Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hi friends, I have exciting news!!! Fishwater Tees in OKC, which is a company that has great products that I love, has designed a special shirt in recognition of my fight against Ovarian Cancer. They are donating the proceeds made from the shirt to the non-profit I am starting: Tenaciously Teal, which will continue to focus on encouraging Cancer patients and providing them with care packs consisting of items geared towards their special needs. In addition to making care packs, TT will continue to raise awareness for female Cancers, and provide support to other who are fighting Cancer. I love the shirt Fishwater Tees has designed and feel so blessed they have decided to help us spread Light in the midst of darkness. Go get your Fight Like a Girl tee today, and help Tenaciously Teal spread some love!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Miracles out of Heartache: I'm Heading Back to Work

Me in front of my new office, and putting on
a brave face before going into my second interview.

Cancer is not the first obstacle that has tested my hope and gladness this past year.  I have worked for child welfare for the past six years, and spent one year in child protective services, until they realized I was likely going to cry more than the kids  when they would have to be removed from their home, so they moved me to a job in prevention. As a prevention worker I worked with families to maintain their children in the home, and did weekly home visits with families.

I spent several years in the “field”, and saw a lot of dysfunction and heartbreak, and really started to become burnt out. I decided it was time for me to look at other options and so I applied for five promotions within child welfare where I could distance myself from being on the front lines.

 Every time I had an interview I entered with confidence that this was the job God had for me, because each opportunity progressively seemed to fit my skill set and needs better.

Well…although I consider myself an outstanding interviewer I was proven wrong time after time. God kept having to remind me that He had a plan for my future, and I had yet to discover it.
In between my second and third year of graduate school I came up with a way to improve the prevention model within child welfare.My administration liked the idea and so I spent the summer researching and writing protocol for the new program I had developed.

Last year, At the end of the summer, my office decided to expand the prevention program and hire a new prevention supervisor. Since I had worked on developing a new model for prevention, that my administration had been eager to implement, I had high hopes that I would be the most feasible candidate

My interview was a year ago almost to this very day, it was August 16th 2012. The interview went perfectly, and I had what I was told was a “Knocked it out of the park” performance.

After a weekend of anticipation, first thing Monday morning I got called into the office. I expected to be briefed on a transition plan for coming from out of the field and into a cushy supervisor position, but instead I heard those familiar words, " you did not get the job".

I had been rejected yet again, and I was furious. I was so mad that I wondered “Why I even served a God that seemed to not care about my needs, and what I wanted”. I mean my husband and I volunteer in leading children’s church every Sunday, we pray, we give, we seem to do a lot of things right…

The disappointment really hit me hard, and I spent a week at home moping and evaluating my options. I decided I could get one thing right, and so I finally made the call to a specialist for a third  opinion on what was going on with my health. I had struggles with pain, and undergone tests and minor surgery all with no avail to the problems I had lived with for several years..

From that disappointment, in the midst of feeling lost and abandoned I made a phone call that started a process that changed my life. In the midst of despair God led me to make a call that eventually led my family and I to a diagnosis of Stage IV Ovarian Cancer.
After the big disappointment with my job I didn't recognize Jesus walking next to me, and leading me to where I needed to go. After my second surgery I asked my oncologist how long I had before the Cancer would have taken me down.  She estimated that I had only weeks, maybe a couple of months, before my body began shutting down from being overburdened with Cancer.

This makes the crushing experience with my job that at first was perceived as abandonment a true miracle. If I had gotten that job I wouldn't have made that phone call to the specialist, and would have just kept going until my health completely suffered.

A few weeks ago I took a brave step in making a decision to return to work and enter the interview room one more time. After a lot of stress and two interviews I finally heard the words I had been longing to hear,  " you got the job"! I will start my new job tomorrow at DHS's state office where I will work on policy writing, training, and developing a new program to assist incarcerated women in developing transition plans for their unborn children. 

