One Word: 2016
If you live in the Mid-West like me, then you probably either ventured outside today or dreamt of it. I know I hurried through my to-do list in record speed in an attempt to head to my sacred part of my fenced in yard: My garden.
As my fingers jotted down the numbers in the check register and as my OCD need for organization updated the color-coded Excel "Bill" spreadsheet, my mind was pulling weeds and hand-tilling the first of four raised beds to prepare for the upcoming seed sewing season.
As quickly as I could put on my tennis shoes and chug the last little bit of my morning’s cup of coffee, I was out the door. I almost sprinted to the garden beds. As soon as my feet hit the top soil—they sank in. And my heart sank as well. I’m only in year two of my gardening experience, but even this amateur knows that mud is not an ideal medium to work in the garden.
I stomped my tennis shoe into the ground, frustrated, and headed back inside. What was I supposed to do with my day now?
Ah, yes. I have 300 pages of a book to read and edit. My book. That should keep me busy. It’s not what I wanted to do, but it still must be done. My first entry into the book was my One Word for 2015. I’ve spent the last six weeks trying to figure out what 2016’s word is supposed to be. I’m a little late to the party, I know.
To be honest, I’ve spent the last ten months trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be, and so the word doesn’t seem like such a pressing matter when you can’t even figure out your future, huh? I knew I needed to take some time off from work early last year, but never thought I would still be home, a year later.
There have been times that sitting at home has more than caught up to me. It’s depressing. It’s boring. I can only do so many Pinterest projects and take so many Buzzfeed quizzes, ya know? I’ve always said I wasn’t meant to stay at home. Bless you moms and dads who do! Having said that, though, I am praying really hard that I will do what God wants me to do in my life, and not what Whitney wants. This is pretty hard for me. If I'm brutally honest, I’m a pretty selfish person. I typically do what I want, when I want, and how I want.
I made a vow, though, that I would start praying and waiting for the answers, rather than just jump in and question later. Have I been 100% successful at this? Absolutely not. But, I’m trying, especially when it comes to the BIG things.
So, as of now, I’m working from home, taking care of the kids, and writing when the Spirit says write. I have my dreams and my goals, but I know that if they are what God wants, they will happen when they are supposed to.
So what does this have to do with my word? Well, everything. I can’t plant seeds in my garden because I’m waiting for the mud to dry up. I’m not out speaking to the masses or leading a non-profit cancer fundraiser because I’m waiting on God to open those doors. I’m not even dressed for the day and it’s almost 2 pm because I’m waiting to go get children.
Waiting. It seems to be unpopularly popular with me these days. Since I was born without the patience gene, it’s pretty much awful. But, still, I will wait.
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”- Lamentations 3:25
The garden will get planted and I am sure it will produce fruit. If it doesn’t, we live a mile from the grocery store. I am sure I will be called to work again, one day. (Crossing my fingers!!) But, if I stay at home for awhile longer, I have to trust that God is using me here, even when I can’t see it.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”- Proverbs 3:5-6
I am being called to wait.
How about you?
I was headed to meet my two best girlfriends this afternoon to talk about our new Bible Study: Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl. Since the weather had finally reached a temperature in which hoodies were a requirement and coats an option, all three kids were outdoors. On my way, I stopped at the neighbors house where I knew the kids would all be. I call the house "Command." The owners that live there have 5 or 6 six kids, I can never really remember. (I feel like anything over three is more than I can wrap my brain around, and the fact that the mom greets each day fully dressed AND with makeup on deserves total praise.) Command is the fun house of the neighborhood. They have the giant pool, the treehouse that allows no boys, and all the nerf gear that a kid could ever need. When I pulled up in front of Command today, the scene laid out before my eyes was a very interesting one.
I immediately saw my own two girls, dressed in leggings and hoodies, swim goggles covering their eyes, who quickly saw me and yelled "We gotta go!" to their friends. I rolled down my window to tell them they were fine, and that I was just letting their brother know he could go to youth group with the Command house owner's kids.
Beside them, a few feet over were several more kids hiding in the bushes, the same goggles protecting their own eyes. And behind a tree in the front yard, stood one of the oldest Command children, goggles on, gun in an upright position; the orange tip giving it away to this gun loving momma that we may be dealing with more than just nerf here.
