That is a perfect summary to my 2016. Just, “Wow!”
Mom, Toby, and the kids, my sister, my closest loves. It was a wild ride, but we made it.
In January of 2016 mom’s 7th cancer occurrence would show up as multiple tumors on MRI scans. Multiple tumors Idaho doctors would no longer operate on or offer a treatment plan that did not involve death. They also wouldn’t help us find the next step if we wanted life.
That was a scary place to be. I love looking back to see how God stepped in and made action happen despite Valentine’s Day at the flower shop followed by an annual February trip to see our long-distance relatives.
We were declined at first. We were declined treatment by the #1 ranked facility in the United States. It hurt. But, again the Lord showed me right what to do and from that point in early February, we were taken care of by the University of California San Diego Moore’s Cancer Center in La Jolla, CA. Family and friends brought funds together to make the flights, hotels, car-rentals, meals, and love just happen.
During the week of Mother’s Day mom received invasive surgery to remove 19 tumors (2 were removed in an exploratory laparoscopy a few weeks before, for a total of 21) and she also received HIPEC, an internal chemotherapy body wash. She made an amazing recovery, an answer to prayers. Over months she recovered and her improvements pleased our UCSD team at our July check-up. We enjoyed the zoo and the California beaches with Tate and Tripp on this appointment.
Toby and our oldest, Quincy, went to serve God in the streets of San Francisco with our church youth group, the same time the rest of us were in San Diego. I can still hear testimonies in my mind of how their week-long trip forever changed lives and hearts in our kids and those who they loved. Perhaps the most meaningful message they brought back was that in their intention to reach out to these homeless people, and not to just offer them a sandwich or fill a need, but to look them in the eyes and to talk to them as humans loved by another human and an awesome God… It brought both people into a state of hope and joy, even just for a moment.
At one point in this mission, the group was confronted by a police officer in park in a rougher neighborhood. The police officer cautioned the group against being there and encouraged them to leave. One of the adults with the team of Christian middle schoolers replied to the officer that this is where they wanted to be. What a revelation. Looking at the area out of love and not out of fear or disgust. Quincy was 12 on this trip and it changed her life enough that she pursued baptism on her own.
Q is a great oldest daughter. We are blessed. She fights and argues with her younger sister, as is the process, but overall, she has the heart of a little mama and protects and loves her younger siblings more than she comprehends. She had good grades the first quarter and amazing grades by the end of the semester, almost all A’s. She is on the Bible quizzing team for our church. She is a percussionist in the band and we got to see her play snare drums, big drums, the xylophone, the triangle, and perhaps something else in her few band concerts. What a fun girl! She swam on the swim team, played volleyball, basketball, and plans to run track this spring. She is definitely more athletic than her mama ever was. And, so willing to try. I love that she tries. She seems to have figured out two things the first semester of seventh grade: she is a girl who gets crushes on boys and she suddenly really cares about her hair. Whoa. We’ve all somewhat adjusted. Toby will probably never really adjust!
Our middle, Tatem, is still pure sunshine. Thank you, God! She has her dramatic side, but she brings smiles and light into the home from the moment she wakes up to the moment she sleeps. She doesn’t complain. She rarely enters the living room in our home without a cartwheel. That is, if she is not on her roller blades. She loves games of all sorts, jiu jitsu with her daddy, and something about “guava juice.” Tate has a natural heart for animals and she loves her Grizzly dog. She is in 4th grade this year and delights in school and learning. She is blessed with a great teacher and she is so social, that we sometimes have to hold her back from jumping out of the car too soon when we pull in to drop her off. She is a super fun beautiful blonde girl. I still can’t believe I had a blonde. Recently, someone asked if Quincy was my daughter. Then she looked at Tate and said, “Who are you?” Not like, are you her sister, but like, are you the neighbor girl?
Besides being beautiful, she is naturally athletic, pretty dang smart, very curious, and has used up countless things from our pantry and kitchen to make slime, sludge, cornstarch something, and whatever experiments, she can find online. I have at least 8 different ice ball concoctions in the freezer and no baking soda. She gets away with it by telling me, “it’s science, mom.”
Tripp, who is in preschool, loves science day, too! He is not the best alphabet learner. But, it’s coming. We’re trying some different concepts to see if we can get his little brain to see things the way we do. He is so smart. He knows more about technology than most adults. It is his world, for sure. As much as it is something most see as negative, it is the world this next generation lives in. Trying to adjust as parents. It’s hard.
The Trippster has the best imagination. Anything can become a toy. It is most precious to watch him have an imaginary battle or conversation among toys when he doesn’t know you’re watching. He loves to dress up as power rangers and super heroes. He loves Godzilla. He loves the old school black and white Godzilla. It is bizarre. It has been consistent. Last year he wanted a Godzilla birthday. Birthdays must be very important for four and five year-old’s because he has been planning another Godzilla birthday party for February for quite some time. Only recently, has it changed to a King Kong birthday. He almost always pounds his belly when he says, “King Kong.” He is an amazing little boy. Tripp has been going to jiu jitsu with his daddy for about a year. He is learning to love Jesus and says with confidence, “Jesus loves me.”
Tripp had his first kiss this year in the hall at church. His girl asked her mommy if Tripp could give her a kiss. Her mommy gave Tripp permission to kiss her on the cheek. He obliged. When asked about it in the car he said, “I’m a kisser. ‘Cause I wike her. ‘Cause she’s my favorite.” This boy would melt your heart as he has ours.
