened! Three months and my life is unrecognizable!

Thus closes another rant. Why anyone would find this interesting is a mystery to me, I do it for my own mental processes. Eventually it all comes pouring out whether I want it to or not.

September 21, 2010

A Changing Set of Needs

Many people have been asking us what our needs are and what they can do to help. Overall, in terms of our needs, we are doing very well. Nonetheless, I understand the desire to help. So here I will list what our/my needs are, even just so that you, our support network can feel at ease that we are not lacking anything.

1) Time to zone out and have nothing needed from me (this happens whether or not I am given that time)
2) Time to live in a normal environment with a fairly predictable schedule with James, the boys and the others members of our household. This includes plenty of considerably quiet evenings.
3) Time to be quiet so that things that need to come out (be it in me, in James, in our marriage or with the boys) come out naturally and not in forcible explosions.
4) Time to express myself creatively in ways of my choosing (eg, reading, playing piano, or continuing to help on some MCC work).

Now that we've been back for awhile and life is starting to take form, our needs have become much more inwardly turned. However, our schedule has for some reason simultaneously become more outwardly turned. You'll notice that the common denominator in all of these needs is time. This is one area where I have noticed debilitation on my part. I used to be good at playing the mental day planner, where I could see what would happen, what was needed and at what time. This is how James and I managed to simultaneously get university degrees and have two children. I can't do this anymore. When I look at the things around me in my day, I can't see how they fit together anymore. It is like my ability to think in terms of time and space has diminished, and my mind just shuts down. I just see them around me and what they require of me and promptly feel overwhelmed by them. Frankly, it makes me feel like a bit of an idiot.

If the things that I know are going to happen have this effect on me, then I am sure you can imagine how much I get thrown off when unexpected things happen. Unfortunately, I have noticed that I have utterly lost my ability to handle unexpected events. I find myself utterly frazzled if people (however good or well meaning), just stop by the house and sometimes even planned interactions can do this. Please don't feel bad if you have been part of our social schedule, it is not my intention to make anyone feel bad. Additionally, it is not any one person or event that can be draining, in fact singular interactions can be quite good. However, we are finding that the sum total of these other interactions has the ability to take away from the things close to home that really need our attention.

Obviously, we need human interaction and the support of our friends and family, but right now I think that the most important thing that needs to happen is a "getting in order" of our household, and an inward turning of our energies to our little family. In the last few weeks there have been so many events on a daily basis (expected and unexpected), that I find myself not knowing where I am. There is no time for things to be processed slowly and naturally, so they come out in small bursts late at night when James and I find that we have time to ourselves.

One reason I'm really finding the need to conserve my energies, is because I want to prioritize time with the boys. Anyone around the boys knows that interactions with them require twice the energy requirement that most human interactions do, and this is not the time for them to get less.

So in case you were wondering if there is a hidden message here, the answer is no. What I am doing is honestly expressing our needs so that you can understand them and not feel like there is more that could be done. We are realizing from our end that we need to be a little more stingy with our social calendar. This is not because of the people we could or could not see, but because our little family has needs that have been put on the back burner for long enough. I think everyone can understand that, and I assure you that there is no hidden message for any one person or group of people

In terms of our daily needs my sister Rachel, whom I've been affectionately referring to as my nursemaid (not the "wet" kind!) has been graciously running the affairs of our house. She has been cooking, cleaning, child caring and much much more. I am so thankful to God for putting us into a situation where we mutually needed each other. She feels blessed to be able to raise her two year old daughter (my niece, Naomi) in a community environment. I have someone who watches me closely and sees what I need before I do (a serious benefit when you feel as scattered as I do right now). Our other room mate has also recently returned from MCC service and as such we have many similar experiences and emotions to share in terms of reverse culture shock.

It feels like we have formed a bit of a hodge podge alliance in this house. All four adults are going through times of serious transition in our lives but we are held together by a need for each other and belief in God's faithfulness. It is also a good thing for the boys to have a "little sister" and to learn how to be gentle with her.

Quick update on my treatments. Last week, I was taken off of my chemotherapy. My blood work revealed that my platelets had dropped to critical levels. As such, I have been off of the chemo for a week now. At this point in time the platelets situation seems to be correcting itself, but we won't really know until more time has passed. Radiation continues, four more treatments including today. My right ear is having some problems. I am definitely losing some hearing but I simultaneously experience ringing and rumbling (as if a train were going by).

