HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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There is always room at the table

Last week was my birthday! I turned 33. Woo hoo!! The day was mostly spent at home in quarantine as my big boy had chickenpox which we had only discovered the previous afternoon via a high fever and lone spot behind his right ear (in spite of him complaining in the morning that he had a bump on his back, which I informed him was just his spine and packed him off to nursery – oops!)

One of my birthday gifts from my sister and brother-in-law was a voucher to a local art supply shop. I was so thrilled to receive it and in the afternoon of my birthday my mum looked after the boys for a few hours so Joel and I could head into Kingston to run a few errands and of course to go and spend my art shop vouchers!!

I browsed and browsed for ages and finally settled on some watercolour brush pens (with a cartridge you fill with water and then use with paints), a set of 6 fine liners and a pad of watercolour paper.

As soon as I returned home I had buyer’s remorse about the watercolour brush pens. Were they actually any good or just an expensive gimmick? Surely a paintbrush would be as good? Should I just take them back and get something else?

The next day, I decided to give them a try and boy was I wrong! They are brilliant! I absolutely love them and I have been sitting at the dining room table doodling whatever pithy (or indeed not so pithy) quotes I can think of for the past week. What a joy!

This week as I was spending some quiet time alone I was reading a Bible story about a great banquet. After I read this story the phrase “there is always room at the table” came into my mind and so I doodled it (with one of my new fine liner pens!) in my journal.

As the week has passed and I have found myself sitting at my dining table, this phrase keeps coming into my mind… ‘there is ALWAYS room at the table’ and I have doodled it with my watercolour brush pens over and over thinking about its meaning.

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Last year I bought a 12 seater dining room table on a Facebook buying site for £10. It was the bargain of the year for me and even though it was in a pretty bad way I was so pleased with it. Over a weekend I sanded it, made a stencil then painstakingly stencilled a herringbone pattern onto it, stained it and varnished it and after it was complete I was absolutely over the moon with the results.

My table has a sort of uneven patina (as a result of the damage to the wood before I started) that I absolutely love. I love the herringbone pattern and how it looks like an inlay even though it is just paint. But most of all I love the size of the table. It is big! It can comfortably seat 12 although we have squeezed 14 round it once! The size is so wonderful because I love doing life with people around the table. There is something special about sharing a meal with others and I love welcoming people into my home. The size means that there is pretty much ALWAYS room at my table.

This got me thinking that even though practically this is the case I hope that people know that there is really ALWAYS room for them at my table. I want my table and my home to always be marked by love for others no matter who they are, by an open door and a warm welcome, and real life shared around the table. And I want my table to be a symbol for how there is ALWAYS room for us at God’s table, no matter who we are, whether we think we are worthy or not, he welcomes us in just as we are. He longs to do life with us and hang out round his table and that is a truly amazing thing.

Come and visit me sometime! I’d love to show you my dining room table and do life with you round it. There is always room.


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What I learnt from a chain of paper people

Earlier today as I was looking for some felt tip pens in our craft cupboard a chain of cardboard people that had been shoved in the cupboard fell out and landed on the carpet. This little group of folks had been in a party bag that my son Jonty had been given some time ago and they came with loads of stickers to make their faces and clothes. They are so sweet and have been very useful in keeping him entertained more than once in hospital waiting rooms!

I am fond of these little people, which is why I think I couldn’t bring myself to put them in the recycling after Jonty finished decorating them. I like their funny little faces, how they are all different and how they are all holding hands. I think there is something lovely about them. They belong together. I think that is what makes them beautiful.

This evening a friend shared an article on Facebook. It was a writer’s reflection on the insular lives we lead in the Western world and her longing to do life together with others: to share cooking, caring for each other’s families, to laugh together, carry one another’s burdens and to be truly known. Reading this article I was reminded of the paper people on my carpet, all different but all joined together, made beautiful by their connectedness.

Last week I had the opportunity to go and speak to a group of women in another city. After the session I was chatting to one of the ladies and she expressed a sadness that she didn’t feel truly known by anyone who lived close by to her. She was longing for deeper relationships, to have people to laugh with, to cry with and just to do life with, to have people just understand what she was about. She was longing for a village.

And I know that her story is not an uncommon one. It is one that I can identify with too. We all crave a village, to be known, to be understood and loved for who we are.

