Saturday, November 22, 2014

to Riverside Church as you move into your new home...


dear Riverside Church friends... there are a thousand things i want to give to you, our first church family, as you celebrate your first Sunday in your new building!  


a thousand thanks for welcoming me as a newly married, mostly terrified, incredibly self-centered young pastor's wife... for raising me to be a wife & mother, a friend & neighbor- one that can occasionally see past myself to  reach out to those around me.   you welcome and cherish each other so well.

a thousand i'm sorrys for the many times i was petty and selfish... you forgave me for so often letting my immaturity cloud my judgment.  another round of thank you's for giving gracious counsel, careful criticism, and then pouring forgiveness on me.  
you stand with each others' limitations so well.

a thousand tears wept together (at least that many)... i'm surprised Hixson didn't have to replace that hallway carpet from the mornings we spent grieving loss and hurt on each others' shoulders.  we lost children, parents, siblings, grandparents... we cried over damaged friendships, painful and scary illness, broken marriages.  we cried when we were sad, and we cried together.  
you mourn with each other so well.

another thousand tears of laughter and embarrassing snorts of happiness that burst out when you're among the best sorts of friends. chili suppers (such as you will enjoy tomorrow- how i wish i could be there!), sweltering july picnics, late nights at the women's retreats, and seeing Zack dance on stage (the earthy dance? was that it? it has been several years, but i still smile when i think of it!)... these are moments i remember laughing long and hard with you.  
you enjoy life together so well!

a thousand moments of celebration with you... your weddings, your graduations, your good news from the doctors, your children's births.  the smiles, the toasts, the shared joys are among my most precious memories.  
you celebrate each other so well.

a thousand layers of grace from the Lord.  as He built up our faith and tore down our idols and pulled away our hardness and gave us new eyes and new hearts, we grew together and we are no longer who we once were.  we are changed by His love, His freedom, His gentle call to turn to Him.  
you follow Jesus together so well. 

it is such an honor to have entered into these sacred moments with you. i can't find the words to tell you how i treasure my memories of 10 years with you.  and to see you now?  working together to purchase and restore a beautiful new home- the place you will welcome new families, accept them into your hearts, raise them up, mourn with them, laugh with them, celebrate with them, grow in grace with them? i am filled with gratitude for you and all the Lord has done!  

as you enjoy your first Sunday without a set up/tear down crew (AAAAAHHH!), your first day singing and celebrating the risen Christ in the new sanctuary, your first morning of praying and hearing Scripture corporately in your new home, know that you have been lifted up from a thousand miles away.  



And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace...  Philippians 1:6-7


Sunday, November 9, 2014

rinse & repeat

chemo is even less fun than you've imagined... unless you've had it or are having it now, then you know exactly.  no need for details- i'm just sick for about a week and then i slowly feel better & have more energy until i go back for another round every 21 days.  hopefully just rinse & repeat 6 times.

one interesting revelation in all of this is that i'm not a medicine person.  around age 5, i broke into an upper cabinet & ate a bunch of baby aspirin... that's the last time i remember wanting to take a lot of pills.  (those tasted like cherry- who can blame a kid?!)  i'm usually more of a 'wait & see' person.  if i have a headache, i drink a glass of water or go outside for a short walk.   upset stomach?  drink some bone broth and take a closer look at my diet from recent days.  skin red & itchy?  removing grains and dairy from my food cleared that right up.  there's a pill for every ailment, but they seem to adversely affect me in one way or another- i didn't realize how much i disliked medications until now!  

but then there's chemo... when you pour toxic chemicals into your veins, you get immediate side effects.  chemically-induced illnesses don't go away with whole foods and a glass of water. you can't always 'wait & see'- ongoing digestive distress (ahem) dehydrates & weakens your body, which is already reeling.  so basically, i'm a ping-pong ball.  i fly between hot flashes & fever chills, exhaustion & restlessness, hungry & nauseous.  i'll spare you the other extremes.  but there's a pill for that, and i have no choice but to take it.  

so i'm not feeling great, but there are a few things that are helping.  maybe they will help you to care for someone (or maybe yourself) in the same boat?  

1. meals for my family. our community drops meals at our house several days a week. i'm not able to eat them the week after chemo (though they smell delicious!), but it's a precious and selfless gift to prepare food for my people.  i'm so thankful.

2. bottled water. i'm usually a tap water person, but i can taste all the metals in our well water right now, and bottle water is delightfully bland.  the more i drink, the better i feel- hydration always matters, and right now i'm keenly aware.