Besides me, of course, and this little cutie girl at church, his favorite person is his Aunt D’Ann. They speak the same speak.
D’Ann has been so busy working so hard for UPS. I’ve lost track of the years since she started for them, years ago at the Portland, OR hub, sorting packages. She transferred to the Boise hub to be closer to mom and the family several years ago. She has shown growth in management, worked hard as always, and demonstrated loyalty to the company. This year, D’Ann earned the title of a supervisor, I forget the exact name, but I’m so happy for her. Her job demands have escalated and I pray that she is able to handle the workload with ease and joy. It is a big commitment. She is driving semi-trucks, teaching others to drive them, handling accidents, is the safety inspector… Her job duties are vast and growing, it seems!
Toby has also had a big year of growth, additional job titles, and more. He continues to work for HP and ya know, he is some sort of technical consultant, in more of a global capacity, but I couldn’t give you a job title. He is able to work from home 97% of the time. He did an amazing job for HP this year and they are lucky to have him. In addition to HP, Toby became a real, live pastor last winter’ish into spring time.
Bizarre, right? Those who know and knew Toby, have to know that God is real, because you really would have never thought. But, here he is, this man of God. Stepping up, trying to learn to lead our family in the right and gentle ways of the Lord, taking up youth ministry, Christian college classes… so that those who were maybe in his shoes as a youth, might relate to him and have hope, too. When I met him, I knew. I knew he would work with kids later on in life. Very influential, this man of mine. Very driven.
Another reflection of this drive: 10 years, or so, of commitment later, Toby also earned his black belt in jiu jitsu this December. It is a big accomplishment in the world of martial arts. He lives and breathes jiu jitsu. It makes him the happiest of all things on the earth! There isn’t much that can get him away from the mats. Beyond HP, his ministry, and jiu jitsu, Toby also has to deal with the consequences of having a sick wife who made the choice to buy a flower shop nine years ago. Yeah, I suppose that’d be me.
My health has not improved this year. We wanted to see a more aggressive neurologist, the one who is supposedly #1 in our area, and she declined to see me stating I needed to see a neuromuscular sub-specialist. Because one of those is in Idaho.
I am being treated for Multiple Sclerosis, but it does seem to be a variant of the disease, coupled with another illness. My neurologist is treating my symptoms as she can, but I always leave feeling unheard, untreated. She is doing the best she can, but will admit she will not be able”fix it.” It is a difficult place to be. My ribs, chest, and diaphragm are being affected with muscle spasms, contractions, and more. I wake up and I am unable to bend my torso the left, these days, because it is so tight. From sleeping. On the contrary, the more I stand and work, it produces the same stiffness in my abs and back. I have adjusted my schedule at work to accommodate an afternoon rest/nap. I am unsure if the shop keeps me going or is pushing me to fall apart. I question how long I can physically do this. The flower shop draws me up and out into the world, and perhaps, I would wither away, otherwise. I am not sure. I pray for clarity on this almost daily.
I wish my 2016 was as amazing as the others. I will share, not to compare, but out of desire to be real and vulnerable and authentic. And, my story of 2016 is amazing, but in a much different way.
I started therapy in July. Like, psycho-therapy. I hit a huge wall of depression and darkness and at the same time, was restored to life because God changed my heart that maybe I could be helped. I could change. But, I didn’t know how. So, I went to therapy.
I experienced repeated trauma in my childhood . And, it started to come out in negative ways. Thoughts and actions. I didn’t realize that I viewed the world from the same set of eyes that I viewed the world in as a child, a place to be feared, afraid of, and judged. I let perceived authority figures in my life, determine if I was good or bad. I was suffering from a lot of anxiety. I still struggle with self-esteem and self hatred. At 36. Don’t people get past this in junior high??? I needed to find a love for myself, not out of arrogance, but out of honor to God’s creation. I needed to find love for God, not out of fear, but out of reverence and awe. I think I quit everything I was involved in. I just, I just stopped caring what other people thought, and started working on me and Jesus.
At first it seemed easy, but with time… With time, you realize just how wonky wired you are, and it gets harder because you have to start rewiring what you’ve always known. You start capturing the negative thoughts and feelings and correcting them instead of allowing them. I have hope that perhaps the process of this emotional healing will also bring about physical healing. There is a lot of intention in what I do. I have been in a pattern of consistent Bible study, prayer, and meditation. I have been using music therapy to work healing into the little parts of my brain that I can’t even name. I have been doing homework on ‘my garden,’ what I will and won’t allow in my space. I have gained confidence in standing up for myself and most importantly, am raising constant awareness to myself that I am safe.
I didn’t earn a good grade, excel at beating cancer, earn a new job title, or rock at any type of sport. But, through Bible study, therapy, and more, I have learned that I am the daughter of a Father who loves me and wants me to thrive despite any of my circumstances. He wants to see me get back up again when I get knocked down. And, He is there with me, and has given me the blessing of family and friends to help me along the way. I am unsure what 2017 will bring for me. I am completely open to God’s will changing my life. He is worthy to be trusted.
God’s will gave us the gift of another Christmas with my mom. We still pray that He will let her be the miracle and it is the first Christmas of many. Out of the ashes of what we thought were a tragedy, just one year ago, He brought beauty and light into our lives, instead. Let this testimony of our year be another stone, another rock to add to the stack of wonderful things He has done. Let it remind us of His character and his heart’s desire to love His people. Amen.