But why is it that these villages, these deep yet easy relationships seem to be so rare? Why do we struggle to do life in a full-on, messy, joyful way with others and to let them in to see us with a sink full of dishes and dust on the mantle?

I often think back on our time in Cambridge with fondness. It’s a funny thing really as it was in many ways the most difficult time in our lives. But in other ways it was so beautiful. I think it was the time in my life when I really felt most deeply connected to a community. I felt like I was known and that I was part of a village that loved me.

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Are those things linked? My own vulnerability and brokenness coupled with feeling connected? I think they probably are in some ways. For me, it was probably when I realised that I couldn’t manage alone that I sought out others to help me to manage. They loved me with open hands and I loved them in return. Children were cared for, meals were shared and prayers were offered up for one another. Sometimes there were frustrations, but we got through them together. It was simple and without pretence and even in the midst of so much pain it was a beautiful thing.

I think that so often we are held back from reaching out and building this village by fear: fear of judgement, fear of not being perfect, fear of being vulnerable and opening ourselves up to be hurt, fear of rejection, fear that others will be too needy or we will be too needy, fear that connection will just take too much time.

But we can be so afraid that we end up lonely and isolated and this is no way to live.

I long to live in this beautiful village with its deep relationships built on love and kindness and I am realising that if we are to build this beautiful village we need to move past our fears. We need to be brave and stretch out a hand to the little paper person next to us not currently in our chain.

There is so much brokenness and pain in the world. There has never been more of a need for a village, for connectedness, for love, for carrying one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). It is what Jesus modelled with his disciples, they ate together and did life together and were truly known by one another.

What good is one little paper person alone? But in a group all holding hands – what a joy.

We belong to each other. Let’s be the ones to make the village – it can truly change the world.


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Humbled by extravagant love

Since baby Aaron arrived 8 weeks ago I have been totally overwhelmed by the kindness and outpouring of love that we have experienced. This kindness has taken many forms: well wishes on Facebook, cards and gifts in the post, two weeks of delicious meals made and given with love by friends from church, my mom who has cleaned our house every week (you’re amazing Mom!!), and friends who’ve had Jonty for playdates so I could rest.

In this new season I have been particularly humbled by the kindness and love shown to us by those who for whom it has cost something, and for whom showing that kindness and that love has been a sacrifice – the sleep-deprived new mums that lovingly cooked for us, the well wishes from cancer friends for whom a new baby is not currently, and may never be, an option, the amazingly generous gifts we have received (one of which was so extraordinary that I was totally overwhelmed and almost burst into tears in the middle of John Lewis on receiving it). The list goes on…

These kindnesses have been humbling and have meant so much.

The generosity of spirit that we have witnessed has been particularly touching as I know that sometimes celebrating with others can be hard. When we don’t get a job we want and a friend does, when another friend gets married and we remain single, when we are still unwell and others are off having adventures we could only dream of, celebrating others’ joy costs us something. In those times rejoicing with another means that we put our pain aside and turn our eyes away from ourselves to focus on and celebrate with our friends and that can hurt. A lot.

We can know in our head that joining in the celebration is a wonderful gift to give our friends but it can also absolutely feel like the hardest thing in the world to do.

I remember well the years after Jonty was born when the deepest desire of my heart was for another baby but it was categorically not a possibility for us. It was easy to celebrate friends’ new arrivals when Jonty was little but as he grew and a new baby remained impossibility for us, each new pregnancy announcement was a little more challenging to celebrate. It cost me something and sometimes it was easier than others. Sometimes I was better at joining in than others.

A few days ago I saw this quote on Instagram from author Bob Goff and it really struck me.

Bob Goff quote

In this season so many of the kindnesses given through sacrifice have felt like real acts of extravagant love and for so many of the givers I know that, even at a subconscious level, these acts have been their faith in action. They have been declarations of the goodness and kindness of God.

Romans 12:15 says rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those that mourn. These last few weeks and months have been such a wonderful season of rejoicing for us as we have seen a dream fulfilled and I am so grateful to have been joined in my rejoicing by so many others. But our season of rejoicing was preceded by a season of mourning, and I am equally thankful for those who joined us in that season and who didn’t shy away from it, but who were present with us through it.