3. bone broth. when i can drink 1-2 cups of warm bone broth (beef, chicken, pork- any healthy animal bones + veggies), i have more energy & less stomach upset.  it's a highly nutrient dense drink, and it doesn't take much to see the benefit.

4. walking outdoors. being in Connecticut, my days of outdoor walks are approaching an end.  shifting to snow shoes may be the thing, though, because movement fights chemical induced fatigue better than sleep!  i'm not terribly aerobic these days, but 30 minutes of slow walking helps a lot.  

5.  friends who give ENORMOUS grace.  this bears repeating:  you are loving us well, friends.  i know you wish you could DO something, and i understand that impulse.  i like to 'do,' too!  it's so much easier than praying, hoping, and waiting.  i get it.  but there isn't always something to do, is there?  some days we get 5 offers for groceries, walks, and babysitting- we take great comfort in both your offers of love and your ability to hear 'no thank you.'  it doesn't seem like much, but when you accept 'no,' you are not requiring more of us than we have to give today.  that is just as much a gift to us as your time & service.

hear this, please:  when you quietly leave a meal outside our door, when you send a text that i can't respond to for days, when you just wish you could do something to help - we know you love us, and that is everything. 




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

i am sure of this

i spent about seven weeks this summer preparing a study called Who Does God Say He Is to share with the women in my church & community.  it's a look at how God describes Himself in the Bible- what He reveals through the names and attributes used throughout His written story.  layer after layer, each word builds a clearer picture of Him, and still we never finish.  He is never done showing us who He is and how He longs for us to reflect Him in and to our world.

for a few hours almost every day, i asked Him to pour out the abundance of who He is like unleashed clouds on those warm hazy August days.  that is something He loves to do... to drench us in Himself!  i soaked in Truth, drank in Mystery, overwhelmed again that this Well will not run dry. 

Creator and Restorer, Accessible and Unchanging, Sovereign and Faithful, Merciful, Just, Good... 
did you know it's possible to be completely satisfied and achingly thirsty at the same time?  
to both see Him more clearly and know at the very core of your being that these mysteries are beyond your understanding?  
to recognize yourself as He created you, Image Bearer, and yet long to know who you are becoming more strongly than ever?  
it's a rumbling waterfall of contrasting feelings- noisy and restful at once.



this is where i found myself- sopping wet and dripping with Grace and Truth- on September 11. in the early Fall sunshine, wrapped in a soft blanket and sitting in a chippy white Adirondack chair {my most prized roadside rescue}, i was full to overflowing as I answered the phone and talked to the doctor about my breast cancer.

i tell you this because i am not so strong, not so faithful.  i'm angry at this bad news, hurt by the chemotherapy, afraid for my children, sad for my husband.  
i'm also sure of this: 
 all that God showed me of Himself in August 
did not become untrue in September.  

the abundance of Himself that He poured over me?  it's soaking in, filling the places that i cannot see or describe to you. He is still my Restorer, still Unchanging, still Sovereign, still Good, still Merciful... all this and more.
He is still enough.






your prayers, gifts, letters, hugs, meals, kind words, service and love are such an offering of His grace to our family... we will never be able to give back all that we've already received, and we are grateful that you are pouring out on us.  
we love you. yes- you.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

a few answers

so many of you have experience with cancer... i'm so sorry.  i'm sad that you know what questions to ask.  i'm sad that you're familiar with the tests.  i'm sad that you know the pros and cons of different treatments.  these are ideas and words that aren't meant to be in our lives.  cancer is part of our broken world.  God is present in every part of it- He is present with us. but we are not made for this.  i'm sorry.

because you know what to ask, i feel strange about not being more forthcoming with my medical information.  it's not about being shy or needing privacy- i've had babies, mammograms, biopsies, and pap smears with entire medical school classes observing (exaggeration is my therapy). i'm not shy about sharing what's going on, but i'm not sure it's always helpful?

you see, when i hear you asking for more information, i hear this:
"i love you, and i'm worried about you."

"i'm afraid for you and your family."

