dear 2017,

hello.
HELLO!

Breathe in. I made it! Oh 2016, your last few months of offering offered me so much confusion, despair, uncertainty, hopelessness and yet in the last few days you began to give me clarity, peace and hope.

2016 was a series of puzzle pieces of time, months chunked into unique puzzle pieces, each distinct with their own image. It almost seems like multiple years passed by me within this one year because of all of the changes, all of the new. It is hard to press down the memories into just one mason year jar of time and seal them.

As I look back and reflect, there are weeks I remember so much of, a full 7 days pressurized and heightened in memory because of so much change—

WEEK 1.

In 2016, I graduated out of working in high school group alongside graduating high school seniors who I’ve seen grown up for the past 4 years. Incredible!, and I get to watch them grow and enjoy them even more still in their college years, their personalities more vibrant, their knowledge of the Lord deepening, their gifts and abilities growing stronger and shining even more brightly in their golden offerings to others. This is a joy that is behind-the-scenes always I am realizing more now, and a joy that not many get to experience. I almost cried at a recent meeting just because I was sitting between two of these girls at a college Bible study meeting, as if I were feeling the force of being in-between two magnets that have so much power and connectivity that they must attract.

(Heart, remember these small joys in 2017 please.)

The same week I left high school group, our college homechurch split and created another group, sending dear friends away to make room for new ones. New group, new roles, new thoughts and new people, and yet it seems like they have been there this entire year instead of only half.

Later that week, I transitioned from part time to full time work at OSU, my young adult aspirations now realizing I am becoming truly an adult, yikes! An aspiration and goal of my 2016 year achieved of being a full time employee.

That week seemed like a beginning of a new year, so distinct and shaped a whole other puzzle piece of 2016 time in my mind. So many news, so many beginnings for a week with lots of joy and change.

It seems do different, almost like a different life when I go and snap another puzzle piece of time next to it, this period of time also severed into another piece because of a single week.

WEEK 2.

As the autumn leaves changed this year, so did my cells mirror them, relapsing again this October for the 4th time in my life. Four struck me to the core, especially with only having 1 mere year of cancer and chemo freedom. Even though I had chemo such a short time ago, I was now so different, in such a different life stage, finally trying to be without cancer and now it coming back again so quickly and so dangerously. Hearing hints of fear in doctor’s voices that I hadn’t quite been in tune with before now than ever. Cancer now moving in different directions, from in the past my legs and hips to now the base of my neck, and returning to an old and original home of my lungs, a home it hadn’t invaded since I was 13. My full time work now turning into full time work for my life, making phone calls, listening to doctors’ opinions and options, radiation, reaching out to clinical trials more seriously for the first time.

That same week, my brother in survivorship Skylor passes away from his cancer. I looked to the sky that day when I was on the phone hearing the news, and all I could do was cry tears of relief-saddness. I looked as if I were trying to find him there, and yet when I closed my eyes all I could see was Skylor, the 16 year old guy who was the epitome of joy now even more joyful in heaven, reaching the height, depth and weight of joy for eternity forever that he experienced a mere fraction of here on earth. I saw Skylor smiling and knew he was with God, talking to God, smiling at God. The same physical Skylor was in now in a physical place called Heaven, with a physical God, and the weight of this faith hitting me even more deeper and truer. If Skylor was real, and certainly he was, then God also was real in that moment just as Skylor now exists with him.

God reminded me of the whisper-callings he generally uses in my life, and reminded me how he brought me to Skylor’s patient room because of prayer and a letterman’s jacket.

(Oh heart, please listen to these whisper-callings in 2017 more.)

My relapse so close to Skylor’s death indeed sent me to the darkest of places and numbest of feelings and thoughts. How could I not look at Skylor’s cause of death and wonder if that would be mine also? And how could I get out of this cycle of relapsing when every option seemed like plan D now instead of plan A?  And yes, it really seemed like plan D for Despair. You can be frozen in time and life, even with all the anxieties buzzing energy in your mind they still can’t coerce you to move and live.

I took off work, my full time work life. I crocheted, I ached. I anxiously asked every question of doctor at Nationwide Children’s as well as at Cincinnati Children’s. I half-halfheartedly prayed for healing, unsure exactly what health meant to me now that it seems even more real, thoughts like screws going painfully deeper into my mind that I will always being relapsing here on this earth. Unsure and anxious about going through a clinical trial, battling weeks of it being so uncertain if I would qualify and get in the trial, and then making it and being even more uncertain with new thoughts and doubts about the people, the procedures. Each treatment option seeming like a chess move that I was unable to make up my mind which move to make and just not playing the game at all and wanting others to choose for me.

And yet, God still answered others’ prayers for me when I could not even do that for myself. I got into the trial, despite both physical and mental obstacles. And the day my Dad and I spend all day and night over at Cincy Children’s to start the trial, that evening I felt more calm and at peace than I had in months. An unexpected feeling. A moment of grace feeling. In swallowing new chemo-poison I didn’t feel bad as I expected for that entire week of new treatment but felt better. Who knew anxiety was so physical?

It’s 2017. Last year, I was amazed how far I had come from cancer life, and now I’m back at it. These weeks have severed my life so differently than what I had anticipated for sure, and I’m not even too sure what to ask quite yet of 2017.

My pleas from years past seem the same again, just buried a little deeper—

More dependence.
More trust.
More gratitude.
More hope in the next life than in this one, because this one definitely keeps shifting!

As always,

2016, thank you.
2017, thank you in advance.

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