All posts by katypayne

Wife. Mom of 3. Missionary.

My Thanksgiving Without Me

This year I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. There were 18 people around my table. Family from both sides, dear friends, and people we literally just met. No joke.

This has been quite a year for me, and it was significant and overwhelming to stop the whirlwind of life and focus on all that I am thankful for. A few weeks ago I just decided what I wanted to propose for Thanksgiving. I checked with the key matriarchs, and they were on board with Thanksgiving at our house. So we went with it.

I’ve never had a Thanksgiving that meant as much to me as this one. My perspective this year is so incredibly different than ever before. First of all, cancer. The way it has changed me and changed my family. I don’t fully, and I barely partially understand it yet. The way I feel being on “the other side” is still strange and unfamiliar. But all of my  close relationships feel a little different.  We show more grace and love each other with a new lens.

My mom is in the thick of her cancer journey. There are so many things I haven’t been able to do for her, but I wanted to give her this Thanksgiving with little effort on her part. That was something I knew I could do.

We set a big table and I delegated most of the tasks and Thanksgiving felt easy and right. Nathan had both of his grandmothers here, and we both had our parents with us. We had our very dearest friends that have become family with us this year for Thanksgiving also. With all that we’ve been through together, it felt so right for this season.

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And then we had a precious girl celebrating Thanksgiving with all new people for the first time. A girl who has, at least for this season and space of time, become my fourth child in my world and in my heart. Though I have known her for less than two months, God prepared our hearts to parent her for this season and equipped us with the tools, provisions and other people to do this. It’s something miraculous and beyond my understanding, and a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Having her in the mix of Thanksgiving represented so much for all of us.

But wait, there’s more. Yet another place was set at the table just the day before Thanksgiving. A visitor came for the day on Wednesday. He was a nice guy and it turned out that he didn’t have family anywhere near to be with for Thanksgiving. So we invited this young man that we’d just met into our home to stay the night and share Thanksgiving with all of us.

Friends, life this year has changed me. I’m the gal who sets the table a week in advance and has the meal mapped out and is unhappy with people trying to rock the boat. I’m the one who doesn’t like “uncomfortable” or “being flexible” or changing the plans. I don’t love meeting new people and being spontaneous and all the problems that come with it.

But life, and this year, and oh so much love that’s been demonstrated to me. And somehow this year on Thanksgiving, I just wasn’t the same person. The “me” that I speak of wasn’t here anymore. She’s faded into the background. The things that matter and the things I feel I can do well have risen to the surface, and I’ve  chosen to focus just on doing those things.

This year I went with the flow, I allowed plans to change, and I waited until the last minute to finish all the things so that I could enjoy camping with my family the days before Thanksgiving. I was able to do this because I have people. I don’t do things alone anymore. A beautiful team of people pulled together and just created Thanksgiving in my home with ease. I had an entire crew of maybe eight participants involved in cleaning, rearranging, cooking, and finishing building a table. I literally made one dessert and green beans to contribute to the meal I “hosted”, and that was all.

Loving people has never felt easier. This year Thanksgiving made sense, and it wasn’t hard, and it was so beautiful that I cried at least 8 times in the 24 hours that followed because of all the feelings. I am so thankful for every person around this table and for what I have learned through each relationship.

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Mental Blocks

For the last little while I’ve been kind of stuck. And I’ve been waiting to get “unstuck” to figure out how to tell you about it.

I get the sweetest messages regularly asking how I am doing. And for the most part, I see them and think I’ll answer that when I can really give it the thought and attention I want to.

And then I don’t. I don’t go back and answer.

I’ve wanted to write all these notes of thanks and appreciation. I promise you that I feel so much thanks and so much gratitude, but I’ve struggled hard to get the words out to the right people.

I want to sell shirts about breast cancer awareness and promote and attend events and be “all in” for October being breast cancer awareness month. I mean, when has it ever been so relevant in my life as now? But I’m really just a working mom trying to care for my kids while feeling nauseated, tired and emotionally drained.

I can’t be inspiring all the time.

And I can’t be inspiring and positive just because I want to. Sometimes I’m just going to need to go through this thing, and then I’ll try to be inspiring later.

So this week I’m starting to get a little unstuck from the corner I’ve been camping in. As far as radiation, let me give the update that I haven’t been able to give for a bit.

I’ve had almost three weeks of radiation, which means I am about 1/2 of the way done! The treatments are daily but they are very quick and mostly painless. As far as the actual radiation, it’s mostly a hassle.

I’ve had some fatigue and pain, but not too badly yet. So far the biggest issue I’ve experienced is a lot of nausea.  They say this isn’t from radiation, so maybe from medication. Any time there is a disclaimer that anything in the world “may cause nausea”, I’m there for it. That’s how my delicate little stomach lives its’ life. So this is no surprise to me.

I had in my mind that this whole season of life was just going to be about cancer and getting through this.  Some days are like that. But did you know that there are some days that I get so wrapped up in other things that I hardly think about cancer?

Loving and serving others is a really good distraction and focus.

God brings people and projects into my life right now to keep me sane and give me better perspective. And this works only because so many others are loving me so well at this time. You fill me up in a way that allows me to have enough to give.