Sometimes we feel like we don’t know how to rejoice with those who rejoice or to mourn with those who mourn, and so we don’t. We feel awkward, or sad about our own pain or guilty about our own happiness and so we steer clear. But, even though it can be hard, I encourage you to give it a go anyway. Even if it is messy or you feel awkward or you are sure you’ve said the wrong thing, offer extravagant love in the best way you know how.

When we choose to offer extravagant love to one another in either a time of rejoicing or a time of mourning, it is a powerful thing. It is a declaration of faith and in offering this love we make earth a little more like heaven. In offering extravagant love we have the opportunity reflect Jesus and the goodness and kindness of our Father God and his extravagant love for us.

That is powerful. Even if it is messy and awkward, it is important and it is something that I want to be part of!

Thank you to all of you who have shown us this extravagant love in both our seasons of rejoicing and of mourning. I am so humbled and so grateful.

Aaron 16.02.2015

(A snap from today. I hope it makes you smile.)

 

 


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Hey baby!

Five weeks ago our lives once again changed forever as we welcomed another precious little boy into our family. Little Aaron Gabriel, our Christmas miracle baby arrived on 21st December! What an amazing gift he is to us!

To be honest, that he was a boy came as something of a surprise as I was absolutely convinced we were having a girl. I was so convinced that we were having a girl that I wasn’t the least bit fussed that we didn’t have any boys names picked out before going into hospital… seriously not even one. We didn’t even have a shortlist! After he was born we set ourselves a deadline to name him before his big brother arrived the following day as we thought it would be confusing to introduce 3-year old Jonty to a nameless brother! It’s amazing how a deadline focusses the mind and despite months of name debate we settled on Aaron Gabriel quite quickly.

Last week a friend told me that there was a Michael McIntyre sketch about the name Aaron so of course I had to look it up… In the clip he says that Aaron is the worst name as it is the name given to children of really lazy parents. They open the baby name book, see Aaron as the first name and say, “Yip, that will do!” close the baby name book and get on with their lives! Despite not having a name before he arrived I promise we gave it a bit more thought than that and didn’t just pick the first name we found!! 😉

Although I will spare you all the details of the birth, it was lovely (well as lovely as childbirth can be!!!) and a really redemptive experience following the trauma of Jonty’s arrival. There were so many answers to prayer, but most specifically, for me it was an experience free from fear which was a total gift.

Little Aaron arrived one day early, which was another answer to prayer as I was really hoping that he wouldn’t arrive on Christmas day… Being due on 22nd December people kept saying to me throughout my pregnancy, “Ooh, I bet the baby will come on Christmas day”, which to be honest I stopped finding amusing after perhaps the 10th time it was said to me (although I think I always managed to smile politely). When your Dad is a vicar as Joel is and always has to work on Christmas I thought sharing your birthday with Jesus might be a bit difficult growing up so was desperate for this little one to have his own day.

The last five weeks have gone by in a blur or Christmas and New Year, and all the busyness that goes with that season, late night/early morning feeds, moments of feeling total euphoria and moments feeling totally overwhelmed, Joel’s return to work, and now starting to figure out what normal looks like for us in this new chapter.

For me re-entering the realm of babies has been mostly lovely. We are so much more relaxed about everything this time around and I no longer sit holding a thermometer in the bath to check that it is the optimum temperature before popping him in (to be honest I can’t even remember what the optimum bath temperature is for a baby although I definitely knew last time around).

Already, having the opportunity to parent this little chap feels like a redemptive experience for me and so much of the trauma and the memories of pain and anxiety that I associate with the early days of Jonty’s life are beginning to be healed. In this I am reminded of the truth of Philippians 1:6 which says that he who begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion. For this, and the many other gifts that God has so graciously given us, I am so thankful and I know that this is all part of God is putting me back together one piece at a time.

Here’s a picture of our newest little guy taken yesterday. Happy (belated) new year to you all!

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Ordinary Joy

This morning whilst I was scrolling through Instagram and listening to the ‘We will not be shaken’ album by Bethel, I saw this image, a lovely painting of a Brene Brown quotation:

Every day joy

It reads:

Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing the extraordinary.

I thought it was beautiful. And so true.