Thats all for now!

September 17, 2010

The Tooth Fairy has Landed

Shortly after we arrived back in Canada, we were sitting at supper one day when Ari bit down hard onto his fork. A look of surprised pain flashed across his face and an exploratory wiggle with his finger revealed that his tooth was officially loose. James and I figured that it would probably root itself again since he was only just barely five. We promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to supper Thrusday night... There we were nibbling on pig's feet and slurping some noodle soup (just another clue of our hankering for China!), when Ari shocked us all by pulling his tooth so far forward that it touched his gum. We were surprised to see that while we had been distracted by all the moving, hospital visits and whatnot, Ari's tooth had already begun to discolor in his mouth. In case you were starting to suspect negligence on our part, let me point out that we do brush his teeth everyday. However teeth brushing is usually fairly chaotic and is peppered by these types of statements (the type that are highly distractive to making close observations). "Ari, stand still on TWO feet!" "Ari, stop pushing the toothbrush with your tongue". "Ari, don't bite the brush"

So after supper, James got out the thread (I was quick to inform him that I would NOT be one doing this task) and retreated with Ari to the upstairs bathroom. I sat expectantly waiting for the screams and howls, but heard none. A few minutes later, Ari came down and said very calmly, "Papa says that we're going to have to use pliers". The pliers went into the bathroom too, and I sat again waiting for the screams and howls. But in short order, Ari, James, pliers and tooth all emerged with zero tears and minimal blood. Ari was very proud of himself as you can see from the photos.

In typical James fashion, Ari's first experience with the Tooth Fairy took on some unconventional character traits.

The most unconventional trait is that his name is Ondar (see photo). Ondar is a man from Tuva who is famous for his traditional throat singing, a talent that James covets and aspires to. If we are driving down the road, chances are that James is trying to teach himself how to throat sing at loud volumes. He has tried to teach me how to do it on number of occasions, but it involves creating ticklish vibrations deep inside the recesses of your skull, nasal passages and ears which drive me batty! It makes me want to rub my head vigorously, so I leave the throat singing to him. If you are curious to know what throat singing sounds like I have created a link to a Youtube video showing Ondar and his five year old protege singing for Chevy Chase. Maybe someday this will be James and Ari! Here's the link:

