Saturday, February 11, 2017

I'm Sure It's Nothing

I felt the tiny lump late at night when I was reading in bed. I wasn't alarmed, thinking it was so small that I was probably imagining it. I was so unworried that I didn't remember it until the next afternoon when I was preparing to shower. I had to lay on the bed to find it again.

After my shower, I called the doctor but the office was closed. I told my sister about the tiny lump that night, repeatedly saying, "I'm sure it's nothing." I chuckled when she responded, "Are you trying to convince me or you?!"

First thing the next morning, I called the doctor and made an appointment for two days later. Two days isn't very long, right?. And, truly, I wasn't feeling any fear or anxiety about this. The only reason I told three of my close friends is because we had a lunch date that had to be cancelled because the doctor appointment was at the same time. I didn't tell them because I was worried; I told them because I'm practical.

Later that day, I told Dan about it during a phone call. Again, no fear. No anxiety. That night, I asked him to feel the lump. Every time I've gone to feel the lump, I keep expecting it be gone as if it were a fluke and I made a silly mistake.

With Dan's words, "I feel it," the small dyke holding back Anxiety was breached and the sludge of fear began trickling out.

Today is the between day. It's the day between the "I feel it" confirmation from Dan and the day before my doctor's visit. I hope tomorrow is a "Nope, you're good. There's nothing to worry about" kind of day.

But what if it isn't?

What If is a hope stealer, a thief of monumental proportions (mostly because I give him monumental access). What If is the red carpet invitation for doubts to parade into my mind and stick out their tongue at my faith.

I combat What If by silently repeating, "I'm sure it's nothing" inside my head. It's on repeat: "I'm sure it's nothing. I'm sure it's nothing. I'm sure it's nothing. I'm sure it's nothing." Until What If's quiet whisper pricks my ears:

"What if it's something?"

Am I in the best health of my life, able to fight at a moment's notice? No. You don't get a training calendar to prepare for cancers. When a diagnosis comes, you realize your training calendar was all the non-training days leading up to That Day... and no one told you That Day would become race day. So am I ready, if it is something? No. Hell, no.

And could it really be something? What are the chances? Aaah, that's when What If scores a major victory! My brother and father both died from cancer. My mom's death was a result of multiple complications, and doctors suspected breast and/or ovarian cancer. Her mom had breast cancer, too.

Can you hear the high-pitched whine in my head at this very moment? What If has turned up the heat and Anxiety is now squealing like a stove top tea kettle. Eeeeeeeeeeeee...

I forcefully (metaphorically) place my hands on Anxiety's shoulders and shake her back to reality. While she stands there stunned, I punch What If in the face and shout for him to get the hell out of my head.

I remember one of my favorite lines from the movie Big Fish, when the main character says, "That's not how I die."

I deliberately and intentionally choose to turn my face from the wreckage Anxiety created when she paid so much attention to What If (poor, sweet Anxiety - bless her heart!), and fix my gaze on the One - the only One - who has beaten the tar out of What If and lived to tell about it.

The One stands in defense of me, in defiance of loss and death and disease and endings. This One is the one who makes all things new, and turns endings into beginnings. He's the One who tells me I have hope instead of despair, and I'm not crazy to look for light in the darkness.

The One takes What If and transforms him into EVEN IF. The One is my Savior, my Redeemer, my Jesus Christ.

Only He can take the despair What If is so good at making and turn it into a faith-building, hope-festering, strength-infusing moment of delight and joy. What If loses his power, his might, and his manipulating bullying in the face of Jesus's EVEN IF.

Nothing can withstand EVEN IF.

"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18 NASB, emphasis mine)

FOLLOW UP: I wrote this post on Thursday, February 9. I saw the doctor on Friday, February 10. I praise God for a calm, kind, and compassionate doctor who gave me good news that the lump seems to be a normal nodule and there are no worries.

So should I publish this post, if the news turned out to be a non-issue and there wasn't even a blip on the radar? Yes, I'm publishing it anyway. Maybe there's someone else being attacked by What If, and this post will remind you to focus on the EVEN IF God who sees you and never leaves you.

I'm also publishing this in case there comes a day when I need to revisit what I wrote because I've allowed fear to get a leg up on my faith. EVEN IF no one else gets anything out of this post, that's okay. It isn't for you anyway - it's for me and my family, and it's a record of how we've spent the days of our lives pursuing hope instead of fear.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent

If the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" is true, then I'd like to take it a step further and say it takes a child to raise a parent.

When Dan and I decided it was time to start building a family, I don't think we were quite aware of what we had in store. (Is anyone ever?)

I envisioned a cooing baby, cuddly blankets, and fuzzy ducks. That vision dissolved about four days in to motherhood, when I realized parenting looked a lot more like sleepless nights, a sore body, and more extreme highs and lows than a Six Flags roller coaster.

To say parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done is an understatement. I've never had to be more on my game with less resources (sleep, patience, or elbow grease) for this length of time with this much focus on end results. I've never wanted to quit anything else in my life as often as I've wanted to quit parenting, and I've never questioned my strengths and weaknesses to this extent.

Parenting is a butt kicker!