I loved the caption that the lady that did the painting, Brianna Showalter, posted below… In case you can’t read it in the photo it says:

Sticky fingers. Loud sibling play. Countless dirty dishes. Rain boots scattered by the front door. Ordinary moments that represent the joy I can choose to grab. What are your ordinary joy moments?

What a great question!

Sometimes I think that we think that we can only know full joy when things are perfect, when they are extraordinary, like on an amazing holiday or after the perfect Christmas meal. But I have found that this is such a lie and that this belief steals so much from us. Joy is so much easier to find than those few moments when all the planets align and everything seems just perfect.

Rather, the potential for joy is all around.

For me it is in deep breaths of fresh air, watching the leaves swirl around in this very gusty weather. It is in the quiet of a solitary place but also in the laughter of friends and the chatter of my son. It is everywhere.

A friend posted this photo on Instagram this morning.

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(Photo credit: Hannah Carter)

It is of the River Thames, just down the road from where we live, and it was taken on her walk to work this morning. I love this view and walking over the Thames on a crisp morning is one of my favourite things and is a real point of exhale for me. When I do this walk and see this view it is almost as if I can feel my soul rise and my heart sing. It is a very ordinary moment, but nevertheless a moment of deep joy.

However often with everyday joy, we can miss it. As easy as it is to find, it is perhaps just as easy to miss.

Sometimes we just choose not to see it. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed and life seems so heavy that finding any sort of joy in our day seems an impossibility. The pain facing the world looms too large or we are facing what seem like insurmountable obstacles that finding simple joy seems at best frivolous and at worst just plain wrong.

But yet it is still there to be grabbed. Recognising the ordinary joys of the everyday can coexist comfortably with the larger struggles that we may face and recognising these joys is one way of fighting darkness and of not allowing it to win. It is a great way of keeping perspective and of making a place for a thankful heart.

At the moment, I am just a few weeks away from my baby’s due date. Increasingly I am finding my mind turning to what happened when I had my son, Jonty almost four years ago… Let’s just say that the labour and birth didn’t go very well and I have recently come to the realisation that this experience was actually quite traumatic and as a result I have found myself becoming quite fearful about what could happen this time round.

This has been a real struggle over the past few weeks as I have been aware of some of the joy of this miraculous pregnancy being stolen and replaced by the fear of labour. I have found that recognising and enjoying the everyday joys of this pregnancy is one effective way (there are others too!) that I can fight this fear and so I am doing that consciously and I am choosing joy over fear.

Because I don’t want to allow this to happen. I don’t want my ordinary, everyday joy to be robbed by fear. I want to experience every last drop of joy that I can know.

Because I know that not just choosing joy, but grabbing the ordinary, everyday joys with all that I have is the most wonderful way to live.

I hope that you find some beautiful, ordinary joy moments in your day today. I would love to hear about them!


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Finding a voice in the pain of the beaches and October pink washing

Shouting

It has been nine weeks since I last wrote a complete blog post. That is a long time and the holiday in Spain where I wrote the last post, with its long, lazy days spent on the beach couldn’t seem further away from England which has suddenly turned grey, autumnal and very chilly!

It hasn’t, however, been nine weeks since I have started a blog post and my computer and iPad are littered with half-written, unfinished and abandoned posts, given up on with yet another frustrated sigh. If I wrote on paper my wastepaper basket would surely be overflowing by now!

It’s funny how sometimes I feel that there is so much to say, but yet it is so difficult to get it all out in a way that truly conveys how I feel. It feels like trying to put a bowl of cooked spaghetti into a logical order. It is hard and messy and doesn’t always go well. 

I find it particularly hard to write anything or convey how I am feeling when I see a lot of pain around me and this summer has witnessed a lot of pain both globally and closer to home. What could I possibly add to the conversation that would seem anything other than at best, irrelevant or at worst, self-indulgent nonsense?

 So, as a result, and to my shame, the horrendous events of dead babies on beaches, the advancing diseases of those around me, as well as the untimely deaths of members of online forums of which I am a part, have gone on with me largely standing silent. My voice crying out against all this pain has remained unspoken and unheard. I have instead found myself crying on the side lines both at the tragedy of it all, as well as with the frustration that comes from not knowing what to do to help and how to stand up and be counted in a meaningful way 

More recently I have been faced with the pink washing that always appears at this time of year. October is breast cancer awareness month and each year I watch with interest at what will be shared via social media to educate and raise awareness of this horrible disease that kills so many each year.