Anyhow, the boys are very familiar with Ondar, having frequently watched Youtube videos with James of him and often throat singing along with James in the car. Strange family activity yes, but family bonding doesn't always have to take the form of Monopoly right? So, for Ari to think that him losing a tooth was an occasion for Ondar to slip into his room at night time (all the while throat singing), take his tooth, and leave a surprise, was a very big deal indeed. He stared wide eyed and tried very hard to pinpoint exactly what time to expect Ondar to come into his room. He was crestfallen when I informed him that Ondar only comes when kids are sleeping. I warned him before he went to school the next morning that his friends and school and teachers would probably think that Ondar's real name is the Tooth Fairy.
Now for a new tone altogether. I want to take a moment here to thank everyone who has been in contact with me over the last few months, but especially in the last few weeks. I can't even count how many people have sent emails, facebook emails, sent forwards or links, left comments on the blog or made other personal contacts. Everyone of these contacts has been personal and meaningful to me. I have to simultaneously thank everyone (you know who you are) and apologize for not being able to personally respond to each one. As I read each one, I think about what I want to say to each person in response, but I am unfortunately in a season where my energy is extremely limited and has to be portioned out. I have teared up at many an email. If I may, here is a mass response with a summary of the many different thoughts and responses that your emails have elicited.
1) I feel honored. One of the greatest rewards I have received from being open is that others are being open with me about their own pain and struggles. Please don't think that I would ever be burdened to hear about the struggles that are happening in your lives. It makes me glad to know that me identifying lies I believe in my life would help others to identify lies that they have believed in thier lives (or other things that have been written about). I want you to know that I have a deep respect for the stories and experiences that are shared. We are only given one life to live and unfortunately, sad times make up as much of our lives as good times. If we despise the sad times and do not carry a respect for them as part of our lives, then we can not truly value our lives.
2) I feel humbled. My story may seem big and flashy, but in reality it is no harder than the things that other people face. I can truthfully say that on this road so far, I have not thought "Why me?". This is because I have spent the rest of my life wondering "Why not me?". Why have I had such a charmed life, while I see others around me who live daily with great disappointments. High hopes for marriage that came crashing down. Family feuds. Tragic deaths. Years of illness. Struggles with depression. Bad relationships between parents or children. Fill in the blank. I have had none of these disappointments in my life. My big tragedy happened suddenly and it seems more terrible because I am so young and happily married and have kids. But I am in far greater admiration of the people who have lived with years of disappointments and still have faith (and also those who don't have faith). Life has not been a disappointment for me, but for many others it has been.
Another part of the humbling has been to see how far the net goes. There have been a lot of people in contact whom I have never met, but who are reading what I write. I am also stunned by the variety of people reading. People who I have met once, or have a distant mutual friend. People with different faith backgrounds or who are somewhere around the world. It amazes me to think that God dropped a rock in my pond, and the ripples are spreading to places that I have no idea of.
3) Sometimes I feel frustrated. I know that people will always interpret my experiences through their own life experiences, but there are times when I also feel misunderstood. I may express deep sorrow and sadness on this blog, and even use words like "depression", but this does not mean that I have lost hope or that I am becoming a pitiful creature. What it means is that I am on a bumpy journey that changes everyday and that I experience every emotion on the spectrum from very low to very high. That said, I can understand how it would be easy to misunderstand much of what I write.
Just because I have a deep yearning for God does not mean he has deserted me... maybe it means that I want more of him now than I ever did before. Maybe I veiw him differently now. Before I viewed him as more of a friend or a Father. Now I find that I am beginning to see him as more of a lover, and that is far more intimate. Lovers have a different type of relationship than friends or fathers and daughters. Lovers desire each other, and I have never desired him before the way that I do now. In our idealistic view of marriage we often say even a lifetime with your spouse/lover is not enough. That means that in a dream-like world we veiw spouses/lovers as ideally having an insatiable appetite for each other, even if reality often does not look that way. I have more of that appetite now for God.
There is a lot less to distract me now. I may express my doubts in God, but in the end, I know that I will get exactly what I want from him. What might that be? HIM. I don't want only one part of him... just his healing, his joy, his love etc. I want ALL OF HIM. All inclusive. To only experience his healing would be incomplete. I want EVERYTHING that he has.
So thank you to everyone who has been in touch with me. If something I write rings a chord of recognition in you, I'd love to hear about it. Please keep it up. I often find myself thinking about the individuals who sent me the emails (I have a lot of time to sit and think these days). As I said, if I do not respond it is merely a indication of my energy levels and not of my reception.
Bye for now!

September 13, 2010

Deep Currents

As many of you have noticed, our blog entries have declined in number. This is largely due to not having had internet access for eight days. However, that lack of connection turned out to be a good thing, at least for me (Jess).

Overall, its been a busy and fairly discouraging week. The last few days have found me pondering things that are so deep inside, I don't have any way of expressing them. I find myself retreating deeper and deeper inside of myself and sometimes that really scares me. I don't know how deep I go. I tried my hand at writing some poetry. In a sense it was a good thing, because it allowed me to give voice to some of the deeper, harder to express emotions that I have inside. But it also gave voice to a pain that I was otherwise unaware of. Pain that made me want to draw back even more. Maybe this is how depression starts.

I am now in my fifth week of treatments (out of six). This probably sounds hopeful, but the truth is that with each day that goes by, my body feels more and more ragged. No matter how much I sleep (or don't sleep) my body always feels as though I have spent the whole night partying. If I do sleep, I feel better for about half an hour after I wake up. This makes me think that resting is useless no matter what I do, so why even try resting? My vision is blurred and my ears feel infected (both things that I was warned about).

But we took the cake last night when James had to take me to the emergency room for crushing, piercing chest pains. I had been having them on and off for the last 24 hours, but last night they got so bad that I couldn't ignore them anymore. Chest pains is listed as one of the EMERGENCY SEE YOUR DOCTOR immediately symptoms in my information booklet. So even though I really didn't want to go, I knew that it would be stupid not to. The concern with cancer patients, especially those receiving chemotherapy and radiation is that they could experience a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). This is a potentially deadly situation, and truthfully, it was stupid of me to wait as long as I did to finally go to the emergency room.

