Bold, Bald, and Beautiful: Part 3

inked by Julia

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

The last two months have been a whirlwind for me. Actually, the entire summer was also a whirlwind. We planned a wedding, we went to Venice, I moved in with a boy, I started grad school orientation, and then I got cancer. It’s still a little weird to throw that last one into a sentence. After I was diagnosed with cancer, we spent a full month in the hospital, moved in with my parents, and now I spend every weekday just chilling at home with my mom watching TV when I’m not going to the hospital for chemo.  I told her the other day that besides the whole cancer thing, we’re kind of living the dream life! ;)

God doesn’t make mistakes, and this is His will for my life. He knew I was going to have leukemia before I was even a thought in my parent’s mind. I’m glad God knew where I was going to be at age 21, and I’m ready to roll with it. Yes, it can be tough. I have bad days fairly regularly, but those bad days make the good days that much better.  Like the passage in Romans says, this tribulation has already produced perseverance, refined my character, and produced hope in and through me.

This hope, that my loved ones have as well, has radiated through us to others while in the hospital. We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to share Christ’s love with others. I try to have a positive attitude through every situation in the hospital. I still cry when it hurts, or even when my heart hurts. It’s not that I’m stronger than other patients, but my love for Christ and faith in His plan that gives me peace. My hope is that the doctors and nurses see this peace and know Who it comes from.

I want to continue growing through this trial. I have to battle selfishness and self-centeredness on a daily basis. Michael and my parents have centered their lives around taking care of me, and it’s easy to think that everything is all about me. I constantly remind myself to ask others questions and not talk about myself. My prayer is to grow in humility through this process.

Something life changing like a cancer diagnosis shows you who you truly are, and then you choose who you’re going to be through it. I hope the Lord uses this to make me a better version of myself. A sweet patient care assistant at the hospital shared the verse above with my family and me and it keeps showing up in my life. I love that it says “hope does not put us to shame,” because we have Christ! These verses are my prayer as I walk through this long season. Even on the hardest days, I want to rejoice knowing that my suffering isn’t in vain, and that my ultimate hope is in Christ alone.

Bold, Bald, and Beautiful: Part 2

inked by Julia

I started this blog post in the hospital when I was anticipating my homecoming. I arrived home last Tuesday evening, and by Wednesday afternoon, the deed was done—I shaved my head.

I couldn’t take another day of looking like a balding middle-aged man. I took a before shot of my hair and sent it to my sisters and I don’t think they really knew how to respond because it was that bad. My goal of hair loss was to not reach Gollum status, which I think I succeeded in, but it’s a close call. 7

Along this hair loss journey, I feared how I’d feel buzzing my head. When the day came, the mood in the house was quiet and somber, and no one really knew what to do or say. My mom and I cried together.

Being an all-girl-plus-a-dad house, we were unsure of how to even use clippers. Luckily, my mom had not given away her mother’s (a former hairdresser) clippers, and we dusted them off to give ‘em a whirl. I have an awesome husband, like I’ve said a billion times, who offered to go first. We all laughed watching my mom shave a head for the first time. Once his head was shaved, it was my turn. It’s strange—after all the tension building up to that point, I wasn’t nervous after seeing Michael shave his head.  My head shaving went smoothly and easily.

Now I’m five days into being a bald beauty, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s really not that bad. I mean, don’t get me wrong–there are times when I look in the mirror and don’t recognize myself. I also feel pretty self-conscience when people see my baldhead for the first time, and I’m aware of the stares I get out in public. I don’t blame them, either, because I’ve been there! But most of the time, I embrace the new look. Getting ready takes no time at all. I do miss having the feminine look that long hair gives me, but a baldhead shows off the rest of my face. I’m ready to give bald a chance!

I searched the internet for tips from other young women who’ve battled cancer and lost hair in the process, but I couldn’t find much. Here are a few tips (I wrote them when I still had some hair) for any other women out there who might be in the same hair loss boat:

Depending on the length of your hair, it’ll shed like crazy even as you cut it shorter and shorter (which I highly recommend).  For most of the stages of hair loss, you need a lint roller. Rolling up the mess is a lot less sad than picking it up strand-by-strand, and it’s much easier.