This year the Young Breast Cancer Network UK (YBCN), a network of young women with breast cancer of which I am a part, is sharing a member’s story each day of the month. Many of these women are living with secondary or metastatic cancer for which there is no cure. All of the stories hold great pain and sadness and I have found myself once again being so broken by seeing this pain and yet also carrying a strange sense of guilt that I am so well and my future is looking bright.

The unfairness of it all is not lost on me and I know I am one of the lucky ones on so many fronts. I can find no words to add that would lessen the suffering of those living with cancer as part of their daily lives and so I find myself, once more at a loss for words.

So now that you have waded with me through my internal mental turmoil (thanks for sticking with me through that) what is there left to say?

Earlier this summer I met up with a friend who writes a brilliant blog which I love to read and which is such a blessing to me. I was expressing this mental turmoil to her and she gave me this advice. She said, “Cath, this advice is going to change your life. Just be yourself.”

Although said with a smile and a joke, these simple words really struck me and challenged me. They helped me to realise that it is ok if I don’t have anything useful to say or if I can’t fix all the problems of the world in 800 words or less. Being present and being honest is enough.

So where that leaves us is… I still don’t have anything particularly useful to say on any of sadness that I have seen either on Europe’s beaches or closer to home with those facing illness or bereavement. 

In some senses, I still stand silent on the side lines crying with sadness and frustration.

I wish I could make everything better. But for now, even though I have nothing to add to the conversation and my voice is largely silent, I do still STAND with you.

I pray and I stand on the truth of Revelation 21:4 that this too is temporary and that there will come a time when:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.”

As the harrowing images of the summer recede in our consciousness as the media moves on to new stories, and as the pink washing of October begins to fade as the month passes, it is my prayer that I may continue to be moved by these stories. May the cry of my heart still be for justice and for healing and may we all stand in solidarity with the broken and the hurting trusting in the Restorer and the restoration that is to come.


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June – madness or fun? Sometimes it’s hard to tell!

They say that time waits for no man, and as June has rolled around – and almost ended – once more I have been reflecting on the huge changes that our family has seen over the past few Junes.

Here’s a brief snapshot:

June 2011: We were living just outside of Bath, I was expecting Jonty and we were both working full-time. We found out towards the end of the month that Joel had been accepted for full-time training for vicar school.

June 2012: We had moved and were living in Cambridge. Jonty was four months old. I had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in April and by June was half-way through a gruelling season of chemotherapy.

June 2013: We had moved house again and were living in a village just outside of Cambridge. I had finished my active treatment and we were celebrating with a six week road trip around Europe. On this exact date I think we were busy enjoying sunny Spain!

June 2014: Joel finished his ordination training mid-June and we moved (again!) this time to leafy South West London. Joel was ordained a deacon in St Paul’s Cathedral and started his current job.

June 2015: We didn’t move house!!!! Joel was ordained a priest last weekend. There are so many exciting things in the pipeline at the moment and we can’t wait to see how the next year will unfold.

I feel exhausted just looking back on these Junes – what a whirlwind few years! What a total rollercoaster!

When I look back on these Junes written down like this the first thing that stands out is, boy have we moved house A LOT (there were another two house moves in the couple of years preceding the years I have outlined that I haven’t even included)!!

I was so pleased to write that we didn’t move this year, although Jonty does keep asking when we are moving house again. He says that he doesn’t like the shower at this house and would like to move to Jericho!! Thankfully, at 3 years of age, it is not his decision to make, especially as I am particularly fond of the shower at this house!

Aside from all the moving, the key thing that stands out for me when looking back is both how crazy it has been but also how blessed we have been through all this craziness. The blessing and the grace that we have known have come in so many different forms and I am so thankful for all of it. Here are just a few:

In each place we have lived, we have very quickly found ourselves surrounded by communities that have loved us, have both wept and celebrated with us and that have encouraged and challenged us to be our best selves.

We have always had access to brilliant healthcare, particularly at the time when we needed it most.

In our season in Cambridge, in particular, we were given the space and time to grieve for what was lost through cancer, but also to celebrate life and all its blessings.

