An Open Letter to Cancer


Dear cancer,

Thank you.

Not for the terrible disease that you are. Not for the pain that you bring to so many individuals and families. Not for taking away precious weeks that I should have been spending enjoying my newlywed life. Not for the sleepless nights or the countless tears shed. Not for the feelings of helplessness or confusion. Not for the many hours spent in hospital rooms. Not for the emotional toll you take on the lives of those affected by you, or for the nasty way you cause physical pain to your victims.

Thank you.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to love more deeply. Thank you for drawing my family close together during a hard time. Thank you for the community of other cancer victims and their families that you have introduced me to and allowed me to garner support from and provide encouragement to. Thank you for reminding me to put all of my trust in God. Thank you for allowing me to feel God’s comfort and peace in a new way. Thank you for showing me how to count my blessings in the midst of suffering, and for teaching me to choose my family and my faith over my own conveniences or desires. Thank you for teaching me to focus on the positive and for teaching me how to be strong in the face of adversity.

Thank you for showing me what love in a marriage is – it is standing by each other’s side on the ugliest of days, the hardest of days, and the best of days. It’s clinging to each other when you don’t know what else to do, and never taking a day that you have for granted. It’s embracing his pain as my own and working together to overcome something difficult. It truly is “in sickness and in health, til death do us part.”

Thank you for reminding me how amazing my friends and family are. From meals to hanging out to prayers, our friends and family have proven to be incredible people. And my God has reminded me how faithful He is. And those are things you can never take away from us. No matter how many times you bare your ugly teeth.

Cancer – thank you for the good things you brought to my life. But don’t take this as an open invitation to ever make yourself comfortable in my life or my loved ones’ lives again.  I can thank you, but it doesn’t mean I have to like you.

 

(disclaimer: everyone in my family is fine right now. Just using this as an outlet to express some thoughts)

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Scars


Praise God we don’t have to hide scars
They just strengthen our wounds, and they soften our hearts.
They remind us of where we have been, but not who we are
So praise God, praise God we don’t have to hide scars

These are lyrics from Jonny Diaz’s song, Scars. There’s a very good chance that I’ve written about this topic before, but hey – there are no rules saying I can’t talk about the same thing twice. This is my blog, after all.

Self-image is something I struggle with, and it’s not an easy thing to admit. I’ve dealt with skin issues for the last 8 years that have left scars on my body, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about them and wonder what I would look like or how I would feel about myself without them. Most of them don’t bother me anymore since I’ve come to accept most of them as a permanent part of me, but anytime I get a new one it takes a very long time to get to the acceptance phase. And sure, I worry about my hair and my body and all of that too, like most girls, but for the most part it’s my skin that consumes my thoughts. And it’s made worse by the fact that doctors don’t really know what’s wrong with me – name the cream or pill and I’ve probably tried it.

The good thing about scars, like the song says, is that they don’t “remind us of who we are”, and they certainly don’t define us. The song focuses a lot on emotional scars and how they strengthen us, but I think physical scars can do the same thing. They may not physically strengthen us, but they can emotionally strengthen us.  I remind myself every day that I’m beautiful in God’s image (and my boyfriend seems to agree), and having the scars forces me to focus on this truth more than I would have to if my skin was flawless. I am constantly reminded that God looks at the heart, and not at my physical imperfections. Sure, my heart isn’t perfect either, but sometimes I forget to focus more on making my heart and my mind healthy and beautiful because I’m so consumed with my outward flaws. So in that sense, I can not only know that I’m beautiful in God’s eyes, but I can also be reminded to make sure that I’m keeping my heart clean and healthy and beautiful as well.

While I still wish they were gone, I am learning to thank God that I don’t have to hide my scars, because I am not my scars. I have scars, I always will have scars, but they don’t define who I am as a person. Scars won’t keep me from loving people, serving people, serving God, or going out and enjoying all that life has to offer. The scars remind me of the physical and emotional pain I’ve gone through, but every day I can wake up knowing that I’m beautiful and I have a loving God who looks beyond them and sees me for who I truly am. And while not all people will do the same, I know that I am surrounded by friends and family who truly know me and who love and accept me regardless of what I look like.

To end, scars are not only reminders of what we have been through, but scars are what have healed me and saved my life. My savior has scars, and He took them upon himself so that I might live.

There once was a King who so burdened with grief
Walked into death so that we could find peace
He rose up with scars on his hands and his feet
By them we are healed, by them we are healed.

Counting my blessings


This week I somehow came down with a staph infection, on my face.  Staph infections are never pleasant, but having it on my face left me incredibly self-conscious and really down all week (because it’s not exactly pretty!).  Today I went for a run like I do almost every Saturday morning, and I realized that I’ve been so down and upset over this skin-deep blemish on my face that I have overlooked every other blessing in my life.  I’ve been too focused on the negative and not enough on the positive.  So I decided to stop and take a moment to count the blessings in my life, and I felt like sharing some of them here.  And while my infection is still bothersome, at least I can know that it is only temporary and there is so much more to me than a spot on my face.