In the midst of a butt kicking, a moment of clarity often sneaks up on me and I remember parenting is the single most noble responsibility I've ever had in my short/long life. Nothing else has refined me or defined me like parenting has. It is a painful blessing that constantly brings me to the end of myself and drives me into the arms of my Savior.

If I could talk to the pre-pregnancy Elizabeth of 2002, I would tell her to let go of the baby-coo-cuddly-blankie-fuzzy-duck fantasies and cling tightly to her faith, her husband, and her seat belt because parenting is about to up-end her life. I would tell her parenting is:

Digging deep into your reserves and finding a measure of happiness in the morning when you are NOT a morning person and hate being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6am. Positive parenting means dying to your flesh and not biting your kids' heads off even when they are cackling and over their breakfast smoothies and driving you crazy.

Walking your youngest to the bus stop every morning, stealing a quick kiss as the bus arrives, and reminding him to wipe his mouth. Patient parenting means giving the reminder Every. Single. Day! if necessary, and doing it without the exasperation you so badly want to express.

Building a fabulous tree house the kids never use because they dreamed about camping in the backyard but decided bugs aren't worth the overnight. Gracious parenting means not holding it over their heads and being willing to play in the tree house with them anyway.

Standing on the driveway and hearing your oldest cough as she walks to the bus, wondering if she's ready to return to school after a sick day. Confident parenting means trusting the ibuprofen and antibiotics to do their jobs.

Having coffee with the parent of your kid's friend so you can wrestle through worries about your kids' growth and find the balance between faith and fear. Faithful parenting means remembering God loved our babies before we ever could, knowing He has a plan for their lives that we may never see come to fruition (at least not in our lifetimes), and trusting in His plan more than our own dreams.

Trying to stay one half step ahead of the changing landscape in your child's world that includes new technology and ancient math techniques and spelling words and Pokemon characters and sports teams and wavering loyalty to best friends. Strategic parenting means discerning which obstacles in the changing landscape are worth an intervention and which ones are simple distractions that don't ultimately affect the end game.

Moving forward with an appointment you know is crucial for developing your teen's confidence and character, even though she begs you to not make her do this one thing. Steadfast parenting means getting out of the car amidst your child's protest, ringing the doorbell, and standing beside her while an expert teaches techniques to enhance her natural beauty.

Planning donut dates and getting up early with your kid on a Saturday morning, when you'd rather sleep late. Energetic parenting means sharing your newspaper ritual because your child just wants to be close to you and do the things you do.

Cracking jokes and starting tickle fights because SOMEONE needs to lighten the mood in the house. Joyful parenting means seeking out moments of whimsy because memories are made when we're laughing together and finding adventure wherever the wind blows us.

Saying yes, finally, to that dog she's been asking for since her preschool days. Generous parenting means granting wishes every now and then, and making the desires of your child's heart become reality (and it also means loving that dog as much as she loves him, too).

Calling a counselor when you see signs of the very same struggle you had at that very same age, realizing you aren't an expert and there's no shame in asking for professional help. Hopeful parenting means letting go of the guilt you heap on your own shoulders (wondering if you're to blame for your child's struggle) and hopeful parenting sees the wisdom God had in giving that kid to THIS parent because THIS parent is one of the few who would understand the struggle and could share the experience like no one else.

Being needed for the routines of life in a busy household: making the meals, folding the laundry, morning wakings and bedtime snuggles, signing the school papers, going to PTO/Scout/fundraiser meetings, volunteering, and remembering which yogurt is the favorite when you're standing in the grocery aisle (the one without chunks). Sacrificial parenting means the kids won't be able to return the favor and you may never see the investment pay dividends, but you do it anyway simply because it was done for you.

Taking joy in your child's triumphs and successes, but not taking the credit because you know you're only a stone's throw away from failure and hard life lessons. Wise parenting means praying for protection from pain while simultaneously asking God for a tiny, manageable bit of loss because you know loss is what grows your kids' maturity.

Looking like a complete fool when you're the only one wearing a superhero costume to the school's family fun night, or you plan a family picnic beside a stream that ends up being full of runoff from a nearby sewage treatment plant. Resilient parenting means laughing at yourself, saying "Oops," and - literally - going with the flow.

Nagging them to empty the dishwasher or clean their bedroom until their conscience takes over the task. Responsible parenting means working myself out of my job as I teach my kids to take care of themselves so one day they actually can.

Modeling surrender to God's call on your life so your kids will see how faith's whispers are somehow louder than fear's shouts. Submissive parenting means you're a family leader only because you first learned to be a follower of Jesus, knowing you can't lead well unless you've learned how to follow first.

Putting your hand on your heart and singing the National Anthem when no one else is doing it because you know it's the right thing to do and you want your kids to learn what duty and honor look like. Honorable parenting means showing respect to the people who lead us, those who have sacrificed for us, and pursuing liberty for people who can't fight for themselves.

Modeling vulnerability, admitting your mistakes, and asking forgiveness when you've caused pain to someone else. Humble parenting means apologizing (especially to your kids) when you've been less than your best.

Parenting is being intentional about setting yourself aside for the growth and well-being of another human being. It's the hardest job I've ever had, but I'm grateful for my two trainers named Katie and Jackson.

They are making me better at it every single day.


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