We have added to our family and have gained a beautiful, completely hilarious character of a son.

Through it all we have known the peace and joy that only God can give. He has been our bedrock, our very present help in times of trouble. This is what has made sure we haven’t been taken out by each curveball that has come our way in all these crazy Junes.

So here’s to many more Junes! I am excited to see what the next few hold! Fingers crossed for lots more amazing adventures and not too many house moves!

Here are a few snaps from this June. It’s been a good month!

legoland june 2015Legoland

crabbing

Crabbing with Oupa

priesting

Joel’s priesting

phantomelfie

#phantomselfie


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The Minionettes and the Moonwalk Marathon

Late on Saturday night, five friends and I joined 17,000 other walkers, all in fancy dress, on Clapham Common in London to walk a full marathon, through the night, to raise money for breast cancer charities.

Our team was called the Minionettes, we were dressed as minions and I, for one, was feeling really nervous. The atmosphere was buzzing, we were ready to go but we had a long wait as our group only got to set off at 11:45pm… way past my normal bedtime!

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Once we started, it was slow going. The roads weren’t closed and the pavements were very congested with walkers. But the mood was high and we cracked on! The route was great and we really did a tour of the London sights, walking past the London Eye, over Tower Bridge, past Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral and finally going round what felt like endless loops of South Kensington.

Moonwalk3 Moonwalk2

The slow pace and congested route started to get me down a little as after 3 hours we had only walked 9 miles which was so much slower than the speed we had walked in training and by about 3am I was starting to feel tired and frustrated, and we weren’t even half way there! For me, from about the half way point completing the walk became a case of mind over matter… I know I can walk one just one more mile, and then just one more and then just one more… Oh look there’s the sunrise… Just one more mile… Until eventually…

We reached the finish line.

Nine hours later!

Hallelujah!

By this point my body was objecting strongly to both the lack of sleep (the last time I had stayed up the whole night I was 15 years old! Seriously!!), and the 9 hours of walking but it was an amazing feeling crossing that finish line.

Moonwalk5

I didn’t expect to feel particularly emotional on this walk, particularly as my Peru trip had really felt like my comeback moment, and for the most part I really didn’t feel emotional at all. But just at that moment, crossing that finish line, I once again felt overwhelmed and so thankful and grateful to still be standing. I felt thankful to be able to challenge myself, to push harder, to be stronger, to keep going. I felt so thankful for my friends and family that joined me in this slightly bonkers challenge and for all the love and support they, and so many others, have shown me over the past three years.

No tears were shed, but my heart was full and glad.

And in spite of not being able to walk for several days thereafter I am looking forward to doing it again and have already started planning my outfit! (Next time it will definitely involve lights and way more glitter!)

Doing the Moonwalk also challenged me in other ways… It reminded me of the power of determination, and how when we fix our eyes and hearts on something we will get there. But it also reminded me of the call in Hebrews 13 to run (or in this case power walk) the race marked out for us with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

In life, as in the Moonwalk, we are called to keep going, keep moving forward with purpose, not worrying about others’ costumes or the fact that they got an earlier start time or that they didn’t have to press the green man button again because there was so much traffic that they were getting slowed down… Rather, we are called to run our own race, that has been marked out for us, whatever that looks like. We are called to keep going and to run it faithfully with our eyes looking up. And when we are done, when we have completed that last ‘just one more mile’, how sweet will that day be when we finally cross that finish line.

I don’t know about you, but despite all of the distractions, at the end of it all I want to know that  ran focussed and ran well!

Thanks Moonwalk. See you again next time! I will be coming for you armed with glitter!

Moonwalk4


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Cancer and strawberry milkshakes!

So, Saturday 11 April was a pretty big day for me. I had meant to write a few thoughts about it on the actual day, but in the morning I walked 14.5 miles (23.5 kms) as part of my training for the Moonwalk marathon that I am doing next month, and it just about finished me off! I was barely able to have a decent conversation for the rest of the day let alone write something vaguely coherent!

But today, a few days on, my boy is back at nursery and I have a moment on this sunny Tuesday morning to reflect on this milestone

11 April was my cancerversary! (Yes, that it a real word! Well it is in my book!) It was my third cancerversary. Three years since the language of hospitals and treatment and prognosis stats entered my vocabulary and my everyday conversations. Three years since my normal changed beyond all recognition.