I Survived Radiation Day 1

Today is the day.

I started six weeks of radiation treatments. I’ll go every weekday for 30 days in a row. My schedule is basically wrecked. How my body will respond and how I will feel is all up in the air. But let’s do this thing. 

Today I wore my “Be Brave” shirt. I had a fabulous Mexican food lunch date with my love and then he took me for my first treatment.

I am so amazed at the ways God is using countless ones of you.

The cards and messages I keep receiving. The gift cards I can throw at my children when they don’t have time to come home for a meal. The precious ones who have signed up on meal train to bring us food over the next few weeks. And those of you who have given financially to help us in this season of extra burden beyond what we would be able to handle.

It’s hard for me to accept help.

But I want you to know that all of you are making it possible for me to enjoy the parts of my life that don’t have to do with cancer. The moments that I can forget, and my children can forget, and I can just be me.

Spending a Saturday afternoon shopping with my girls.

Helping my son plan how he’ll ask a sweet friend to homecoming.

Pouring energy into work that I love and reaching for goals that help me grow.

Living in the beautiful moments of this season that I do not want to miss, and that ultimately help me stay sane.

I know that I actually could have done all of this without you guys.

Kept cancer private. I could’ve handled all this with personal prayer and struggle and without letting anyone know what was going on. But as I told you, I knew from the beginning that that wasn’t what God wanted to do with my story. And if I had done that, I would have missed out on countless blessings and moments in this journey.

I want to challenge you to invite others in on your own struggle.

Consider the possibility that letting others in will impact your story. It will change your path, and it will change you.

The Worst Mother-Daughter Bonding

I’ve always been a fan of  mother-daughter bonding time.

A couple of lazy hours watching Food Network and sipping coffee with my mom. A serious day of bargain shopping. These have always been good options for me.

Somehow, having breast cancer at the same time wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned. But I didn’t get to choose.

I’m now two months into my cancer journey. I’m basically recovered from surgery now.  I’ve just gotten the good news that there will be no chemo needed for me! I’m starting medication and I’m preparing to start radiation. The path forward seems clear and everything was starting to almost make sense. Which is a really weird thing to say about cancer, right?

And then it happened.

Last week my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’ve known this might be coming but it was something that I just kept putting out of my mind. I couldn’t go to that place unless I knew I had to. And then I had to. 

It’s very difficult in the middle of my own journey to emotionally “back up” to the beginning phase with her. I’m struggling to figure out how to be on my journey and be present in hers at the same time. My mind wants to find a neat little space for each feeling and there don’t seem to be enough spaces, or they’re not the right size, or what I’m trying to do doesn’t even make sense. It’s like a bad dream.

I’ve been numb for several days. I’ve been watching others feel for me, hurt for me and yet it’s like I can’t feel anything myself.  I keep waiting for the emotions to pour out. Maybe they will, but I’m actually starting to wonder. Maybe I’ve felt all there is to feel about cancer and I just can’t feel anymore.

A friend pointed out that this sounds like a Lifetime original movie. Yea, I don’t like Lifetime movies. This isn’t the way I would have chosen to get everyone’s attention or the type of experience I would choose to share with my mom.

Meanwhile, I took my mom with me to the oncologist the other day. She was there in the office for the first time and there as my mom. Next time she will be there as a cancer patient. The reality is setting in and I believe we are both already finding a bit of comfort in the shared experience we would have never wished for.

On the day of her diagnosis, I heard her from the other room tell someone on the phone that she isn’t as scared because she’s watched me.

At a time when it feels like I don’t have much to offer, I’m thankful for at least that little something that I’ve already been able to give her.

I’m sad that I won’t be able to be there for her in all the ways I normally would. But I trust Him to be enough for both of us.

I still believe that God’s plan is a good one. Apparently for now, one that resembles a Lifetime movie.

Letting Some Things Go

The last week was a struggle for me.

I waited until the point where I found out for sure that I would have six weeks of radiation to finally struggle with the reality of letting go of some things.  I had to choose what things would have to go from my life during that period to make the time and emotional energy I’ll need to handle radiation every day.

I fought it hard.

I wanted to do everything and prove that I’m strong and able to push through. I’ve been stubborn and didn’t want to feel defeated.

But that was silly. I realized that it is very unrealistic to keep every commitment I have. There aren’t enough hours and it would certainly be a disaster.

I realized that giving up some things was an act of obedience that God wanted from me. It’s what he was asking of me. But it’s hard to give up good things. Things that are life-giving and ways that I feel I can help and give to others.

I thought the path I was on looked pretty super and so giving things up makes me sad. I grieve the loss of dreams, plans and projects I thought would happen this Fall. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll never do those things. It just means I’m letting them go for now.

This is a season where part of my purpose is very different.

I don’t understand it well right now, but I’m taking one step at a time down this very winding road. There are many ups and downs. My emotions are not in my control and are very frustrating to me. But I have good people with me on the journey speaking in to the hard decisions, cheering me on and understanding and supporting me when I have to make changes or say no to something.

And then it’s up to God.