  • I’m blessed with an amazing education at an amazing school in an amazing city
  • I get to play with Moon rocks. I mean, come on. That’s pretty cool.
  • I have family and friends who love and support me, even when I make mistakes (or complain too much that my face hurts!)
  • I am otherwise very healthy – I have two arms, two legs, functioning eyes and ears, and I can go for long runs in the park on beautiful spring days
  • I have a roof over my head and plenty of food in my pantry
  • I have a great church and a great church family
  • I met this wonderful guy back in November who has been one of the most encouraging and supportive people I’ve ever known, and he still thinks I’m beautiful.
  • I have a family to hang out with this Easter (the boyfriend’s family) – always a blessing since I haven’t spent an Easter with my own parents since high school
  • I have a dog who loves me on my good days and my bad days

There are many more I could list, but I think you get the point 🙂

Happy Easter everyone!

Aside

Living For Now


“We are always getting ready to live but never living.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m a busy person. I have always thrived on having a lot of things to do and participate in.  I have also always been a goal-setter – I need something to be working towards.  I love the feeling of accomplishing something I set out to do. I love the adventure that comes with pursuing dreams and goals that may seem too lofty to some. I love encouraging people to go for their dreams, to set high goals and work towards them ,and to never be discouraged. 

I have found myself very focused on how my every day tasks and decisions will affect my future.  I’m always preparing for the next chapter or big event in my life. I am going to graduate in a year and a half, and I need/want a job. I am constantly finding ways to improve my chances of getting the best and most enjoyable job possible.  Who should I network with?  What causes do I need to be invested in?  What extra tasks can I accomplish to set me apart from other job candidates?

Even while I’m preparing myself for my future job, I’m thinking about how that future job could lead me towards my ultimate goal: becoming an astronaut.  What kind of attitude do I need to have? What skills do I need to add to my skill set? What is my plan in case I’m not selected? And then while I’m thinking about all of the things I need to do to become an astronaut (get my Ph.D., get SCUBA certified, exercise, etc.), I’m thinking about what I will do when that part of my life is over.  I want to work in a management office and help select and train the future generation of astronauts.  What do I need to do to get to that point?

Then there’s the non-career part of my life.  What about my family? What do I need to do now to learn how to be the best wife, mother, grandmother, friend?  How will my career choices affect the people closest to me? What kind of financial choices do I need to make now in order to support myself and my children? How can I balance career and personal life?  How can I serve my church and community all while being an employed wife and mother?  These are the questions that are always in my mind.  These are the things I live for.

But there’s one thing I haven’t been living for enough: right now.  I have found myself so focused on preparing for the next thing in life, that I often miss what is happening to me in this moment.  Who are the people around me now?  Who should I be serving now?  What great opportunities and memories am I missing out on because I’m so focused on making sure my future is solid? 

I am not saying that preparing for the future or thinking about the future is bad.  I still plan to make choices and decisions that will hopefully positively influence my future career and my personal life.  But I want to spend more time focusing on the people and events around me right now.  God has blessed me with a great family, great friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a great grad school program, and He has always provided for me.  I know I can trust Him with my future while still enjoying my present.  I want to learn to live, rather than spending all of my time preparing to live.  And I want to learn to slow down.  Enjoy life.  Because we honestly can’t control the future, and we never know what it truly holds.

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”
― Bill Watterson

On Being Single…and happy.


Alright, let’s talk.  I’m 26 and single – and I get asked the question “are you ok?” in regards to my singleness quite often.  Yes, most of my friends are married or are getting married.  But believe it or not, I am truly happy for them.  I don’t feel “left out” or jealous or depressed.  I don’t sit in the back row at the ceremony sulking in self-pity and wishing that I was the one in a beautiful white dress getting married to my prince.  I don’t see engagement notifications on facebook and get angry and think about unfriending the happy couple because it’s “just not fair.”  Sometimes I don’t even notice when I’m the only single person in a group of my married friends!  Which says a lot for my married friends too – I appreciate the ones who don’t let marriage stop them from occasionally hanging out with their single friends.  Because trust me, single people need examples of good, healthy, strong marriages, and we actually like hanging out with married people!  That’s a message for another blog post though.

Don’t get me wrong, I very much want to get married, and I very much don’t want to be a whole lot older when it happens. And sure, there are some nights when I’m lonely and wish I had a male companion other than my dog to share my day with.  But I don’t sulk in those moments or let those desires drive me to settle for someone who is only half-decent or who only sometimes thinks about treating me like a princess.  Some people say my standards are too high or that I’m too picky – but I don’t think it’s wrong to think I deserve someone who treats me right and who I would actually enjoy spending the rest of my life with.