With the window down, and as I began to drive away, I heard a high-pitched voice yell, "CHARGE!" I smiled the biggest smile and said a little prayer of thanks on behalf of my children for a childhood of neighborhood kids.
Growing up, I lived on a farm. I could bore you with the tales my father would tell of his own "up the hill 30 miles in the snow both ways", but I'm only 31 years-old and it just doesn't seem appropriate yet. Ask me in another 20. But, I did grow up with no neighbors; no childhood kids that came and played airsoft guns in my yard. I grew up on the back of a horse, with a creek in my back yard. I caught crawdads with my siblings and saw a baby horse born one early morning before church, leading us to fit her with the perfect name: Sunday. There's a safety in growing up on a farm, almost as if you're shielded from part of the troubles of this life when you're out there away from all the chaos of the city life.
I'll tell you...I wouldn't trade my childhood for all the money in the world. In fact, it's the childhood that I would pick for my own children if I could. But, as I headed off to Bible Study tonight, I couldn't help but think about the stories my own three kids would write, about this very night, in their own book of life one day. From the laughter that was still echoing through the neighborhood this evening, I'd say it's safe to say, they may not want to trade their childhood either.
As I chatted with my girlfriends for the next hour over warm coffee, and sweet treats, I couldn't help but think about that feeling of safety. To be honest, I'm struggling with some areas of life right now and I'm having trouble hearing God's voice. My friend, Shelly told me at bible study that "maybe you just aren't listening." Normally, she would be right. But, I really don't feel like that's the case now. I'm listening and I'm constantly saying to him "Hello? Can you hear me?" Ok, no I don't say that, exactly, because that's an Adele lyric. But, dang. Wouldn't that be hilarious if I did start out my prayer to Jesus like that?! Moving on. I am constantly praying lately and begging God to give me direction. I am getting back:
B.) Things I don't like... At all.
I am still waiting for shiny door #3 to reveal a better option. People keep asking me what I want that option to be. I don't even know that. That's how lost I am. But, I know It's got to be better than A and B, right?
I keep coming back to a question I saw on Instagram this week. Leave it to me to find the diamonds in the sand on social media.
If God promised to give you anything, what would you ask for?
The answers that followed were all the answers you would expect. Cancer to not exist, no debt, more money, a lifetime with family and friends, never work again, great health, etc.
Immediately I was led to an answer that I know came from higher than myself. If God promised me anything I asked for, I would ask for a FAITH so great that it replaced the emotion in my brain called WORRY.
What? Who said that? Not me. While I was busy trying to think of what my answer should be, God went ahead and let me know. But isn't that the perfect answer? If my Faith is so great and so solid that I no longer can feel worry, then it doesn't matter what is thrown at me, or how God answers my endless prayers--or even if he doesn't answer them at all! It doesn't matter if my loved one is sick, if there are hard decisions in my future, if I can't find a job (or worse, he calls me to stay home forever), or if I am taken so far out of my safety zone that I no longer remember what the farm looks like, even in my mind.
It's ok. God may take me out of my farm. He may take me away from a horse and a creek and the long journey of "up the hill 30 miles both ways in the snow." It may feel awful at first. I may kick and I may scream. And I can promise you that I have physically done that this week in response to one of his answers.
But maybe...just maybe...he might toss me into a neighborhood. The Lord willing, it will have a house like Command; a place where there are others just as lost and crazy as me, ready to live out the words that will one day fill the next chapter of their book of life; a life that was so full of Faith that it had no room for worry.
I said I wasn't going to blog during the fair. There's a few reasons. 1.) My brain is so exhausted right now that I'm not sure I trust the grammar that may spew forth. So fair warning. 2.) I'm exhausted. This equals a really testy Whitney. On a good day I don't sugar coat. On a bad one....well. Fair warning.
During the fair, I will say that I haven't had much time for social media and it's kind of nice. I do get on there to post my #WhatWhitneyAte and a few random job related posts, but I don't really get to scroll down and catch up. I've been OK with that.