But it happened just as I had imagined that it would. I was poked and prodded, tested, imaged and EKG(ed). It was invasive, tiring and painful. In the end, they determined that there was no blood clot and that my heart was okay... but we don't actually know what the problem is, which means that it will probably happen again. This is mightily discouraging and a bit like having cold water thrown in your face.

Overall, this is how I am doing. I can function alright on a daily basis. I don't feel like I am hiding things or living in denial. I can joke and have fun for real, it isn't some big show I put on. I don't feel like I am pushing myself. However, I am easily drawn into these deep, slow channels that run below my surface. They carry me along and move me. Somewhere in these deep channels I have spent a lot of time contemplating the Song of Solomon.

This is a beautiful book of the bible with passionate poetry spoken between two lovers. The two are enthralled with each other and everything about the other person has made a deep impression on the other lover. The way they smell, the way they look, the way they speak, the way they feel. But then they get separated. The Lover goes off into the night and his Beloved goes out looking for him. She goes out into the city streets at night, searching for him, driven by the memory of their love for each other. While she searches for him, some men come along and beat her. But to everyone she meets she says, "Have you seen my Lover? If you see, him, tell him that I am looking for him. Tell him that I am mad with love for him."

I feel like the Beloved. I have deep precious memories of times when Jesus felt incredibly close to me, where I felt that no one understood me the way that my creator does and that I could even understand a bit of him. But I have since followed him into a dark place and I can't see where he is. I feel like I have been beaten. My hair and my physical beauty have been stripped from me. Sometimes, I feel downright naked, cold and alone, even ashamed.

But you are the people that I meet on the street. I hear that there are many people praying for me. Truthfully, I don't pretend to understand what that means or what that changes. But if I can make a request to those of you are praying for me, you the people that I meet on the street, this is what it would be. "Have you seen my Lover? If you see him, tell him I am looking for him and that I won't be satisfied until I have him. Tell him that I am mad with love for him." I know that he has not deserted me, but his withdrawal has ignited a fire in my heart.

September 08, 2010

Pics of House and Activities

The Boys being pigs and very happy about it

Some homegrown Manitoba scenery for you. This is my childhood in a nutshell

The Duck Pond behind our house

The House

LIfe at the Intersection of Normal St. and Krang Ave.

This blog posting is coming from an internet cafe because our household phone and internet remain disconnected with no hope of connection for a few more days. That also explains the silence of this blog for the last week and the inability to answer any emails. This post was composed on Microsoft word and then pasted into blogger at Starbucks.

Normal St. and Krang Ave? Okay, the street names are changed, but we have in fact moved to a new, permanent residence. We are now the renters of a four bedroom house near the University of Manitoba. With us will be living my sister and her daughter, and another friend whom we have known for a number of years (also a returned MCC volunteer). This is how things are going to look for the next year at least. My sister will be acting as my “babysitter” and between the two of us we will take care of the kids and other household duties (sounds like the plot of a Jane Austin or L.M. Montgomery book). James and our other roommate will both be beginning Master’s Degrees. My daily hospital visits are only for three more weeks.

What I just described sounds like a “normal” life. No more moving around, in two and half more weeks we’ll have no more daily hospital visits. I’ll walk Ari to school just down the street every morning. Sounds like the kind of life that is not disrupted by a brain tumor (thanks Krang). But I chose this blog title for a reason. Here we are settling into a “normal” life, but living under abnormal circumstances. How does one live that life? If this is where the rubber meets the road, then how to you drive that car? Pretense?

I exerted myself physically for about ten hours on Saturday as we moved. Unpacking, cleaning etc. But on Sunday I paid for it when my body and brain were so shut down by fatigue that I was almost immobilized. Then my emotions were stretched so thin that I screamed at the boys when they thought that I was tickling them while trying to wash their feet in the bathtub. This is not the Jessica that I know.

This morning I laid in bed praying about this, wondering, asking God for an insight or two. More than practical life, my biggest question is this. Where does my relationship with God fit into this whole thing? I feel desperate to have him as more and more a part of my life, but in our normal lives we usually find it easier to slip into complacency with God. I can truthfully say right now that my heart’s desire is to know Jesus. I know that I can’t do this, I know that I am unable to handle most things in my life right now. I need Jesus. But he feels far away.