I would also recommend a silk pillowcase. They are much most gentle on your little head, and I think they are very comfortable. I used a head wrap instead of the hospital towels after showers. In the early stages, it didn’t pull any hair out. Now, it’s a little bit different, but I still think it helps.

Accessorize! As I approached the end of the first phase of treatment, my hair was mainly thinning out on top, but the back was starting to go as well. I found the cutest headbands to cover up the top of my head and make it look super stylish! Stock up on every type of hat, scarf or headwrap that tickles your fancy. I tried not to wear anything in the hospital, because I felt like it pulled out the hair I had left, and it just littered the inside of my clean hats and headbands with hair.

Lastly, don’t leave the house without confidence. I say that as a pep talk for myself, because I want to share my new look with you. I do this with hesitation, but here I am, world!IMG_0043

Anddd here’s one to tug at your heartstrings.

IMG_0047

Ten Thousand Reasons

bless the lordinked by Holly

As some of you may know, my sassy, bossy, active, sweet little mommy suddenly passed away last month.  Thank you so very much for texts, cards, flowers, meals and most of all, prayers. She is missed but I’m so thankful we will see her again!

Both of my parents have gone on to heaven.  And I must say, it’s a strange, lonely feeling. But I am not without a Father and He has shown up in so many ways in the past month.  I’d like to share just one.

My husband, my brother and I were riding together to the funeral home to make Mom’s arrangements.  We were talking, making plans, remembering.  The actual funeral service was on my mind, trying to think of mom’s favorites, verses or songs that were important to her.  I hadn’t even noticed the radio in the background but I realized the song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman was playing. I opened my notes app and quickly wrote some of the lyrics just so I could remember that song and look it up again later to enjoy.

On Sunday, we had debated going to church.  The funeral wasn’t until Monday and I just wasn’t sure I was up to facing people yet.  But when I woke up that morning, I felt the need to be at church.  We arrived a little late and a few sweet friends left their seats to hug us when we walked in the service.  As soon as I took my seat, the worship band began the next song, “10,000 Reasons.”

Tears started flowing and I thanked my Heavenly Father for that special gift to me.  I leaned over and quickly shared, through tears, to Alissa, why that song was so special to me that day. Even after the song ended, I just couldn’t stop thinking of the way God had showed up and given me a special little gift.  The worship leader had no idea when he chose songs for the week, that God would use his decision to encourage me.

End of story.  Or so I thought.

The following Sunday, I didn’t go to church because I was home with a recuperating daughter.  The week after that, we went to church at Far Hills, where the other daughters attend and my son-in-law is a pastor on staff.  A few songs into the worship set, and the worship director led us in singing “10,000 Reasons.” This week, I’m feeling a little more stable and just smile through the entire song!  I’m sure a tear or two fell.  I look over, Steve and the girls knowingly smile at me.  It a beautiful reminder, yet again.

This past week, we went to Cleveland for a lovely bridal shower for Emily. On Sunday, we attended Parkside Church where my soon to be son-in-law, Danny, is on staff.  The music starts. “10,000 Reasons.”  The third church service since mom passed away.  The third worship leader to choose “10,000 Reasons. “ Tears are flowing.

It’s pretty obvious that I’m supposed to be listening, paying attention and heeding the words to this song.

The last verse strikes me every time.  My mom’s days here on earth have ended. I’m sad.  I cry.  But what God has asked me to do is very obvious.  He’s made it clear every time I go to church these days!  I’m to bless the Lord, oh my soul.  In the good, in the bad, in the painful.  It’s not always easy.  But it’s always right.  And it always takes the focus off this life and reminds me of what’s to come.  It’s a gift that changes everything.

So with hands outstretched, and some tears too, I’ll do my very best to bless the Lord and remember that I still have a Heavenly Father with me, and my earthly parents are with Him.