Today is Hero Day.

You see, tomorrow I will celebrate the 6th anniversary of my bone marrow transplant and I know that there will be a steady cry of “hurrah” and “yahoo” and other shouts of celebration sent my way. But the truth is, I didn’t do this alone.

Truly.

I can’t even begin to mention you all by name, but if your eyes are within the reach of these words, know that you are one of my heroes. In your own unique and individual way, you have stood by my side and carried me (when necessary) to where I am today.

Lately, I have been remembering back to Sunday mornings when, as a family, we would come together to meet with our faith community. From the stage, the worship team would lead us in songs of joyful celebration giving thanks to God Most High. Unable to stand I would silently sing at the top of my lungs “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1) And together our voices and silent cries would mingle in a chorus of Hallelujah’s that reached to the heights of heaven and transported me to the feet of Jesus. I couldn’t have done that on my own. We needed each other, and I would suggest that we need each other still.

From the depths of my heart (which continues to beat all on it’s own), THANK YOU.

Each one of you is a hero in your own way and much-deserving of a day of celebration. Today is that day and I celebrate you.

With triumphant joy,

Heather

p.s. There’s a song that I’ve been listening to by Mark Schultz and it perfectly articulates what you, as my heroes have done during this time.

 Lift Up Your Hands (When You Can’t)

Well I know that your heart is past broken

And it feels like you’ve got nothing left

And you can’t find your song ‘cuz you can’t even speak

You’re just trying to take the next breath

 

So let me stand up and sing of his goodness

Let me lift up a song in your place

‘Cuz I know that He’ll always be with us

Even when we can’t see His face

I’m gonna sing to the One who is Faithful

Though the battle is not over yet

And I’ll be your voice till you’re

And I’ll lift up you’re hands when you can’t

 

One day I’ll walk though the shadows

Too weary and worn out to stand

And I’m gonna need you beside me

To lift up this song once again

(chorus)

Hallelujah, thank him for all that he’s done

Hallelujah, thank him for what is to come

Hallelujah, thank him for all that he’s done

Hallelujah, thank him for what is to come.

(chorus)

There is a warning sign taped outside the door, a universal symbol to stop, to take caution. The sign shouts BEWARE and directs your eyes toward the plastic bins drilled into the concrete wall. These bins offer you a new set of clothes if you still choose to come in. You find a filmy yellow gown with ties too short, a protective mask and a pair of bright blue plastic gloves. These clothes will provide a barrier between you and me, an effective shield between my germs and yours. You stop and stare and say a prayer. Pushing hard on the heavy door that separates us, you enter. Your eyes see the bare walls crudely decorated with crooked hooks holding tangled tubes and masks and dials, neatly labeled. The black straight back chair invites you to sit and stay, but not for long.

The room is cold as the fan runs fast, working double duty through the day to circulate the cool air while it muffles the sounds from without and the sounds from within. The cold air threatens to freeze my small frame and I shiver before I insulate myself with a thin flannel blanket, warmed by a heating station down the hall. The cold air is no match for the thoughts twisting through my mind like frost etchings on the windows of my heart. The frost taunts: you are alone.

This is a lonely room.

But don’t be afraid. In a different time and a different place, I’ve been here before. This is my room.

Open your eyes and see what I see. This room is a refuge, a place of rest. It is here that my heart sings for joy in the shadow of His wings. The walls are covered with feathers, the soft protection of His shelter. I am safe.

Open your ears to hear what I hear. God is near. God is here. Listen with me to the echoes of Spirit-whispered secrets. I know you. I delight in you. I love you.

So come inside my room where honest fears mingle with holy prayers and truth, double edged like a sword, triumphs. We will laugh and cry and tell stories while we sit and wait for the unknown. Come in and see with Spirit eyes, I am alone, but not alone.

Holy Father, Gentle Jesus, Whispering Spirit,
As I cross over the threshold from the stillness of the sacred into the chaos of the ordinary, give me eyes that see visions of Your goodness and ears that hear the voice of Your mercy following me all the days of my life. Amen.

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Happy New Year Everyone!

I’m just playing a little catch up with some of my writings and adventures over the last little while.  Today I will copy a YouTube video of my performance in a Slam Poetry contest with the Durham Writers.  This event took place two summers ago and while I have posted to Facebook, I never posted it here.  Enjoy!

God’s Handiwork

(This post goes hand in hand with the last post Borrowed Time. If you haven’t read it yet, take some time to do that first.)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). This word handiwork has also been translated masterpiece or workmanship. Say this out loud with me: I am God’s handiwork. I am God’s masterpiece. I am God’s workmanship.

Do you know what this means? God planned you! He designed you! He carefully and deliberately designed you on purpose and with intention. There is nothing about who you are that went unplanned or unnoticed by God. In creating you, in creating me, God was creating a masterpiece. You and I, we are not forgotten drawings or unfinished sketches that God hastily scratched on the back of a napkin over dinner. We were not carelessly doodled while God thought about something else or solved someone else’s problem.

