The Big C

I spent the morning inhaling a microwave breakfast burrito and a large Diet Coke with watermelon flavoring from Sonic.

Maybe I should be eating something a little healthier.

The truth was that I was pretty nervous. You see, I had spent the weekend having discharge come out of my left breast. I had talked with a friend, who suggested that it may be a tumor on my pituitary gland. Non-cancerous but still scary.

****

When I was in high school, my stepdad was diagnosed with two forms of cancer, kidney and testicular. I still remember that time in my family’s life. We were moving upward. The family was bustling with busyness. My stepdad in particular had been working two jobs and going to school full-time. He was stressed but managing.

****

I had made this big decision to be a foster parent. My life had reached a stabilized point. I was comfortable and honestly, I felt a little bored. I was in school but it was only one class at a time. I had a good job, solid relationships. Everything was going well.

And slowly, I started adding more to my plate. I started volunteering for a ministry. I joined the prayer team at my church. I took on a second job. I got promoted. I took foster care classes.

It all became too much. I had friends who told me to slow down. Friends who told me I had taken on too much.

But I didn’t listen. I could do it all. I was the girl who had survived losing her family. I was the girl who had been through church excommunication and broken friendships. I had held my own through a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I could handle a busy schedule.

****

Cancer does something to a person. My stepdad had always been this tough, self-reliant person. But cancer made him rethink his life. He spent his days talking about his life. He and I had a fractured relationship but it was during this time that I got to know him. I heard his stories. He stopped fighting so much. He was gentle.

And it made him slow down.

****

The doctor scrunched her face. “It could be hormonal. But I’ll be honest – stress doesn’t cause discharge. It could also be your medication but you’ve been on your meds for so long. It shouldn’t be happening.”

I sat there, calm as a cucumber.

She was quiet for a moment. “I’m going to schedule a mammogram for you. It could be breast cancer, particularly because there’s a family history.”

The words breast cancer hung in the air.

Had I not just told God a week ago I was tired? I was done. Come down and show me your glory! Had I not just screamed this through tears a week ago?

And now, days later, I am sitting in the doctor’s office and she is telling me I could have cancer.

Am I scared?

No. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I do not have time for cancer.

I don’t understand. Maybe she is wrong. Maybe the doctor is mistaken. Maybe I am so stressed out that this is why I have breast discharge. Maybe my meds are causing the problem.

And maybe, this is God’s way of trying to get my attention. I will know in about two weeks if I have cancer. Literally the longest two weeks of my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saying Sorry

When my sister and I were young, we fought all the time. Between groundings and spankings, nothing seemed to work. My mom decided that she would try a different method. She separated us and had us write nice things about one another.

Apologizing has never been easy for me. I’m pretty prideful and carry a lot of wounds. I have operated under the idea that if someone hurts me, it cancels out my sin. If we’re honest, we all operate that way.

My relationship with my sister taught me how to lay down my pride and apologize. There were times I hated her but when my mom would force us to write nice things about one another, I realized I had ample things to say.

I’ve alluded to it in past blog posts but haven’t dared to say it out right. Two years ago, I was excommunicated from a church. I was asked to leave and never speak to anyone in the church again.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember sobbing on the rooftop of my work. I remember the shock. I remember going back to work after I received the phone call from the pastor.

I was very sick. I have high-functioning schizophrenia and this was before I was diagnosed. I was out of control. In the span of three months, I had become obsessed with one of the pastors, removed from my community group, freaked out said pastor’s girlfriend and harassed the church with incessant emailing and texts.

I needed a doctor. I needed treatment. What I got was being removed from the church.

I felt too dirty, too broken to step foot in another church. Excommunication will wreck you. It will mess you up. It will terrify you of other churches. Even now that I stand on the other side of diagnosis and treatment, I am too afraid to fully submit to the church I’m in now. I’m getting closer though, which is reassuring.

I shared the details of the story with my doctor in the hospital, when I was lucid enough to explain everything. I sat there in tears, asking him what he thought. What could I do to fix this? He explained that my behavior was not my fault. I had been very sick and could not have been expected to be well-mannered. He went on to say that the reaction the church had to me was irresponsible.

I became a victim that day.

For over a year, I had been angry, sad and frustrated. My heart has ached for an apology that they refuse to give. And man, have I sat in a pool of self-pity.