"i want to do something because i care about you so much."

thank you for asking- i know you love us.

i'm not sure more details would really help.  somehow each new piece of information also adds five new questions.  one biopsy tells us that cancer is present, but not size, stage, or how far it has spread.  one scan tells us the approximate size, but also gives false results based on hormone levels.  another scan gives me a license to be radioactive- literally, a card stating that it's okay that i'm setting off radiation alarms.  (matt called it 'the hulk scan.'  i am not green or huge, but i'm hopeful...) 

even now, i'm waiting for 3 more tests before beginning treatment.  6 weeks into this we still don't know as much as we would like.

so how about this for basic answers:  
we do know that there is cancer present in the right breast. 
we do know that it's triple positive, which has good and bad points.
we do know that i will be receiving chemotherapy beginning as soon as possible.
we do know that i will have surgery after chemo is done.

and many of you now have 10 more questions because you know so much about cancer.  i'm so sorry that you know what to ask, and i'm sorry that i'm not giving you solid answers. 
but i'm not sorry, really- thank you for loving us with your questions.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

grace for deeper waters


there's only a slight difference in how it feels, facing your own cancer compared to cancer in someone you love as part of yourself.  it's like looking down at your body (you know it's your body- you're inside it) versus looking at your reflection (is that what i look like to others?  how odd).  

the difference is in the perspective.  

i've been here before as a wife.  in 2009, matt had a lump. then an appointment. then a wait. then another appointment.  then a surgery, a few tests. another wait.

then cancer.  and all that goes with cancer. 

i've said before, and i should go on record with it:  i am so glad our cancer chapter was so short.  it was not easy- matt, i promise that i know it wasn't easy for you.  i was there, and it was... is there really an appropriate description?  
i know short does not mean happy, but it also means he is alive and cancer free.  not in remission- no cancer at all. 5 years.  i know this is good, and i am aware and grateful.  too many friends are still being treated, still losing their loved ones, still in pain.  i know.

and now here we are again.  i have breast cancer.  first lumps. appointments. then tests. waiting.  more tests to come.  words like 'concerning.' 'suspicious.' 'how soon can you get in for this biopsy?' 

'i'm sorry to tell you this over the phone.'

i don't know if it's worse now than it was before?  with the knowing.  the familiarity.  is it harder to have been here or to be completely unaware?  
i could argue both sides. 

it wasn't my body in 2009, but it was my heart.  my only one.  their only father.
i didn't get sick, but i was suffering.  they were, too.
and now it is my body, and it's all the same feelings.  i'm their only mother.  i'm his only one- his heart. 

and we will be okay- that's our plan.  (and as far as we know, it is a good plan).
we don't want to do this. not again. yet God meets us here just as He meets us every day and every place. His grace carries us even in this.

****************************************************************
this is new information for some of you, and i am sorry you are reading it here instead of sitting with us in the mountains by a crackling fire, watching the sunset, sipping excellent red wine.  would that we could discuss all hard things in such a place!  we are thankful to love and be loved by so many, and yet that makes it impossible to have personal conversations with each of you.  if we do not respond to your text, your email, your call... if we are not ready to meet you for prayer and coffee... will you give us grace?  you are loved by us, and we are grateful for you, and we are limited by our sadness and our need to rest.




Monday, September 1, 2014

Pour

As 'back to school' happens and life is moving on, I'm feeling in between.  Here and there. New England and Midwest. This day, September 1,  marks the beginning of a new season (figuratively). Nine months in our new home- with our new friends- our new normal.  
I wrote this about a year ago as a part of my going away process... it still brings old faces to mind, and happily, also a group of new faces. I am confident in how He is pouring out a new story- a good story for all of us, even in the letting go.


Pour.  It’s the first word in my mind when I consider our friendship.
Pour out.  Pour over.  Pour into.
And we do pour a considerable amount, don’t we?  
We pour water, coffee, tea, wine, sangria, champagne, cocktails, and 
more sangria, please.

After we pour our drinks, we pour out ourselves.
We pour ideas, recipes, stories, and advice.
We pour our laughter, love, prayers, tears (these are pouring now- the others at the cafe beginning to get uncomfortable).  
We pour anxiety, fear, concern, grace, and forgiveness.  We pour life into each other.

We pour out gifts... the brilliant and undeserved treasure put in us by the Lord.  
We do have a variety of gifts, have you seen?
You pour Welcome and Hospitality, the warm, priceless offering of a place to rest and connect.
You pour gracious, painful Honesty and the beautiful ability to enter into conflict to make us face our true selves and force our friendships into stronger places.
You pour out sweet Vulnerability, challenge us all to look at our fears and own them before Our God who says, ‘do not worry!’ 
You pour Creativity, and as we marvel at your artistry we all feel God’s presence more intensely.
You pour out Wisdom, Experience, light-filled Guidance for us to follow into the Unknown and New.
You pour Encouragement, the celebratory support from friends who know, understand, and believe wholeheartedly that we can do it... whatever the task.
You pour out precious Faith.  Trust that God always does what He says He will do.
You pour quiet Attentiveness, your listening ears and deep heart abiding with all that we pour back.
You pour bold words of Hope.  Powerful testimony of what is to come... future Grace.

