Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Breast Cancer

My girlfriend had a mastectomy today for breast CA. She's 35. I can't imagine being told that the pain you felt (and reported) for over a year, the mass that you felt on the underside of your breast was CA. The day she told me I was dropping off some fresh herbs from my garden (because who has the time to cook with fresh basil when you're chasing a toodler and a newborn?!?!). And she said, "I have some bad news. I have breast cancer." You could have knocked me over with a feather. Since I work at a cancer institute I was an instant team member in her new battle. I spoke with the docs, relayed information about intractable nausea, history, etc, called my co-workers in the recovery room and gave them a heads up. And I prayed. For what, I'm not exactly sure, but I thought about, and prayed about her for weeks.

I was praying for her in the middle of last night when I was breastfeeding, asking God for any amount of miracle that He would see fit to pass her way. I've thought several times about the special people I've known with CA. It dawned on me that I haven't known any of them before their diagnosis, only after, so the experiences, the changes and failing that I went through with them was not unexpected. This woman has only been healthy since I've known her ~ what would happen if I were to have to go through the deep waters with her? What if she was terminal? How would I feel about my calling then? I believe that I'm called to work with the dying and the suffering, but there's a safety in it when you minister to the one in the bed in the ICU, not an established friend on the outside who was blind-sided by CA. And for the first time in a long time, I felt my limits and I was afraid.

I ran up to see her once I thought she'd be out of surgery. She was in her room; I was her first visitor. She looked fantastic. She felt good ~ and her lymph nodes were negative! When she said that I threw my hand over my mouth and cried! All I could think was,"Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you." And then she grinned and said, "Hey, we can do Tamoxifen, right? No problem." And I was thinking, Friend, if radiation and chemo are all we have to go through, then you're right. No problem!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Us Posted by Hello

My Husband

I remember the summer I became "okay" with the idea that I may never marry. I'd dated a few guys, pretty much losers on a spectrum of bad to worse. I was usually hurt when we broke up, but deep within I knew it was better than the alternative ~ staying with a loser. My mom has this great saying ~ "There's only one thing worse than being alone for the rest of your life..." and then she looks at you. Yes, the one thing worse is being with the wrong guy. I was convinced that God didn't have anyone out there who could complete me. And that summer I was okay with that.

Then I went back to college for my junior year, and this great guy (a man I'd admired from a distance for a long time) became a really good friend of mine under very natural circumstances. We spent many, many evenings playing racquetball and talking, joking, sharing... and gosh, he was really cute... but I was ok being single. It wasn't working though, all my self-talk. I really was nuts about him, but in a very healthy sort of way, and if anything, I really loved our friendship. Then came the night he asked me to go for a walk on a frosty Indiana November evening. I thought, "Uh-oh. Here it comes. He's either going to tell me he's gay, or he wants to date my little sister (who was quite popular on campus). The ol' 'sister in Christ' bit." But he wow-ed me when he, very diplomatically of course, asked if a woman like me would consider dating a guy like him. Those were almost his exact words. So careful. I responded by tucking my mouth down into my winter jacket so he couldn't see my expression. I was grinning from ear to ear thinking, "I've got him! I've really got him!" But the reality was, he had me. And to this day he still does.

I decided when I married that I would be my husband's biggest fan--that I would defend and protect our relationship with fierceness and passion. Not because he's mine to control or "have," but because he is the most precious of possessions to me. And I decided I would adore him, not in a PollyAnna sort of way , one that winks at weakness and panders to insecurities, but in a way that believes and communicates, "You are a great man. God has created you for big things, and I am privileged to be your helper." Marriage to Matt isn't full of rainbows and butterflies; we do have those moments. But when you're walking in the presence of a man with whom you know God speaks and leads, you are secure. I may not know what the details of tomorrow are, but I am confident in my husband's love. I may not know the plan for our life, but I am steadied because the captain of the ship is a great man of faith and skill. One of the best parts about Matt is that he's constantly working to improve our marriage. I tell him what I need, and I get it. I need more presents. *poof* I need more foot rubs. *poof* I need more of your attention at home. *poof* He is always willing to grow. Having a husband like him fortifies me and allows me to become that which God is calling me to. And when God speaks to the Church in His Word in terms of marriage,and being her Husband, I am able to think, "Yes, our God must be like my Matthew."

Husband, I love you deeply. You are a fantastic friend, father, and lover. I rejoice as the one that God chose to complete you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I always enjoyed having you around.