I know that often times the “are you OK with being the only single person in your friend group?” question is often asked in innocence and not meant to be hurtful, but I do ask that if you are thinking about asking someone that, pause and think about how it might make them feel. I’m sure most single people are aware that they are single, but that doesn’t mean that we are unhappy being invited to weddings/baby showers/etc.  And sometimes it’s the question itself that gets us upset, because now we feel like people are concerned for us or feeling bad for us when they have no reason to.  And please stop acting surprised when the response is “I’m perfectly happy for this set of friends and their new life together” – because that statement is usually 100% true and not a cover-up for self-pity.

I’m not going to use this post to ramble on about what I want in a guy, or complain about why I don’t have a knight in shining armor on my front doorstep – this isn’t an advertisement to say “hey! I’m single!” – it’s just a rant about my thoughts, because that’s what my blog is for.  I’m happy waiting as long as God wants me to for the right person.  I’ve trusted him for the first 26 years of my life and that has gone pretty well, so I’ll wait another 26 if that’s what it takes to find the person who will treat me like a godly man should treat a woman.

Rant over.

Rest


I realize it has been over a year and a half since I last updated this, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I’ve realized I best express my thoughts when I write them down.  That and it always makes me feel better.  So I’m going to try to blog occasionally again. I’ll write about exciting life events, as well as thoughts that I might be having on that particular day.

This week was a bit rough, but I’ve had to re-learn what it means to trust and rest in God.  Sometimes I think God puts circumstances in our life just to make us see that we need to lean on Him and rest in the peace He gives.  Making hard decisions is a lot easier when you have prayed and can rest in the peace that only God can provide. Oh, and when you have awesome family and friends to provide support, encouragement, and prayers.

I’m starting up Year 4 of grad school next week – goodness, where has the time gone?! Right now I’m on track to graduate with my Ph.D. in ~May 2015, and I plan to keep it that way!  I love grad school and have been very thankful for this experience, but I’m also ready to move on to the next thing in life (aka, a job!).  Being a student can be tough at times, because life is constantly changing.  New friends are made, old friends move away, classes and responsibilities change, moving happens way too frequently, there’s always a window of “I’ll be leaving this place in X number of years”, etc.  I love being a student because I love learning, but I’m ready to settle down.  I’ve watched many close friends move on to the next chapter of their lives, and I’m ready to do the same.  I forget what it’s like to live in one place and not know that you will be leaving after some set amount of time.

Although I have a strong desire to move on to the next phase of life, I’m trying not to miss what God has for me here, right now.  There are still friends to be made, experiences to be had, and assignments to complete.  I don’t want to be so focused on the future that I miss the present.  I choose to rest in the great things God has placed in my life here in St. Louis, and enjoy them to the fullest.  I’m also not ready to start paying back my student loans, so I’ll appreciate being a student a little longer 🙂

~ Ryan

At JPL participating in the Planetary Science Summer School!

At JPL participating in the Planetary Science Summer School!

What’s in a Friend?


So I’ve had a bit of a rough day, which means I’ve done a lot of thinking – and then I realized I haven’t updated my blog in forever so I figured this would be a good place to express my thoughts.

I’ve been thinking about friends today – not because I don’t have any or because I’m mad at any, but just because.  I’ve been wondering what makes a friend a true friend, and what are the different categories of friends that we end up having?

I’ve realized that the people I consider my closest friends are the ones who truly know me.  They’re the ones who know my heart and my flaws and yet still want to be my friend.  The people who help me through the hard times and who help me work on my flaws.  The people who I can sit down with when I’m having a bad day and pour out the deepest parts of my heart and really get at the core of what is causing me to feel the way I do.  Or the people I can have coffee with and talk about my dreams and desires and life goals and not feel like I’m being judged or interviewed.  The people who know what truly makes me happy and what motivates me.  The people who know how to handle me when the not-so-flattering sides of me come out.  These people might as well be family.

I think we all have friends that we like to hang out with and who we think are fun, but yet they don’t really know us.  We just feel like we have to be fun when we’re around them and not necessarily let the deep parts of our heart come out.  And not every friend needs to see that deep into our heart, but we all need at least a few who we can pour ourselves out to.  These aren’t bad friends to have…it’s always good to just have some people you can go out and have fun with.

Then there are the “friends” who just take advantage of us or take us for granted.  The ones who have figured out how to make us do or say the things that benefit them and work to their advantage, but then never give anything in return.  I tend to be a very nice person (or so I think), so I’ve had several of these people pop up in my life.  Somehow they always seem to think that I don’t realize what’s going on, but I’m not stupid.  These are the people who constantly ask you for things and then never give anything in return or show appreciation.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love doing things for people without expecting anything in return.  But I also hate being taken advantage of.  But as much as I hate being unappreciated, I have to keep reminding myself of Galatians 6:9 – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

OK – thought process is fading so I think this blog post will as well.  Sorry for anything that seemed incoherent, I tend to just write as I’m thinking.

And to all the close friends I had in Florida – I really miss you guys.  Like, more than you know.  

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