I didn't hear the news about Robin Williams passing until late last night. I was in the funnel cake stand. I started to recall all the movies and shows I grew up on that he was a part of. Like everyone else, the list is endless. He was a HUGE part of our screens.
I am heart broken that he is gone. I am heart broken that it happened the way it did. Above all else, though, I am pissed at the posts that I am reading about his death on social media.
I have shared many posts, blogs, etc...about mental illness. It's very personal to me. I have dealt with it for a long time. After reading a few posts that made me want to go postal on a few people this morning, I decided to bring up an old blog of mine to read through some posts of back when I first started medication to treat my bipolar disorder. Rough doesn't even begin to cover it. I can hardly recognize the words or the person that is writing them. She is not me. She does not think like I think. She doesn't act like I act. She doesn't write like I write. She doesn't live like I live.
She. Is. Not. Me.
It is like watching (reading) a yo-yo. A human-real life yo-yo. I am up and down and doing flips and tricks and I'm here and there and it's so fast that at times it doesn't even make sense. I've read them before. It's been a long time ago. I remember thinking then what I thought this morning. These should really be deleted. But, they never will be. The truth is...these things did happen. These thoughts, whether I wanted to think them or not, were actually thought. The words were really written. Now, they are a real reminder of what I was, what I wasn't and what I now am.
I am not Robin Williams. I am not in his head and I won't even pretend to say I know what he was going through. I will say, though, that I have been in a place so dark...so cold...so alone that I could not see light at the end of my tunnel. It is not something that I can describe to you. I can't talk about it with you or tell you what that place felt like. Why? Because, I'm not there anymore. Unless you are in that place, you can not get it. Even someone who has been there before. It is absolutely impossible to grasp the amount of pain that you feel. It is unbearable. It does feel like there is nothing to live for. It does feel like the world would be better off without you. It does feel like you are the only person in this life. You feel 100% alone. But, even as I type these words, I feel like a cheat. I feel like I have no business saying them because I don't live in that world anymore.
I will say one thing, though. Unless you have been there, unless you have walked even a couple steps in those million pound concrete shoes, shut up. I can't really say that with enough emphasis. You do not get to judge. You do not get to say "How can he do this?" "How could he think his life wasn't worth living for?" You do not get to say "How selfish." You do not get to call him a coward. You do not get to say he took the easy way out. Because until you have been there. Until you have felt that raw, sickening, agonizing pain...until you have had those demons wreck your mind, your body, and your soul, you DO NOT understand and how dare you even try.
I have a tattoo on my arm. It says "Changed." It's a reminder every time I see it that I am not plagued by the darkness any longer. There are days that it still tries to sneak in and rear its ugly head, but it's been years since it's consumed me. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone is able to get out of the fog.
And for those Robin Williams' of the world...to those who can't be touched by the outside, I am sorry. I pray your demons are finally quiet, that your soul has finally found rest, and that you are changed.
Rarely do I sit and stare at a blank screen. Rarely do words escape me for hours on end. And rarely...is that a good thing.
I cried in public today. I cried at my work. I cried at my Optimist Club meeting. I cried on the phone to my mom, to my sister, to my friends. I cried in my car. Four times.
I didn't sleep last night. I was too anxious. I was too nervous. I was awaiting results of PET Scans. Results that had the power to break me. Mentally and emotionally...just break me. I know I wasn't alone in those feelings. I stayed up til late in the night pouring my heart out to a close friend and I know that the pain was there for the both of us.
What can I say that I haven't already? The support that she has been show is beyond words. It's the testament to who she is and what she stands for. I look back over my first blog about her story and I am just torn apart.
Cancer. Cancer in her spine. Cancer in her lungs. Cancer in her liver. Cancer everywhere. Where is one's hope supposed to come from when you read that? I see these pictures of her, I read her texts, I read her Facebook, I talk to her, I eat lunch with her, I take her to chemo and I listen. I listen to her talk and in the past 10 weeks, I have not one time heard her admit defeat. I have not one time heard her want to retreat, throw in the towel, or say "Enough."
She has every right to say anything she wants to. She has every right to scream. To cry. To lash out in a fit of rage and devastation. Yet...she does not. She stands. She commands. She fights.