The opportunity is a true miracle, and in fact a much bigger promotion then any of the jobs I had interviewed for before. I challenge you today to look for the miracle that either have or will come out of the disappointment or trouble you are facing. Miracles don’t always happen as we expect them to, but in faith we know that God loves us and can give us hope no matter how troublesome the future appears. Choose hope and  believe that miracles can happen and will happen when you submit your life to God’s plan.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Advice for Conquering Cancer

 I've always thought  when a family is given a Cancer diagnosis God must consider see them as very strong, because it certainly takes great strength to  battle such an awful disease. A Cancer diagnosis affects and permeates throughout families, and members can expect to have difficult days, but should also anticipate happy and hopeful days. I believe if emphasis is placed on how Cancer can refine patients and families you will find countless, what I call, " Cancer Silver Linings".  Focusing on silver linings helps you enter and complete the fight better than how you began it, and I believe Cancer has the opportunity to bless families with an understanding that life is fragile, and filled with numerous experiences we often take for granted

Tarah with one of her nurses on a
tough chemo day. (May 2013)
Hopefully you will never be or have someone close diagnosed with Cancer, but f you find yourself in that position focus on these silver linings; Cancer affords families with perspective, and allows for insight into the futility of things great emphasis is often placed. For example importance of houses, cars, status, and appearance, but when fighting Cancer hopefully you can see how in reality these things are insignificant. Cancer brings with it realization that stress; conflicts, bad drivers, running late, work woes, and other problems, are moments we long for, along with health, but not things deserving the stress we have given them. 

During this battle,  I continually heard my husband say the only thing that matters is "you, God, and family/close friends, the rest we don't worry about". With our daily stress, and problems which seemingly compound by the hour, how can someone simply not worry, and how can I  put God and myself first? As I've battled and endured treatment for Stage IV Ovarian Cancer I've, not always successfully maintained my stress levels, but attempted to by reminding myself each day about what's important. For myself I found I can't simply think about what I am thankful for, because the mind is tricky. In the midst of attempts to remain thankful I get caught up in the worry we all succumb to at times, and often rightfully so.  To achieve a full spirit of thankfulness I've found writing down or saying out loud at least five things I am  thankful for each day has the ability to turn doom and gloom into a reminder of the blessings I've been afforded even when feeling crummy. Despite how bad things are, or how worrisome things have been, through thoughtfulness I was always able to find at least five things to be thankful for; the right nurse on a tough chemo day, family who sacrificed time to sit with me, doctors who invest their energy in research for a cure, and moments to appreciate my surroundings.
Sisters, Mom and Tarah
 celebrating being together and 
Tarah's graduation with her MSW (2013).

 Thankfulness is key, but in the battle against Cancer we also must learn how to prioritize things needing our attention,and letting go of things not within our power. We all want to be superheros, and in fact our society glorifies multi-tasking, perfectionism, and ability to blast on social media how well we maintain the superficial ease in presenting as a"Pinterest superstar".  

This, however,  is not the attitude or priorities conducive to fighting Cancer. My  advice for the fight is to learn to let go of valuing yourself based on the amount of tasks you can accomplish or complete, but instead learning to  reach out for help when needed, while valuing the community established from connecting with others. Underlying social norms tell us reaching out for help shows weakness, but I am here to tell you asking for help is a sign of strength and maturity. Not asking for help is as fear-based a decision a human being can make, and can lead you quickly in the wrong direction.

For those reading this who know someone battling Cancer, and are onlookers of the devastation, don't wait too long before you take action. Feel free to take it upon yourself to do something for someone who is struggling, because you are mindful asking for help is not always easy. Be thoughtful in how you proceed in helping patients and families, but don't be pushy, or feel accomplished by the simple extension of, "Call me if you need me". Patients and families don't need words or sympathetic smiles, they might just need a hug or a kind gesture.

Something I have learned the hard way in my Cancer battle is to not let myself sulk or feel depressed for too long. We all need a couple days every now and then to be sad, and rightfully so, but allowing despair to go too long opens opportunity for darkness to consume an individual. I suggest reaching out to someone before you start day three shrouded in despair, and combat  dark days with a game plan by asking family or friends in advance if you can call them when the roads gets weary, because weariness is a guarantee.

