Crossing Rivers

No Man is an Island

Rich Mullins, one of my favorite poets/prophets/musicians of all time, has a song titled ‘We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are.’ Many of Rich’s songs have been part of my soundtrack during this cancer journey.  In this song there is a line that says, “We are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Forged in the fires of human passion, choking on the fumes of selfish rage.  With these our hells and our heavens so few inches apart we must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are.” [Song Below]

Of course this flies in the face of what we are told by pop culture. The world tells us we can do anything! All on our own!  We are great just as we are – self sufficient, all I need is me. As another brilliant and poetic wordsmith (cough cough), Katy Perry, sings in her song ‘Roar,’ “I went from zero to my own hero.”  (For the record, I will admit I tend to jam to Katy’s music in the car from time to time.) But Christianity states something else – we are empty vessels with out the power, forgiveness, love, and grace of God in our lives – especially in the hard times.

And not only that, but we need people in our lives.  We need family.  Community.  We were made for it.  Built for it.  We simply can’t lead a fulfilled life without it, no matter who we are. There is simply no substitute for a group of solid, trusted, dedicated people in your life to support, challenge, and encourage.

There have been so many that have embodied this support system for me over the last year. From childhood friends, high school friends, Louisville friends, YWAM friends, college friends, friends in the photography/wedding community, past clients of Honey Heart, church friends, and so many more. Our beloved families and our dear church Life Group shouldered much of the load and I will always be grateful especially to them.  If I didn’t have this support I truly believe I would be a different person today.  The darkness would have taken root and brought me further down, I truly believe.  God used these beautiful people, some I don’t even know, to keep me above water.  I’ll always be thankful.

“No man is an island…every man is a piece of the continent, part of the main…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  – John Donne

If we are truly our own hero, we will be either living constantly in the sad shadow of our own bloated ego, or we will be severely disappointed when we fail ourselves or someone else, or perhaps both.  We can’t and never should be our own hero.  We must be anchored and stabilized by something bigger and higher and fuller than ourselves – God and community.

To attempt to make spirituality a private affair is to reject part of our very nature and walk inside of a loneliness that God himself has damned. – Fr. Ronald Rolheiser

This has been one of the main lessons I’ve learned.  I am weak, frail, selfish without the grace of God in my life. I am only strong through Him and through those around me. It’s Christ who gives me strength.  It certainly doesn’t come from me alone. It’s through Him and the people He sends us to help that we can spring fresh with joy and vibrant life. The thief’s purpose is to kill and steal and destroy. My purpose is to give a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

Crossing Rivers

Below is a beautiful song by Leon Bridges called ‘The River.’  Baptism is a beautiful and powerful demonstration of what has transpired in our lives through God’s forgiveness and Christ’s atonement. Jesus was baptized in the same river that Joshua crossed to enter Canaan – the Promised Land – the beautiful land God set aside for his people.

Photo Mar 07, 14 52 06

Christian baptism enables us to cross another river of sorts – the river separating the lands of sin and the land of grace – another land God has set aside for his people – the ideal place God’s beloved people will dwell – the New Promised Land.  But crossing this river is not just a one-time event.  And it’s not just an individual act. Every day we must choose to wash ourselves by crossing that river – and in effect bathe ourselves in His forgiveness and grace.  It’s a journey. And we need others to help us along this journey. Thankfully our Father is still there to take us back and wash us white as snow once again.


A Short Health Update

It’s been a very long winter.  Thankfully winter is slowly fading away and spring is slowly sneaking back. Below is a health update and what’s up next.


The Update

Chemo treatments are finished!  I had my last infusion on Jan 25th, and my last round of pills finished up on Feb 7th.  This was my 6th cycle – and it was by far the hardest.  To cap it off, I continued to have random gallbladder attacks that last week of chemo, so I had surgery to get that silly organ removed on Feb 11th. The surgery went very well and I was thrilled to go home that same day!

So after all is said and done, over the last 9 months I survived 25 radiation appointments, 1 colon surgery where they removed the tumor and reconnected the colon, 6 chemo infusions, 17 weeks of taking chemo pills twice/day, 6 gallbladder attacks, 1 gallbladder removal surgery, and several different scans and tests and such. Whew. Glad that’s over. I’m beginning to feel better and better every day.  I was told by my oncologist that you don’t start feeling better until 1 month or so after treatment ends. I’ve already noticed a huge difference.

But I’ve realized it’s not quite over.  I’ve been in such a haze these last 9 months that I haven’t quite had the chance or the energy to process it all.  Chemo is a suffering that is difficult to explain – the one to two weeks after each infusion you feel like you’re dying and sometimes you’d like to go ahead and give up the ghost.  I always heard that it takes a toll that lasts well after you’re done with treatment.  I can attest to that.  And while I’m very ready to feel normal again, I know that it’s going to take a little more time.  I’m still believing for healing in my heart and soul and body and I do believe that’s happening. It just takes time.

This has definitely changed my outlook on life, on people, on God – on everything really.  I look forward to processing that in the weeks and months to come.  But I do believe I’m going to come out a better, stronger person through all of this by the grace of God.

The encouragement, the prayers, the kind notes, financial help, the hugs, – kept me and my family afloat.  They were from God to me and I am so grateful for all who helped us along the way. There are so many.  I do feel truly blessed.

I’m especially thankful and in completely in awe of Mary – who took care of me and our Caroline over the last 9 months.  She’s a rock. I think in a lot of ways it was harder on her than it was on me. There’s a toll that’s been taken on her too. She saw me at my absolute worst and ugliest – and she still loves me anyway, for some reason.

What’s Next

Well I’ll have another scan in May to check for any recurrence.  I’ll get a scan every 3-4 months for the next year.  Then It’ll go to every 6 months for awhile.

As you may remember, I was selected for an active duty chaplain position with the Air Force before any of this started.  That’s most likely not going to happen now due to the cancer diagnosis, but it looks like I’ll be able to stay in the Air Force Reserves, which I plan to do. I’m sad that I won’t be able to be an active duty chaplain.  Losing that job that I worked so hard to get was hard. Yet I’m incredibly excited to see what is up ahead and around the bend.

And of course we have another year of photographing weddings and portraits with Honey Heart which will be a lot of fun as always.  And who knows what else will turn up this year – I’m looking forward to finding out.