She always tells me that I am a lion. She says that I come in roaring and people don't know how to take that. She "claims" I have some kind of kitten on the inside, though, and that I just don't let people see that. (And just for the record, she's lying.) Here's the thing, though. If I am a lion, she's a Warrior. The fight that she has put up the last few months has been nothing short of amazing.
When you are tired to the point of seizures and passing out..you are a Warrior. When you spend days of your week sick in a bathroom and you come out with a smile on your face...you are a Warrior. When you choke down chalky disgusting drinks and tell me it's a vanilla smoothie...you are a Warrior. When you spend an entire day on your feet so you can go with your child on her field trip (to the zoo, I might add) the day after your chemo treatment...you are a Warrior. When you stand up in front of hundreds of people and give a speech about all that you have gone through, and you barely shed a tear...you are a Warrior.
When you are told you have cancer in your spine, cancer in your lungs, cancer in your liver, and your response is "I will fight until I have no fight"...you are a warrior.
I may be a lion, but I am no warrior. I am no Karen Lamb.
I got her phone call at 11:21AM, today. When I answered and she was laughing, I thought 2 things. Either she had good news for me, or the worst had happened and she had finally lost her mind. ;)
Fortunately, God is still on his throne and it was the prize behind door number one.
Cancer in the spine: Gone.
Cancer in the lungs: Gone.
Cancer in the liver: Still abnormal and will still be treating it as cancer. (For the record, though, the radiologist never even called it cancer today.)
Just for my own need, I'm gonna type it again. Cancer in the spine and lungs...Gone. As in, not there. No sign. Anywhere.
Now, we can debate all day on how that is possible. We can call it modern medicine. We can call it the asparagus. We can call it anything you want to call it, but I'll tell you what it is. That is nothing short of a miracle. That is nothing but God's hand on this whole entire situation. That is nothing but the power of prayer. That is nothing but Jesus Christ saying to us, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."
"In my distress, I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me." - Psalm 120:1
I cried today. I cried out loud. In fact, I sobbed. In public. And they were giant, overwhelming tears of joy.
The One where Whitney wishes she was somewhere between Monica Gellar and Mother Teresa
We all get bad news.
The dress we wanted doesn't come in our size. The transmission has gone out on the car. The place we were going to have our party at has flooded. You're having twins. (Ha.)
The list goes on and on and on.
These things annoy us. They cause us to get angry, or panic, or stress over finances we may not have, but they don't hit us at the heart. Well, finding out there are two babies coming instead of one will definitely hit you somewhere.
Sometimes, though, we get news that rocks our core. Shakes our hearts. Hits us so hard that we actually stop breathing.
We never forget those days, moments, minutes when we receive news like that. They stay with us. Good or bad, happy or sad, they stay with us.
I will never forget the day that one of my closest friends, Karen, (mother to my sassy little Goddaughter ;)) called to tell me bad news. It's been about 5 years ago now. I was driving on Main Street, passing the Casey's just a few blocks from my house when the actual words escaped her lips. Breast Cancer.
She was living in Oregon at the time, which felt like half a world away. I listened to her fill me in on the details. I listened, but I don't know that I heard. It felt like a slow motion conversation and when all was finished and all of my thousand questions had been answered, she said, "I'm gonna let you go so that you can cry now."
Karen knows me well. She knows that I will be a rock for as long as I have to be a rock. I will be the face of stone, the heart of stone, and the pillar of whatever I need to be the pillar of while I am in front of the class. She knows that in a group setting, I will be the one who has to stay strong. Not because I want to, or because I don't care, but because I just feel like that's my job. But, she knows that when our fingers have pressed "END" and she has no chance of hearing me choke out a sob, that I will break. It's probably the thing I love the most about her, though. I love that she knows I need to break down, and that she knows I need to do it alone. And above all of that, that this is HER pain and HER story that I'm breaking over, yet she let's me break alone anyway. I love that so much about her.
I can't recall a lot of details from that conversation, but I remember her saying "I am gonna beat this."
And beat it, she did.