As you reach out to those around you I also recommend you find an organization who is serving people and communities encased in hopelessness from unfortunate circumstances. A study recently showed  humans who did something for someone else were overall much happier, felt fulfilled, and were able to readily change negative perceptions about their situations. I know Cancer is horrible, and it seems like the worse thing, but I promise with just a quick Google you will find someone else going through  more. For me, I focused on those who also were fighting Cancer, but had little resources or supplies for the battle. I was overwhelmed when I recognized there are people facing Cancer with no support, no money, no resources, and no healthcare, and in response have started the 501c3 organization Tenaciously Teal (Find us on Facebook). I know Cancer doesn't allow you time to do a lot, but as you fight to conquer Cancer find something to take your mind off yourself, and learn the fulfillment that comes from serving others with something as simple as a card. 

 Lastly, when you are facing a Cancer  diagnosis don't ask the question of WHY?, but HOW? How will you overcome Cancer? How will you and your family be better because of Cancer? How will you ask for help? How will you reach out and to whom? How will you learn from this? How will you prepare for the battle ahead? And How will you maintain a spirit of thankfulness? Realize a Cancer diagnosis does not equate to " the end",  your story is not is not over yet, and the beauty of your life stretches way beyond its' frame.
Tarah and her husband, October 2013.
Kept fighting and realize...It gets better!

If you or someone you know is struggling with a Cancer diagnosis please feel free to contact me at I will cry with you, direct you towards  resources to Conquer Cancer, and most importantly I will pray for you!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Many of you know I had the privilege of speaking at Brookings Church of the Nazarene in Brookings, OR. Brookings is located on the Oregon Coast at the edge of the Redwood forests of Northern California. My dad has been the senior pastor at this church for the last eleven years, and I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting and getting to know the wonderful people who call Brookings home. I spoke in all three services, and gained a new found respect for my father who preaches in three services every weekend . The video I have is from the third service I spoke in, so I was a little tired, and being the critical person I am I have not been able to watch the video, so I will let y'all be the judge. This is a glimpse at my testimony and my story in battling Cancer.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

This is 30!

Celebrating my 30th Birthday with my family.
Russy Warren (center) and my husband Benjamin.

I think thirty is that first big milestone birthday that really makes you stop and think. Lets face it with all those big teen birthdays we don't have brains that are developed enough to fully
My mom and I
conceptualize the life and years ahead. At sixteen all you care about is getting behind the wheel, and taking a good driver's license picture. Seventeen gives you the opportunity to buy a ticket to whatever movie you please, and eighteen gives you special permission to things and habits many wish they could have abandoned that same year. Twenty you have a false since of security in feeling like an adult, twenty-one is most often a blur, and by twenty-five high schoolers are starting to look like young-ins. And during the last four years of your twenties all you can think about is how much closer you are to being 30!

By the time you are about to hit thirty you are suddenly  way more aware of wrinkles that seemingly have begun to get deeper, and skin that just doesn't bounce back like it once did. As you reach thirty you also become more aware of  aches and pains you will have to learn to live with, as well as the reality that no beauty regiment is going to stop your eyes from getting dimmer and hair from getting looser. The joy, however, in turning thirty comes with security in the person you are becoming, gratification that comes with financial security and an established career, or at least a knowledge of who you are and are striving to become. As you reach thirty you are coming into the age where evaluation of your clothes, friends, and outings are necessary to keep from being "those people". Those people who are stuck in their desires to not get older and wishful thinking that you will always be granted another day or another year to get things right.

8yro and ready to dominate on
some Trick or Treating
As I celebrate my thirtieth year I believe because of Cancer I have a better grasp than most of the evolution this life takes us on. We go from thinking we will always have a tomorrow, to learning how fragile and futile this life can be, to hopefully wrestling with the desire to make something out of the life and days we are given, and ultimately realizing how silly some of those things were that we used to worry so much about.
Me at 1yro. Loving life with
not a care in the world.

With today being the beginning of my thirtieth year of life I can only wish that I would be blessed with another thirty years to get it right. Realizing that none of us are promised thirty more years I hope going forward to make the best of each day I am given until the promise of my death is fulfilled, and I can be rid of this tent that becomes more battered with each birthday celebration.

 Until the anticipation of  another birthday celebration is fulfilled I can only hope to be remembered as this at 30; A joy to my friends and family, an inspiration to those in need, an advocate for the oppressed, a do gooder, an example of God's love and grace, a woman who faced and conquered her fears, someone who aged with poise, and finally a lady who gave an all out effort to succeed despite the adversity that comes with each passing year.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

You Can't LEAVE It All Behind

Tarah asked me, her father, to share some thoughts with you...