But God kept pressing into me. Something wasn’t sitting right with me about what the doctor had said. Schizophrenia doesn’t change your personality; it amplifies what’s already there.

And then I was presented with the same triggers that had set me off when I was sick. I resisted them all but I felt every evil bone in my body. I felt all the hatred and jealousy and malice and control and striving that ran through my body while I was in that church. The only difference was that, because of medication, I was able to resist the urge to give in.

That realization broke me. What did it mean that I could be a victimizer as much as I had been a victim? I sobbed deep tears for the hurt I had caused. Because yes, my illness denied me an ability to say no to temptation but the person behind the behavior was still me.

I told God how sorry I was. For the first time in two years, I experienced true relief from the pain I had from what had happened.

I know that, at one point, the pastor had been reading my blog. He doesn’t know I know that but I do. My heart is grieved over the fact that reconciliation and peace is not a possibility here. But in the off chance that he reads this, I want to say how truly sorry I am for the pain I caused. Nothing will change what happened but I can be repentant here. I wish someday we could apologize to one another in person but I understand that may be unrealistic.

I think we all believe that if we’ve been hurt, we can’t apologize for our part in the mess of things. But I think part of loving people is in the saying sorry.

In the moment I told God how sorry I was, He whispered gently in my ear, You’re now ready for the blessings I have for you. You’re ready for the life I have for you.

I don’t know what that means. All I know is that I have finally, finally moved on.

Easy.

Recently, I was talking with a friend about old loves and moving on.

It’s interesting. I’m in a season where I’m getting renewed clarity about my life, primarily when it comes to men. It’s like a vase that has broken and as I’m picking up the pieces of glass, I notice where the cuts are, the shine of the glass against the light and then I attach the glass back to the vase.

So we were talking about old loves and how difficult it is to move on. I’ve told her a few times about my first love but I made a point of explaining the process it took to move on.

Oh, man. I argued with God over him. I begged God to work it out. It got to a place where I would even take friendship over nothing.

It was during this time that I was on a journey of self-discovery. I had been in counseling, working through my issues with marriage and I decided that I would research the topic. Books helped but I wanted real world insight. I started asking couples their love stories and despite the vast differences between stories, I found recurring themes.

Every couple I spoke with had a oneness I had never seen before. And before you jump in and say, “well, duh, that’s a part of marriage”, I also interviewed engaged couples and saw this same occurrence. Elizabeth Eliot put it simply in The Mark of a Man, that a man will know the woman he is supposed to be with when he recognizes her as his rib, not that she is exactly like him but that she comes from him. This is obvious before marriage.

When I think back to past relationships, it was never like that. It was as if we were two pieces of a puzzle that almost fit but didn’t. And some puzzle pieces fit better than others but at the end of the day, it all felt like grasping at straws. Even with my first love, we almost fit. It was so close to perfect but I look back and see how hard everything was.

The other recurring theme was this idea of effortlessness. The relationships themselves may have had conflict and turmoil but it was like there was a magnet that kept bringing them back together. They weren’t struggling to connect or spend time together. One particular story that sticks in my mind was one I watched play out. These two friends started talking more and more and always seemed to find one another in a crowd. I actually remember approaching them one day and the girl gave me the dirtiest look. I promptly walked away. I laugh about it now. They’ve been married for three years.

I watched this girl recently trying to earn this guy’s attention. As I watched her talk herself up and honestly, grasp at straws, I realized you can tell right away if two people are going to get together. God really doesn’t make it a secret. I had flashbacks to past encounters with men where I thought things were headed in a certain direction but when I look at it now, it’s pretty obvious that nothing was going to happen. It’s like painstakingly obvious.

Because when a guy likes you, he makes it known. It’s not confusing or unclear. I think back to those times and realize how much time I wasted stressing out about guys that were totally friendly but interested in other girls.

Because there was always another girl. I was always late to the game and one by one, these guys dated and married the girl they had set their sights on. And I wanted so badly to be the girl that gets chosen. I wanted to be the girl he thinks of when he’s ready to date.

In the midst of getting over my first love, God told me He wanted it to be easy for me. He wanted dating to be easy. I fought Him so hard because I didn’t want easy. I wanted my first love.

But, as I told my friend, I am really, really grateful God is smarter than me.

