…and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Recently, someone asked me my age. My initial reaction was to claim 35, but I was quickly taken back to realize I will soon be 37! Thirty-seven?!! I was barely 35 when I was diagnosed with cancer, and these last two years flew by in a blur for me. In some ways, I feel cheated out of so much.
There have been countless changes, many good things, but also many losses.
Life kept going. My kids have grown and changed so much. They’ve blossomed and found new interests, new hobbies, new friends, and grown in independence.
These last few months, my heart has continually faced the losses, and it has been painfully hard. I know that people expect someone who survives cancer to be so grateful for their life, as if they got the winning lottery ticket or something. But the reality is, life after cancer is downright challenging. There are so many hurdles to overcome and many valleys of grief one still has to walk through. Life after treatment is just a different level of survival.
I am not quite back to normal. Far from it. Daily, I meet the most frustrating limitations, and it is easy to become really discouraged with how far I have to go. My energy has remained lower than I would like, which makes normal everyday life way more challenging than it should be. I had no idea that trying to step back into life would be so freakishly hard. I wasn’t expecting life not to fit me the same as it did before, for me not to fit. I miss me. I’ve talked with a few cancer survivors and was both dismayed and encouraged to realize I was not alone in these feelings.
Please do not get me wrong, I AM grateful to be alive. Very.
But this life is way different than what I expected. There is a lot to reconcile, and a multitude of losses to grieve. I have never been good at grieving. The temptation to stuff things and just go on while never really dealing with it runs deep in me. I often sport a just “grin and bear it” mentality.
There’s the more personal and emotional aspect of all this, dealing with the changes my body has undergone, which is too vulnerable for me to elaborate on at this point. I am not okay with these changes. I know that at some point, I will have to be. But, today, I am not there. Not yet.
I am grateful for James, who is more of a “the glass is half full” kind of guy, continually reminding me how far I’ve come and encouraging me to keep going. He helps balance me out with his loving support and kindness.
I am also really grateful for friends who continue to encourage me and offer words of wisdom and truth. After I painfully shared some of my grieving heart with a dear friend, she gently, yet passionately reminded me of the beauty the Lord is bringing about in me. Beauty that in my grief, I am blind to. But, she said something so sweet, about how God was making me a new skin.
The pain in getting that skin has been, and is still, great. But the hope of newness… that is priceless and sweet. It is a hope I can carry around with me, even though I am not able to see the beauty at this point.
The following scripture has been displayed in my bathroom for the last month. Each time I’ve read it, I’ve experienced a mixture of emotions. But, oh, how I want this:
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (tender hearts of love for your God). Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20
*Sigh. Yes, this I want.
I can rest in this hope. The hope that He can, and He is renewing me. Although I am powerless to do such a thing, He isn’t!
This year, I pray that He will give each of us a new heart! May we come to know Him with a new heart and new spirit!
Happy New Year!