You’ve poured all that God has put inside you, and  I feel God’s Grace and Presence in your faces and hands.  I’m filled to the brim, ready to overflow to a new family, a new circle of smiling faces. Still, I can’t imagine life without a cup in my hands and your beautiful faces before me- pouring liquid favor and life-giving love into each other.  I can’t imagine daily life without you.

Will you still be my people?  Can we still pour life into each other?  Pour out ourselves, pour blessing over each other?  I know I need you on the other side of my cup.  As I pour coffee (in my hobnail mug, of course),  I promise to pray for you in deep, joyful, extravagant ways.  
Because you need this.

Pour a cup, pour out your prayers, and allow God to pour into each of us in divine mystery... and know that the cry of your heart matters immensely to me and to the Lord.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him.  
God is a refuge for us.”  
~Psalm 62:8

With More Love Than You Could Hold In A Thousand Hobnail Cups,
Rachel 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

more good things


1.  Though it is plainly summer in Connecticut, it is not 105 degrees.  This makes me happy, because I am an angry person when I'm uncomfortable.  Being sweaty immediately upon exiting the shower?  Uncomfortable, therefore angry.  Sitting outside in 80ish degrees with a breeze?  Lovely, and not angry.

2.  I was unreasonably afraid that our house would be hot all summer.  It is pleasantly, surprisingly cool, and I am thankful!

3. There are 4 huge old trees in our front yard... lots of shade, low branches for climbing, and stunning shadows and light coming through the leaves.  I love the quiet rush of the wind coming through the limbs. I love watching my children gain confidence as they scramble to new heights and overcome their fear as they climb back down.


4.  Matt and I hung twinkle lights across the front yard... they make me happy. 

5.  Julia doesn't hate fireworks and sparklers anymore- she enjoys the crashing and crackling, the flashes of color, the heavy smoke spreading across the lawn.  There's more growth and development in just that sentence than I can describe, so you have to believe me.  It's a big deal.
this picture is blurry because she is in motion. when she loves something, she shows it with her whole being.


6.  We visited New York City briefly this month, and of all the fun we had visiting Uncle Alex, Aunt Jessie, Cousin Hadley,  Mimi, and Auggie Dog (not to mention the views of the Hudson, the WTC, the Statue of Liberty, and a trip to the Museum of Natural History), my favorite part of the weekend is this:  Jessie miraculously and unknowingly got our children to eat the same kind of chicken. Not two separate meals- just one. This is also a big deal.  You are winning all the things right now, Jessie.

7.  Actually, I really enjoyed NYC, what little we were able to cover in 28ish hours!  The little pocket parks between buildings and the huge numbers of families playing out on the lawn by the river create such a different kind of community within the larger city... fascinating to this suburban girl.  I look forward to staying a bit longer, seeing more of the city, maybe babysitting that cute baby so her parents can go out. Yes, the miracle of the chicken has merited babysitting.  It's that huge.

8.  I got the laundry clean and the airplane snacks made before midnight the night before we leave town... you might not think this is noteworthy, but I manage to procrastinate prepping and packing for travel until the wee hours. I'm so far ahead of my usual self I may pour a drink... sit down... ignore the fact that nothing is actually in suitcases yet.  

9.  We have church outdoors in the summer.  While not everything about this is perfect, I am enjoying these aspects:  dewy grass, friends on picnic blankets and folding chairs, rustling leaves, laughing children chasing each other across the yard, voices carried off by the wind as we sing and pray together. 


10.  There are blackberries growing across the yard- planted by someone else I'm not sure how long ago.  Watching the branches flower, push through into tiny green clusters, and now deepen from green to red to black has been so sweet this summer.  They will probably fully ripen while we are away, and I like to imagine our friends getting to enjoy them with their families.  Why do blackberries mean gathering together to me?  They just don't seem like a solitary fruit- certainly not meant to be consumed hurriedly or privately.  


11.  I have decided to read more about blackberry cultivation.  There will be more of these next year, mark my words.

12.  We have several more weeks of summer vacation, and many of our planned adventures and hoped for projects still to fulfill.