Dear John

I don’t know about you but from time to time, I get these moments where I captivated by the Holy Spirit over something that apparently needs to be addressed. It usually comes out of nowhere. I usually cry. I move on.

I should backtrack. For eight years, I had massive feelings for a friend. About five years into this crush, I heard from mutual friends that he liked me. Me, being the bold person that I am, decided that I would tell him how I feel. It seemed like a sure thing that this would work out.

It didn’t. He rejected me. He was one of those guys that needs to hear from God before he’ll date someone. He said God didn’t tell him to date me so he said no.

I found out later he regretted it. I found out later that he wished he had said yes.

We stayed friends for several years after that. He was a source of support when I got really sick. I waited for him, holding out hope that he would make a move. I initiated every conversation, anxiously trying to give him ample opportunity to make a move.

He told me what a Godly woman I was. He told me how beautiful my spirit was. He said he liked how honest I was.

But he never made a move.

I stressed over this. But I couldn’t make a move again. I just couldn’t.

It was during this summer that I started to realize I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t put myself out there and get nothing in return. I sent him a message, telling him how grateful I was that he had been there for me when I got sick, that I would never forget it.

He said of course, that he would always be there for me. That he was happy that I was better.

But he didn’t make a move.

I made the difficult decision to let him go. I deleted him from my Facebook and moved on with my life.

But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:10-11

Walking away felt a little like dying. I’ve moved on from other guys before but it had never felt like this. It felt like I was growing up.

So back to yesterday. Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk at work when I was hit with a wave of emotions. I imagined myself having a conversation with him, explaining to him why I walked away. Why I ended our friendship. I felt his sadness, his regret. I felt myself moving on.

Recently, I’ve been going back and forth between making a move and waiting on the guy. My experience with him made me realize how much I need to know I don’t have to be the first one to say something. It’s not about being entitled. He made me feel like I had to earn his attention. It was like he was waiting for me to say something before he would do anything. It was unfair to me.

I’ve written a letter to him that I’ll never send. I’ve moved on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That one time.

So I’ve been working through some significant church wounds and last night, I was hit with an old memory.

Most people know that I’m the type of girl that makes the first move. I’ve always tried to make it really easy for the guy. I can handle a gentle no. Rejection is a part of life. What I can’t handle is what happened two years ago.

I had been attending this church for a few months, making friends, getting settled. My community group leader was someone I had known for about seven years. He seemed like a stable guy, level-headed. He seemed to value people and had a gentle heart.

I started to develop feelings for him. Usually when this happens, I make a move pretty quickly. I like to know soon if things are going to go anywhere.

So I told him I liked him. If I’m honest, I fully expected a no. I just wanted to be sure.

He didn’t say no.

He asked me to leave the community group. He said he couldn’t lead effectively knowing that there was a girl in the group that liked him.

I was taken aback. I thought that was a really extreme way of responding to my feelings. I went to the pastors, fully expecting them to say it was wrong.

They didn’t say that.

They said I needed to leave the community group. He was a leader and they said that I had made him uncomfortable. The lead pastor said that they needed to look for the interests of the leader.

I had been making friends in the community group. I was finding my place in the church and suddenly, because I had been honest about my feelings, I found myself kicked out of my community group.

It shook me. I never imagined that something like that could happen. I’ve always been really upfront about how I feel but I’ve realized that experience still has me shaken up. I don’t think I can make the first move anymore. I make a big talk about female empowerment and initiating with a guy but what happens if he treats me like that again? With that other guy, I could have never suspected that he would behave that way. And for a church to support that kind of response, what’s to say that won’t happen again? Every church comes across healthy until they’re backed into a corner.

I love my life. I don’t want to risk everything falling apart because I put myself out there again. That leader eventually had me removed from the church. He was vindictive and cruel. And it all started because I told him I liked him. He was someone I didn’t recognize and I haven’t really trusted my perception of people since.

I guess I’m just waiting for a guy to take the pressure off me. Trust me, if I spend time with you, talk to you, ask questions about your life or your past, I like you. It’s really not that complicated.

Faith

I knew a woman once who told me this amazing story upon our first meeting.

She and her husband had two children and were living in California when they heard of a ministry opportunity to serve in a Muslim country. In order to pay for this opportunity, they would have to sell everything they owned and relocate to this country. So they walked in obedience. They had a plan; they were sure of what God would do.

