Tuesday, January 28, 2020

When You Wish It Wasn't Your Story

     I was listening to family radio one day and they were featuring some of their most popular segments from 2019. The interview that day was with Lysa Terkeurst, one of my favorite authors and speakers. Her books have ministered to me during some difficult days. As she shared her story, one moment stood out to me so clearly. Her voice, filled with emotion, stated that even though God had done so much through her very difficult circumstances, she still wished that it wasn't her story. As I heard the tears through the radio, I felt the tears sliding down my cheeks. I still don't think I've gotten over my story. In fact, I know I haven't. Part of me still feels like I've been reborn into some other life that I haven't quite gotten used to. I'm often in the growing pains stage, and other times I'm contented with the beauty of it. All of it, I know, is part of a personal narrative that God has written and blessed...but that doesn't mean it isn't hard.
     For those who may not know me, I'll try to briefly explain. A little over seven years ago I found out that I had thyroid cancer. While this is one of the most treatable cancers, it came right as I had a newborn, a three year old, and a five year old. I was overwhelmed, recovering from a difficult pregnancy, and most likely dealing with some post-pardum depression. Having a nodule growing on top of my esophagus was scary, and the big C was even scarier. Having it removed, and therefore "curing" it, wasn't the easy solution it was made out to be. My doctor recommended forgoing radiation, so over the next two years I had to get regular blood checks and sonograms to make sure nothing grew back. My anxiety levels were higher than ever. A year after my thyroidectomy, after many problems with regulating my thyroid medication, I had another surgery that was supposed to be fairly easy. I developed a post surgical infection that resulted in two hospital trips and quite a while in recovery, even after I was home. Yet within a few days of getting home I was thrust back into full-time Mom duties. I'm so thankful for friends and family who came to help. I couldn't have made it without them. Years passed and we faced other challenges, including my husband changing pastoral positions, packing up and selling our home of 12 years and moving, new job, new community, new church, our kids went to school for the first time (I had been homeschooling), my oldest son broke his leg in the midst of my trying to pack up and move, both of our vehicles (that were paid off) died...it seemed like the list never ended. The worst, however, was finding out my Mom had cancer and my Dad having a stroke the same day. That began one of the hardest seasons of my life, by far. I still haven't unpacked all the feelings of that year. I'll always be grateful that my husband and I decided that I wouldn't work and we would use our savings so that I could be with my parents during that time. It was a gift to me and my family from God, but I won't lie. I wish it wasn't my story. I learned a lot during that time. I cried a lot and I didn't laugh much. I experienced a wide range of emotions, yet I held in a lot of emotions, too, as a means of self-preservation. I can even remember the first time I laughed again after a long period of time. It felt strange and good. A year after my Mom's diagnosis she went to be with the Lord, and less that two years after that, my Dad joined her.
     As I said before, I still haven't completely settled into this new life. Life without my parents. My Mom was one of my best friends. We talked on the phone or in person almost daily. She cheered on my dreams and made me feel like I could do anything. She updated me on all the family news as she was the hub of all the family communication. Just the other day I was talking through some feelings with my husband about not being in touch with some extended family like I used to. One of my struggles was that it was hard to find out things about our family through other people and then hear, "Oh, you didn't know that?" Awkward. Yet, I had to stop myself and ask the question, "How often am I communicating with them?" Not very often. But how did I used to feel so connected and now I don't? It hit me kind of hard. Mom used to be the one that communicated regularly with everyone then she would update me. It made me feel like I was "in the know," as if I had talked to them myself. I was glad that this became clearer to me, and it challenged me to think differently about the situation and even confess some things to the Lord. But it was hard, too. Sad. I still miss "the old days."
     So how do we handle it when life takes a turn? When our dreams of the future change drastically with death of loved ones, isolation, unmet expectations, and personal struggles? There's no set answer for that. It's going to be different for every individual person and situation. What I do know is that God doesn't leave us stranded. He walks right beside us through every struggle, every hard day, and every night we cry into the pillow. In fact, the Bible says that he collects our tears. This scene from "The Shack" made me think of how He takes all of our sorrow and can turn it into something beautiful. He carries our burdens, our heartaches. He has gone before us, comes behind us, and wraps His arms around us. Sorrow is not foreign to Him. He says, "Come to me, and I will give you rest." I couldn't make it through this new season without the Lord. I still have a lot of difficult days of adjusting, remembering, and grieving. With Him, though, I have a constant companion and confidante. He never grows tired of me or my struggles. If you don't know Him, just talk to Him. He hears, He sees. He will make beauty from the ashes.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Reviewer's bookshelf: "An Uncommon Woman" by Laura Frantz

Book Summary: Unflinching and plainspoken, Tessa Swan is not your typical 18th-century woman. Born and bred on the western Virginia frontier along with her five brothers, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Quiet and courageous, Clay Tygart is not your typical 18th-century man. Raised by Lenape Indians, he returns a hero from the French and Indian War to the fort that bears his name, bringing with him Tessa's long-lost friend, Keturah, a redeemed Indian captive like himself.

Determined to avoid any romantic entanglements as fort commander, Clay remains aloof whenever he encounters the lovely Tessa. But when she is taken captive by the tribe Clay left, his hand--and heart--are forced, leading to one very private and one very public reckoning.

Intense, evocative, and laced with intricate historical details that bring the past to life, An Uncommon Woman will transport you to the picturesque and dangerous western Virginia mountains of 1770.

My thoughts... I always get really excited when I see that a new Laura Frantz book is coming out! She has an incredible gift at writing intricate detail in her novels. I'm kind of amazed by how she is able to capture the sights, sounds, and smells of of another place and time. It's like stepping into a time machine and walking out into Virginia in the 1700s. I'm there. But let's be honest...kinda glad I live in the 21st century. Frontier life was not easy!
     The title, "An Uncommon Woman," had an interesting meaning as well. Both Tessa and Keturah were unique woman and brought different things to the story. Keturah, blonde and fair and Tessa, dark hair and tan skin, were beautiful in their own ways. I pictured Clay as a Daniel Day-Lewis from Last of the Mohicans (basically my favorite hero type) with a little shorter hair, but with all the rugged courage and skill. The romantic tension was gradual and built slowly, but powerfully. A steady-paced plot with a few twists and turns complete this well-rounded novel. 
     If you enjoy historical Christian fiction I would highly recommend all of Laura Frantz' novels!

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**