My mom was visiting a while ago. She was having a good time watching Izak chase me and the vacuum around the house. He was flipping the switch off every time he got within reach. I would have to stop, and pretend groan "Oh no! Please turn it on again!" to which he would laugh, flip it on, let me sweep another 2 feet and turn it off again. On and off, on and off, for as long as it took me to collect the Newfoundland's hair balls from the nooks and crannies. Mom was laughing as she looked on, and then she said one of the most powerful things I've ever heard her say about her parenting experience,

"I always enjoyed having you girls around when you were little."

Really, Mom? Always? You had those years of fun and frustration, but still, you enjoyed us? Not a day has gone by that I don't think about that phrase... I always enjoyed having you around. Those words are a blessing to me. They now give me permission to relax and revel in this funny little times with my two under 2. The times when both Libby and Izak are crying, and I don't have enough arms to comfort them and I'm about to burst into tears too, I hear, "I always enjoyed having you around...". When Izak insists on blowing bubbles for 45 minutes straight, or obsessing about the neighbor's wheelbarrow turned upside down on his wood pile, exposing the precious, inviting wheel ~ look how it keeps going around and around! And when we're reading the book for the sixth time in a row, like he's never heard it before... something whispers "I always enjoyed having you around." At 4 a.m. when I'm nursing Liberty, half-asleep and she looks up and grins, or better yet, when she would cry from 1-3 a.m., sweaty from the pain of colic, down deep inside me I could feel the soothing words... "I always enjoyed you." When Izak cleans out my kitchen cupboards and drawers onto the floor, when I'm wiping ravioli off the window, when Libby fills her cloth diaper with poop, when I touch their skin and smell their hair, and change over the clothes because they've outgrown the last batch... "I always enjoyed having you around."

In the Old Testament fathers would often lay hands on the head of their oldest son and give them a blessing regarding their future. That sunny day in my living room I might as well have been kneeling before you, Mom, as you said those words because they have so profoundly enriched this destiny that God has called me to. I love you. Thank you.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

You're a mom when...

You're a mom when you're at the county fair, surrounded by barns with hundreds upon hundreds of cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, ducks, horses, goats, sheep, dirty hay --

And you can smell your son's poopy diaper.

Monday, August 16, 2004


Well, we're one week after the family's big visit for Libby's dedication. Saturday my mom, dad, and sister surprised me when they just showed up at the house!!! I was floored. Dad had made a snap decision on Thursday to try to make the trip, mom jumped into action to set up care for Grandma (96 years old and not a very good traveler), and they made it!! It was a blast to have my folks there too. I was completely unprepared for 7 visitors, let alone 10, but Dad dashed off to the grocery store the minute he got here and all was well.

We FEASTED for two days straight. Meals were bursting with choices ~ grilled chicken marinated in the local sauce of choice, Chiavetta's, burgers, fresh corn on the cob, hot dogs, munchies, fresh fruit from Michigan, homemade poppyseed cake (from scratch, an Old Country recipe from my gram), and lots of kosher pickles. I had an awesome time helping to serve my family and my family-in-law. It always surprises me how nicely our two families fit together. In one sense, it's like they've know each other a long, long time, longer than the 12 years matt and I have been together. Matt's dad was in the area of special education, and Matt's sister, Sarah, is a special ed. teacher, so they are all confortable with Stephanie. Matt's step-dad, Birt, was a music minister and I think that could've been my dad's second calling in life. The Bennetts are musical to the core. Both moms are RNs. Suzy has a flair for entertaining so effortlessly, and it seems like that's all we did while I was growing up ~ entertain tons of people. Even with the similarities, I think that the shared foundation of Christ and His work in our lives is the biggest common denominator. All of us know God personally, even the cousins, so we are , in essence, all brothers and sisters of the larger spiritual family.

Saturday and Sunday I was back on worship team, helping lead our 2000 member congregation in music. What a blast to stand up front and hear their voices blend in song. I am always blessed to look into the faces of the hundreds of folks, whose stories I've come to know and love, and watch them sing with all their might. Yes, this is their testimony! And see the hands lift up, especially when there's a particularly poignant line that has been a part of their specific journey. It's a gift. And while I'm leading I, too, am striving to communicate that these songs are my testimony as well, not just empty words. Each time I lead or solo, I take the time to meditate on, and own each song I sing. I believe that if you can't bear witness to the things you're singing, you shouldn't sing. That doesn't mean that if you're struggling with surrender, or contentment, or belief that you can't lead. But transparency and integrity means that you are wrestling to reconcile the words with your life. When I knew that God was calling me to have children, it was the act of owning the worship songs that said, "I give my whole life to you...I will follow you... I surrender.." that kept the proverbial thumb in my back to work towards whole-hearted obedience. And the peace that I had, especially while I was leading worship pregnant with Izak, I will never forget.

"What can I say, here in Your presence? I am undone, here in Your presence. You are God, I am Yours."