I always feel a little apprehensive as cancer milestones approach as sometimes I can be surprised and even completely blindsided by the intensity of my own emotions. How is this day really going to feel? How much of a big deal should I make of it? Should I mourn for what is lost? Should I dance that I am still alive? What is the appropriate response?

Despite my anticipation of the event lurking over me in the weeks before, in the end, the day was fairly low key. Epic walk in the morning (during which I got completely drenched in the rain), riverside pub trip in the afternoon with Some of Joel’s family and then an early dinner with my boys in a local diner.

We celebrated that I was still alive by sharing a strawberry milkshake!

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There were no tears and surprisingly no reminiscing. No rehashing of how it all felt on 11 April 2012. Rather there was plenty of laughing and chatting and answering of my little one’s questions… “Mummy, why does this restaurant have windows?”, “Who are those people Mummy?”, “I like Tyrannosaurus Rex’s! Which is your favourite dinosaur, Mummy?”

Joel did ask me if I wanted to talk about it, but I said no. I didn’t need to relive the trauma. It didn’t feel necessary or right. Rather, I just wanted to celebrate life! I just wanted to be normal.

The day before my cancerversary I was aimlessly scrolling through Facebook when I saw this quotation image:

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It really struck me. It is the message of Easter. But also, it spoke straight to my heart about the hope that has been restored to me through Christ. Through him, I am a resurrection person. I am part of the new life of the Easter story. Even though there have been places of huge pain and difficulty, hope can still rise up again.

Hope does and has risen in me.

I clicked on the link attached to the quotation and began to read the article. As I did this next quotation image similarly hit me straight between the eyes:

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Something deep in my Spirit said, “Yes!”

Because I am a resurrection person, because I know new life, because my hope has risen from the ashes, hosanna is my song. Thanksgiving is my song. Joy is my song!

So there it is! My third cancerversary has passed. It didn’t floor me. I was able to stand with my head held high and look to the future with hope, standing strong on the new life that Easter promises. What a gift!


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Farewell Kara Tippetts

Yesterday, this world lost a beautiful soul. Her name was Kara Tippetts. She was 38 years old.

I didn’t know Kara. We had never met. She lived on the other side of the pond, in Colorado, USA. Although I didn’t know her she allowed me into her world through her beautiful blog, Mundane Faithfulness. I first encountered her writing late last year when she wrote an open letter to Brittany Maynard, the young lady who chose to end her life due to a terminal brain cancer diagnosis.

I started reading Kara’s blog regularly, and despite our thoughts on suffering being a little different, over and over again I found myself moved, encouraged and challenged. Even the blog’s title spoke straight to my heart as through my own cancer journey I found myself valuing faithfulness more and more as even when I had nothing to give, I could be faithful with what I had. I could be faithful in the mundane parts of life. This was all that I could offer.

Through the blog and a few short videos I watched Kara come to terms with the fact that she was dying with amazing dignity and grace and it was a privilege to witness this from a distance.

I think that one of the reasons that Kara’s life captivated me so was that, other than geography, many of our circumstances were really similar… We were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, both mums of young children, both married to pastors with a heart for church planting, both desperate to stay on Earth… not afraid to die, but not ready to leave either… Kara described how she felt about dying as feeling like a little girl at a party whose Dad had come to get her early. She was so upset about it as she just wasn’t ready to leave. It was too soon…

And so today my heart aches. Why is it that I am well and thriving and she has left this world? Why is it that tomorrow I get to celebrate another birthday but she won’t get to celebrate again? Why is it that tomorrow I get to cuddle my baby and walk hand in hand with my guy and she doesn’t anymore?

I don’t know.

I don’t know why she was taken so soon and I was given more time.

I will never know.

But, I am so thankful for the life she had. She lived it well. It was so evident that it was full of love, friendship, grace, forgiveness, peace and kindness. She ran the race well and was faithful to the end.

Yet again, I am reminded that life is short and life is precious. As I enter my 33rd year I rejoice in growing a little older as it means I am still here! I am still at the party. This year, more than ever I choose to live my life well.

Farewell, Kara Tippetts. You blessed more people than you will ever know.