As I laid bed, asking these questions and thinking these thoughts, it occurred to me that maybe I was asking for the wrong thing. I want to see Jesus in my life, but maybe what I need first is to understand what might be blocking my view of him. Things like lies that I have come to believe, or fears that I am grappling with.

Here for your viewing pleasure are some lies that I have come to believe about myself. I will word them in the way that they present themselves in my mind:

1) I am less valid as a human being. If death is invisibility, then I am slowly becoming more and more transparent, and less a valid part of people’s lives. If James and I are married until death do us part, then we are now less married than we were then we were two months ago. If we were holding hands tightly like a basket weave two months ago, we will slowly over time loosen our hands until we are only touching fingertips at full arm’s length, and then I will die.

2) I am responsible to make sure that James has a full and satisfying life. Now that my ability to put excitement into his life has been taken away from me, he will slowly lose interest in me. I will no longer be able to stimulate his interest.

If these are the lies that I have subtly come to believe, then what is the truth that counteracts them?

1) Until the point that I die, I am remain a valid, influential human being, able to impact the people that I meet. James and I are as married as we were two months ago. It is not God’s will to slowly weaken our marriage. Rather, it is his will that our basket weaved fingers will stay strong and together until the very moment that one of us dies. The truth is that it is the very lies I believe that would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I choose to become invisible and invalid, I will become invisible and invalid. If I choose to loosen James’ and my hand, they will become loose.

2) James has more needs than I can meet. He was created by God and for God. A mere human wife cannot fulfill all that he needs. Maybe I thought that I was making his life more exciting before, but it was foolish of me to take credit for being able to make him happy or not. Of course I play a role, but the more important role is God’s.

So those are the lies that I have believed. Even just identifying them releases some of their hold in my life. What about the fears? Believing lies changes the way that you look at life. Grappling with fears has the ability to immobilize us and make us inactive. I have realized that my reaction to fears is often to grab a hold of them. It’s like there is a lion in front of me and my instant reaction is to grab it and try to hold its mouth shut. I drop everything that I am doing, just to try and control these fears. But just like Daniel in the lion’s den, I need to trust my fears to God and trust that he will close the mouths of my fears, even though they are right in front of me and not going away. If I hold on to a lion in front of me, I will get eaten from behind.

So what are my fears?

1) The boys need more than I can provide. In the last two months two things have happened. My physical and emotional ability to deal with two boys has declined and they have simultaneously had so much family and so much stimulation around that their expectations have gone up. Where does “normal” life fit in here again? I have heard it said that stress comes when we see that our ability to do something falls far below what is required of us. This really stresses me out. That is why I screamed at them in the bathtub yesterday. Lord Jesus help me give this to you!

2) How I do I act around James? We are so comfortable with each other that all our negativity sometimes comes spilling out onto the other. While we have gone through hard times together, it has never happened where both of us are going through personal difficulty at the same time. Both of our worst sides are coming out, and sometimes it is like being with a total stranger. Its almost like we need to date again! But who wants to date a sarcastic, complaining bald guy, or a weepy, emotional bald woman? However despite these difficulties, we both acknowledge the need to keep pursuing each other, and the most important thing is that we are talking about it.

The good thing is that, overall, we feel like we have just come through some kind of a gauntlet. There are still swinging swords and things coming at us to throw us off balance, but they seem to be a little fewer and farther between than they were for the last few weeks. We have more lighter moments now than before. Doubtless this will change again, but hey, what can you do?

September 01, 2010

Personal Contact

A number of people have expressed an interest in having personal contact with us, either through the blog or through mutual connections. For this reason I will post my email address. I do this because I really appreciate the fact that many people have responded to my openness by opening up about their own pains and trials. This means a lot to me. I love hearing other people's stories. That is one of the things that I miss the most about China, I heard so many stories there.

I do however have some misgivings about putting my email up here, primarily because some people feel the need to "set me straight". Its not that I can't take criticism or think everyone should agree with me, but I do have an instinctual aversion to personal insults and profanity. Feel free to disagree with me, but please keep in mind that these two things I mentioned bring disagreeable emails to a whole new level.

That said, here is my email: freynfrey at