I’ve done my part. I’ve given up some things I would rather do than have radiation treatments. I’ve accepted this detour.

I don’t understand his plans and purposes for me in this season of life, but I trust that they are good. That they are actually the BEST. And so that means he’s got something awesome in store that I don’t know about yet.

All I have to do is keep going and I’ll hopefully get to find out what it is.

Love Chasing Me Down

The simple message is that God loves me.

How many times have I heard this message? Do I need convincing of it? I wouldn’t think so. And yet,of all the thoughts and sentiments and reminders that I might have focused on in the last week, it seems to be this thought that prevails.

My daughter gave me a jar of little love notes on Mother’s Day. I am supposed to pull a note out of the jar whenever I want for some encouragement. This week the message I pulled out was “Think about the words to the song “Jesus Loves Me”. I know it sounds weird, but trust me, just do it. “

Turns out she was onto something.

For a couple of weeks now, I wake up with a song playing in the background of my mind pretty often. As much as I adore music and seem to constantly have it playing in the background of my mind in the daytime, this is actually something that I don’t remember happening in the night time before now. I constantly wake up hearing the song “Reckless Love”.  It is always the same song.

“O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. O, it chases me down, fights ’til I”m found, leaves the ninety-nine. “

God’s love for me has clearly been a theme.

In the last week there have been some difficult days. Physical pain and exhaustion and uncertainty can all lead you to a low place. I’ll feel myself go there, but thankfully I don’t stay there. Love refuses to let me.

God loves me very directly and has shown me so clearly in a lot of ways. I could feel his love yesterday morning when I sat on the back porch in the damp air watching the rain fall on the pond.

I took a breath in and out and thanked God for the gift of another day. I was trying hard to mean it with all of my heart, because the days lately have felt long and tiring for my body. I received a text from a sweet encourager at that very moment. She said that that morning, for the second time, God had given her the verse Ephesians 2:16-19 specially for me.

16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

God’s direct love continues to reveal itself to me.

And then he loves me through people. He’s done this in countless ways over the last month. I hesitate to begin recounting them because I can never name them all, but still I want to celebrate and thank God for them. I’ve gotten so many kind and encouraging notes and actual cards in the mail. We’ve had dinners arrive for us every night for a week, and fresh flowers to brighten my room on several occasions. There are some who have sent funds to help with medical expenses, which is a huge blessing.

My parents have helped me so very many ways. They’ve sat with me, driven me and entertain bored and neglected children. My mom took the girls shopping for school supplies to the point that I’ve not had to think about it at all.

My best friend has refused to leave me alone. Just refused to back out when I’m sad or irritable or don’t know what I want. She took me on my first post-surgery outing. She sat one day for over an hour in the van so we could talk because I didn’t want to go inside anywhere. She washed my hair when it was too hard.

The people in my house have been precious to me. They carry things for me and move the couch while I’m sitting on it to keep me from lifting a finger. They send me to bed and give me more grace than I could have ever thought I’d need.

I have so many friends who won’t let up with the texts to let me know they will not forget me and that they will not stop praying on my behalf. In the waves of emotion, and in a moment where I feel physically weak and tempted to feel depressed or unloved, God has surrounded me with people who will not let me.

HE simply will not let me. The song says it best. His love chases me down. I feel like it’s had to chase me down a lot in the last week. And I’m so grateful.

 

Waves of Emotion

In really hard times, emotion sweeps over you in waves.

I’m talking about the intense ups and downs that come at the most unexpected moments. So much so that you’re scared to go out in public for fear you’ll end up sitting in a cheap camp chair in the front of Five Below in tears while your girls are shopping.

Just when you’ve accidentally convinced yourself that you’re doing better.
Just when you start to think you’re really stronger and that the hardest feelings have passed.

BAM. A switch flips, and after several hours of almost acting normal, you’re sobbing  uncontrollably on the floor of the dark laundry room.

I think it’s important to feel the hurt when it hits and to spend your time around people that you’re comfortable falling apart with. Otherwise you’ll do lots of stuffing, pretending and avoiding the feelings. And that won’t get you very far down the road.

I have a husband who pulls up a spot on the cold hard floor beside me and sits there with me. He just gently puts a hand on me and sits there in the pain.

I have a friend who understands that I may enter a store happily chatty and looking for a couch but come out of the same store 10 minutes later in a deep funk. She’ll ask me what I’m feeling and let me talk and feels it with me.

I have a daughter who is watching my every move. She may not say much out loud about feelings, but she is fiercely loyal and protective. She fights for me when I’m weak like no one else.

I could go on and on, because there are so many people in my life who are giving me permission to feel things in my own way and helping guide me through. They’re extending so much grace in this season when I’m more irritable with them or just can’t engage in normal conversation at times.

There are moments of strength, and those are the moments to do strong and hard things. Because ever so quickly, the tide may turn and you’ll feel weak again.

So I’m trying not to expect too much of myself. I’m trying to breathe in and out and float ever so peacefully on my back while letting the waves of emotion hit when they want.

Expect the unexpected. Trust that the overwhelming moments of hurt and pain make way for the strong moments and guide you through the process to healing.