It was not until they had sold everything they owned that they discovered that the ministry organization only wanted the husband for the first year of ministry. So he went to this country and the wife, along with her two children moved in with family in Arizona. The plan became that they would join the husband in a year. It was during this waiting period that I met this woman.

She was a breath of fresh air as she told me this story. She was sure that God wanted her family to serve in this ministry. She did not mention until years later that she was struggling financially, was without the support of her husband and sleeping on couches with her children. Her family never made it to this country and her husband eventually returned back to the States.

It was years later that she told me she would never make a mistake like that again. She had acted in faith and put her family and marriage in jeopardy. She projected this fear on me repeatedly, as I struggled to make decisions. And I fought her every step of the way. Something was off, it seemed wrong.

She hadn’t acted in faith by selling her possessions for this ministry. There was nothing faithful about what she had done. She had done something with the expectation that she knew what would happen and when it turned out she was wrong, she concluded that she had been misguided. And she was right. By assuming she knew what God would do, she placed her faith in her understanding of the situation, not God. If she had sold her possessions without expectations of a particular return, she would have been acting in humility.

*On a side note for my readers, it is never biblical to sell all your possessions without first making sure you have enough to live on. God does not ask foolish things of us.*

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot lately. As I’ve been learning more about faith, I’ve been contemplating what it means to look at the assurance of things unseen. What it means to act in faith.

It means saying you’re sorry without expecting forgiveness.

It looks like forgiving even when reconciliation isn’t a possibility.

It might be joining a church in spite of the fear that you’ll just get hurt again.

It means opening up to a guy when you’re not sure it’s going to go anywhere.

It looks like taking a job that’s out of your comfort zone.

I’ve tried not to judge that woman. She went through a lot in a short amount of time but I don’t agree with the conclusions she made about what she should have learned about faith through the choices she made. It was really sad. She trusted more in her logic and reasoning to protect her than understanding that what she lacked was humility. I have walked in faith and had horrible things happen but I don’t regret doing so. God doesn’t have to give me what I want in order for me to trust Him. I don’t stop following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I only walked in faith when I was sure that I wouldn’t get hurt, well, that’s no faith at all. That’s just me and self-preservation.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret the choices I didn’t make. I have rarely regretted the pain I’ve gone through because of choices I made in faith but I have regretted all the times I told God no.

I don’t talk to that woman anymore but I hope she’s learning what faith really is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me Too

I don’t ever talk about it.

I woke up this morning to a social meeting campaign, where people were sharing their sexual abuse/assault cases with the hashtag #metoo.

And by people, I mean women, because the narrative has effectively excluded men. It’s also portrayed men as the sole predators.

If you knew my story, you’d understand why I’m angry.

I thought about sharing my story in some heartfelt post but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Because social media cheapens my experiences.

I’ve often thought about what would happen if people knew about my experiences. Typically, when I talk about my history of sexual abuse, I don’t talk specifics. I don’t talk about my grandfather. I don’t talk about staring at his hands or the red shirt he wore with a white stripe. I don’t talk about the massive amounts of porn he exposed me to. And until two years ago, no one knew I had spent most of my life struggling with a porn addiction.

Because girls don’t struggle with that. And while I knew early exposure denied me any opportunity to see sex in a healthy way, I blamed myself for my addiction. It was not until I was sitting in front of another woman who also struggled with porn addiction that I was able to find freedom.

My story doesn’t end there, because it happened again. This time at a church by an older girl. It went on for months. I struggled with sexual identity until I was in my late teens, because once again, I thought it was my fault.

Recently, I sat in my foster care class and we were talking about the feelings associated with sexual abuse. And I blurted out that guilt is a common emotion you experience. Because you think it’s your fault. It takes a lot of counseling to understand that it’s not your fault.

I have no judgments for women using the #metoo campaign today. I just want you to remember two things:

  1. Men are not the enemy. They are not the sole predators. The prolonged sexual abuse I experienced was at the hands of an older girl.
  2. Men are also survivors of sexual abuse. They need to feel safe enough to talk about it.

So that’s my story. I don’t talk about it often but I’m starting to understand I should. I read somewhere recently that when you share your story, you open up another person to get healing.