This week has been one full of emotions for Marylynn and I. It started out by saying goodbye to a church family that we have loved for over 11.5 years—I have never lived any one place longer than Brookings, Oregon. Last Sunday morning at the Church of the Nazarene was one filled with love, and hugs, and laughter, and tears. My final message at the church went way too long, but I figured since it was my last Sunday, what could they say? The reality is that Brookings Naz will always be a part of us. After so many years of ministry, one could never really fully leave it all behind—nor would I want to. 

The rest of this week has been filled with house repairs, and packing, and taping, and packing, and taping, and... We're trying to get our home, that we have loved very much, ready for selling. Did I mention that we have been packing? It is a strange thing to try and put all our worldly goods into boxes. The stack of boxes we're slowly moving out to our shop keeps growing and growing. What a challenge! Every time you turn around you see something else and think, "I wonder if I've got a box that will fit that?" People have been generously providing us with boxes. They keep asking if I want more, and I tell them that I've not come to the point where I will "look a gift box in the mouth." 
If you've experienced a move recently, then you can really appreciate what a torture it is. The down stairs, where the girl's rooms were, is fairly well packed now. I've already started having my moments of tears. I am far too sentimental for this kind of stuff. (I tell people that I got my hairline from mydad, but my tear ducts from my mom.) It will be tough to leave it behind.

What emotion as we prepare to leave our little spot by the sea behind. Ten years ago we planted what looked like a tiny little twig behind our house. We planted it to commemorate the one year anniversary of Allison's death—Tarah's college roommate. Ten years later that little twig is taller than our house! Two years ago I buried Molly, the family pet of 16 years, at it's base.
That tree has deep meaning for our family, but It won't load on the truck.  It seems that while we take part of Brookings with us, we will end up leaving part of us behind. (Not to mention the fact that our daughter, Marla, and her husband Chris, will still be here. "Snif, snif" )

People have asked me why we would even consider moving from such a beautiful location. And indeed, Brookings, OR is one of America's best kept beautiful secrets. Many times, on my lunch break, I have ventured out across the church parking lot, crossed over Hwy 101, and made my way down to the shoreline for a quick walk on the beach. My computer is filled with too many beautiful photographs that I've had such a hard time figuring out which ones I should delete. I won't be able to leave those images behind.

Of course, Tarah is a big part of why Marylynn and I think we should be in Oklahoma. Her recent post has reminded us how very much we feel that we should be there. We feel that God has allowed us this opportunity to minister to the people of Bethany, OK.  Graciously, God is moving us so that we can be close to her and Ben. Our hope, belief, and prayer is that the cancer battle is ended, but only the Good Lord knows for sure. Of course, being close to Andrea and Evan is a bonus. For temporary residence we're actually going to be one wall away from the Mr. and Mrs. Mosshart, in a duplex. I suggested that we could cut a window between the units of the duplex, for better communication. Andrea nixed that idea, but I'm sure that Evan wouldn't have minded. It seems that, for a while at least, they won't be able to completely leave us behind.

Also, we are going because Marylynn and I have a shared confidence that we have been called to be the pastor and wife of the Lake Overholser Church of the Nazarene. The good people there have invited us to come and join them. And while saying goodbye to our friends here has been torturous, we are excited about the prospects ahead. One gentleman there asked me why I would leave all that beauty of the Oregon Pacific to come there. I responded by saying, "You can't save a beach." While I love my beautiful surroundings, I have to remind myself that it is all only temporary—people are eternal. They are the focus of my life's work.

This will be the fifth time that I will have lived in Oklahoma. I was born there while my dad was a minister on staff at Bethany First Nazarene. I ended up going to school there, and Marylynn and I have ministered there on two different occasions. All my life people have asked me where I am from. Being a pastor's kid, that was always a little difficult for me to answer. Born in Oklahoma, I spent my teen years in Colorado, but I've mostly lived in Oklahoma, was my answer to that question. Now, after over 18 years of the west coast, it turns out that I really am an Okie. I guess that I never really left it behind.

Our family covets your prayers while we are in this time of transition. We don't know what the future holds, but we can be confident that there is good ahead, because... The Lord never leaves us behind. "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5

Oklahoma, ready or not, here we come.