She whipped that cancer like it was standing still. And she did it stronger and braver than anyone I know. I never heard her cry about it. I never heard her complain about it. I never heard her talk like she was a victim, a loser, or defeated. Because, she simply wasn't.
In no time at all, she was cancer free. And soon, they were back in Sedalia. I have gotten to enjoy her for the last couple of years. Not as much as I should have. Not as much as I would've liked. But, one of my favorite things about our friendship is the fact that we both know we are both tremendously busy people. We know we can't be with each other 24/7. But, we make it to the important things. And, if weeks pass by and we don't talk, it doesn't matter. I don't fret or worry that something has happened or that I am loved any less. We simply pick it right back up.
But, like many big companies do, her husbands job relocated, again. This time to the windy city! I do love Chicago, but I hated to see them go. So, a couple months ago, they packed up and headed out. It's totally sucked. I have missed her so much and, of course, my sassy little Goddaughter, too.
So, like any good Facebook creeper does, I made sure to "Follow" her. I don't want to miss anything. People tend to get lost on my thread. I couldn't let that happen. Recently, I had seen her ask for prayer. Urgent prayer......with no other details. Of course, when you know her history, your mind goes to awful places. And like I would do with any good friend, I said, "What the crap?" I sent this via text pretty late one night. And when she said she couldn't talk about the details, I cried myself to sleep. I just knew that something bad had happened. And I knew it was cancer.
The next day, though, she called to let me know what was really going on. It had nothing at all to do with cancer. It was still a stressful situation, but it didn't rock my core, ya know. She said, she was sorry that she had led me to think about the cancer. She said, "My back has been hurting, though, so I'm gonna get that checked out next week. The oncologist wants to do some scans just to make sure all is well, given my history." She thought she had pulled a muscle. Or had scar tissue from previous surgery. I felt better and kind of ridiculous for crying the night before.
Her scans showed a mass on her spine. And a couple days later she had and MRI and yesterday, the PET scan.
Karen has Cancer. Again.
I've gotta say after I typed that last sentence, my cursor just sat there blinking at me for a long time. What do you say? Not a lot.
I listened to her and her husband tell me the details via phone. And I listened to the plan of attack. I listened to her rattle off game plans, numbers, and thoughts. I listened to the best case scenario, and I listened to the worst. (Tomorrow will tell us if it's in her liver, too.)
I did not hear her cry. I did not hear her choke up. I did not hear her say, "Why me? Why again?"
Instead, I heard, "It's going to be a long road, but we are going to fight this."
So, in my usual fashion, I pressed that red "END" button and I stopped breathing. For just a second, I stopped breathing. I let tears fall down, and I let air escape me. I guess you emotionally normal people would call it sobbing. ;)
And then, I thought about Karen. I thought, 'My gosh! We are talking about KAREN! Karen will not be sitting there sobbing. Karen will SUCK IT UP! And Karen will fight.'
So, good, bad or ugly, she's coming for you! The saying shouldn't be, "Fight like a Girl." The saying should be, "Fight like a MOM!" Because, she's fighting. She is gonna fight like she has 3 kids and a husband that need her. And she isn't going to stop.
But, she needs our help. She needs a wee bit of prayers. OK, so A LOT of prayers. She needs the scan tomorrow to show that this cancer isn't in her liver. We need a small victory in that. And, for whatever reason that it is hardwired into my brain, I feel like I must stand up and fix things! Can I cure cancer? No. Can I even get my own blood drawn without calling my dad crying at the age of almost 30? I refuse to answer that question....
BUT! I have a lot of friends and acquaintances, especially on social media. My mom says it's ridiculous... until she needs something. And, I have a blog. And I feel like I can use it for good. I feel like if no one else ever reads another thing I write, that's fine. Just read this. Read it. Pray. Share it. Pray. Talk about it. Pray. Tell your friends. Pray. Tell your church. Pray. And when that's all over, do it again.
She's a mom to 3. She's a wife. She's a daughter. She's a sister. She's a friend. She's MY BEST friend. She's a child of God.
And she's much too young to be going through all of this. Again.
So Read. Share. Pray. Repeat.
"God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved."- Psalms 46:5
Whitney B. Cromley
Follower of Jesus.