Thursday, August 05, 2004


Michigan family is on the way!!! My bro- and sis-in-law, their 3 boys, and Matt's parents are making the trek to see the youngest cousin. We're going to have a great time! This weekend we are dedicating Liberty to God. She will be 8 weeks and 5 days old. She will wear the ecru dedication gown, hat, and booties that my mom crocheted as an heirloom for our family. (I still have to sew the rosettes back on - they were removed for big brother). The service (and this was all Matt's idea) will be officiated by all women. They will speak, pray, and read scripture about godly womanhood. Best of all, they are living examples of outstanding women that I want Liberty to know and love. When my reflection of God is innaccurate or wharped, may she find the truth about being a daughter of the King in the women I keep in my inner circle. And may she be protected from the ones I keep in the outer circle.

I am trying to prepare myself for the sensory overload of visitors. It doesn't take much, especially when you're 1) an introvert and 2) sleep-deprived. I live life with a great deal of censorship and that requires a bit of margin. I think carefully about responses and try to monitor myself a majority of the time. It doesn't mean I'm disingenuine, just calculated. There are very few people with whom I can lift off the screen and let myself be unplugged. There's a time and a place for that, primarily with my small group ~ the Musielaks and the Gobles ~ and a few other friends. There is a balance between censorship and being totally candid. People exercising the extremes of both should, in my opinion, be avoided. But for me, I trend towards censorship. Probably out of a need for control, or image management. Something vain like that. But I'm also reminded of a saying that hung on my RD's refrigerator that inferred that the better you know someone, the greater care and courtesy you should extend to them. Now I'm not saying that shooting from the hip brings with it rudeness or meanness, but it can unintentionally if you're not careful. Which then brings you back to censorship. Lol. I'm too tired to talk about stuff like this with any coherence.

So Libby will be dedicated on Sunday, and that afternoon we will have cake. I'm planning on 30-40 people, and for once it looks like we may be able to have the party outside in the sun!

I'm running out of cogent thoughts. Two of my friends have been diagnosed with cancer in the last two weeks. More on that another time, I'm sure.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Morning walks

I used to look forward to my morning walks with Izak. It was a great way to blow an hour or so while waiting for his afternoon nap to roll around, I could get some fresh air, Sailor could get rid of some of her energy and keep her nails filed down. But then Libby came and has made it abundantly clear that she does not like morning walks! First she starts by grumbling in the car seat. When I put her pacifier in she sucks on it with an angry look (the scowl she has is all Matt!), her little fists clenched. So I pull a blanket over her to block out the light (and make me forget that I'm at fault for dragging this poor kid out of her nap for an overstimulating walk). Meanwhile, Izak has decided that yes, he should kick the foot rest of the stroller with great force, bouncing the whole set-up with a steady rhythm. Under the cover the grumbling increases to a howl. Then Izak eggs her on by imitating the cry, bumping the volume up a notch. Then I turn around on my route and head home, foiled, discouraged, and accompanied by the waaaaaa-mbulance of crying children. So much for my morning walks.

It's better if I just stay at home and make sure Libby gets a good nap, or four good naps, in a nice quiet, dark room. Actually, this is a cornerstone of my philosophy to encourage healthy sleep. Be home for naptime(s). Have naps happen in the familiar environment of a room and crib with minimal noise. Strive for early bedtimes with bedrock routines. Do not push for a later bedtime in hopes that the baby will sleep in later (because you will more than likely get an earlier wake-up). All of my sleep beliefs have been formed by the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc. Weissbluth. Fantastic research, right on the money as far as his findings for the various age groups. MW sites our mentality of needing to be "on the go" as a major culprit in raising sleep deprived, crabby, inattentive kids. The whole notion of "if he's tired he'll sleep" is something I avoid at all costs. In my particular situation, to push the kids to play along with my perceived need to be on the go would be selfish. I do not have to be anywhere or go anywhere that is paramount to their needs for a good nap. I am delighted to take care of well-rested babies. I am tortured when I've had to care for stressed-out, crabby babies. If I have to go somewhere then I try to schedule it during naptime and arrange for a babysitter. I know that I'm a frustration to my friends who were hoping for another playmate when I became a SAHM. I refuse to push my kids to play when I know they should be sleeping, and as MW puts it, "sleep begets sleep". The more rested a child is, the more he'll be able to rest.

I was beginning to see more of people and accomplish more daytime errands when Izak dropped his morning nap around 14 months of age. It really was fun, going and doing more. But now Liberty has reminded me that babies need to sleep (almost around the clock), and my main job for now is to protect that need ~ even if it means no more morning walks.

So amidst the daily awareness that I may grow chubby, sluggish and low-toned, I am reminded that the nature of motherhood is bittersweet sacrifice.