I shared part of Psalm 139 in my last post, Borrowed Time. Here’s another taste…

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13 NIV)

Now, these words might not mean anything to you, but this is a powerful image to me. You see I’m a knitter. One of the things that I love about knitting is that it all starts out the same: with a ball of yarn and a set of needles. From here, anything is possible. Mittens. Scarves. Hats. Toys. Sweaters. Socks. Blankets. The possibilities are endless. To begin, I choose my pattern, select my wool and needles and start to cast on stitches. And then, one by one, stitch by stitch, row on row a piece of knitted fabric starts to form. Something from nothing. Created by my own hands. Slowly, thoughtfully, with purpose.

Just think about it for a minute. God knit me together, knit you together. And just as I carefully choose each pattern and wool, God carefully put thought into who you are, who I am and who we would become. He chose the colour of my eyes, the freckles on my face, the number of hairs on my head. No one is just like me. No one is just like you. We are each one of a kind. A carefully-crafted-hand-knit human being. Created in the image of God himself, God’s own handiwork. Isn’t that CRAZY?

You are a masterpiece, God’s masterpiece! His handiwork! His workmanship! Soak that in for a moment. (I’ll wait…). Isn’t that awesome? AWESOME!

Question: If we all believed that is true about ourselves and others, that we really are God’s Masterpiece, then how would we see ourselves and others differently?

With joy,
Heather

Borrowed Time

When I am downtown at PMH waiting for an appointment, it will come as not surprise to you that I will often engage the other bmt patients around me in conversation.  I am always curious to find out how much time has passed since their transplant and whether their donor was a family member or if they were anonymous.

Time and time again I will meet patients and their loved ones who have only been released from hospital days before and it is a powerful reminder to me as to how far I have come in the last four years.  I truly have forgotten just how far I have come.  At the same time, being four years down the road I am often (not always) able to offer some wisdom that I have learned along the way.  I also meet patients who are years ahead of me and these patients give me so much hope as I look to the future.

The stories that I enjoy the most though are about the bone marrow donors.  I have been moved to tears as a patient, sitting next to his brother will say, “my brother’s bone marrow saved my life.”  Equally, I have talked with siblings where there is deep guilt and pain because they were not a match for their sibling and it was necessary to look for an anonymous donor.  Each patient has a story, each caregiver has a story and as I sit and listen with open ears I can often hear my own story echoed in theirs.

The waiting room at the hospital, has for me become a sacred place, holy ground, if you will.  There are many days when I head home and realize that my scheduled appointment was with the doctors but my God Appointment had been pre-arranged to sit and listen and share my God story in the waiting room.  I am humbled to no end.

One of the recurring themes in my conversations with bmt patients and their families is this: Since November 18, 2009 (my transplant date) I have been living on Borrowed Time.  If it hadn’t been for my sister, for my cousin, for a stranger I may never meet I would not be alive today.  Each day after the day of my transplant is a gift to me and I am living on Borrowed Time.  I hear this all the time and while the idea of Borrowed Time points to the overwhelming thankfulness that a patient has towards the one who donated their life-giving bone marrow, I think perhaps, that this thought is a lie trying to masquerade as the truth.

Lets read Psalm 139:14-16 together.

For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Did you catch that?  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  This is such a comforting thought for me personally.  As I look back over the last 15 years of my cancer/bmt story, I realize that this has been a foundation for me.  In fact, more than that, it rocks me at the very core of who I am.

You all know that I am so thankful for Jessie and the generous, selfless gift of her bone marrow.  In 2009, Jeff and I realized that I was running out of treatment options and that a bmt had the potential to drastically change my health future.  However, we equally knew that God is the One who keeps track of all my days, and that we could do nothing to change that.  I couldn’t outlive the days chosen for me and I wouldn’t be short changed of any of the days that God already planned for me since before the beginning of time.  Doesn’t that just make your heart leap with joy?

I have come to realize though that this truth is not just for me and for the other bmt patients I meet at the hospital.  This truth is for YOU!  There are some of you who believe that you are living on Borrowed Time and you might not even know it.  Maybe it has to do with a health crisis where your life was literally hanging in the balance.  Perhaps it was a traffic accident. Maybe a quick change of destination decisions and realization that “that could have been me”.  I don’t know your story or the circumstance, but you do.  And if you believe that you are living on Borrowed Time, you are believing a lie.  If you are alive today it is because God has ordained it since before time began.  Believe it and live each day fully.

You are not living on Borrowed Time, In fact, you are living on God’s carefully-chosen-just-for-you Ordained Time.  Doesn’t that sound way better?  I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again: You were created ON PURPOSE and FOR A PURPOSE and it is my prayer that as you live out each day given to you that would continue to understand all that God has prepared for you since the beginning of time.

With Joy that TRIUMPHS,

Heather