Category: Memoir (page 1 of 3)

September

It was 2010. In the few months prior to the life-changing car ride my husband and I took passing fields upon fields to southern Missouri, I felt like I’d swum to the bottom of the ocean and was just coming up for air.

For many months, I’d become familiar with the darkness of loss. I’d wandered the earth as a wounded soul. A second case of colon cancer came unexpectedly and reawakened the survivor in me. It also changed the course of our adoption plans.

Adoption wasn’t a hard sell for me; I’d had the call on my heart as a child and made peace with it being my route to parenthood after my first diagnosis. But I’d set my heart on international adoption from Ethiopia. With my second cancer, working with an international adoption agency and heading to Africa was not a possibility for at least 5 years. Nobody wanted to let the sick girl adopt a baby.

The ache of infertility swelled with each pregnancy announcement.

From the outside, I looked fine. But on the inside, I was anything but fine. I was sad. Confused. A little dazed. And unconsciously angry.

I held it in until I couldn’t hold it any longer. I called a counselor who gently helped me start pulling back the layers. And I got some alone time.

For the first time since we’d begun dating when I was 16 years old, my husband and I spent 10 days apart as he left to lead worship for a youth camp. In those 10 days, I drank wine. I went on walks and hogged all of the pillows in the bed. And I started really praying again.

I began journaling about my pain and frustration. I opened up about my desire to be a mom and I asked God to make a way. I partially doubted He heard me, but I prayed anyway. I wanted to believe He cared. The darkness began to lighten a little.

Mike came home and a few weeks later during the car ride where we passed fields upon fields to southern Missouri, headed to meet our newly born niece, I approached the subject of parenthood with him. I shared I’d been praying for God to make me a mom and provide direction for us. In a quick, one-word reply, our lives changed forever.

September.” Mike said. “God told me we need to start the process in September.”

missouri-fields

Starting in September

As we drove, the sound of our tires rotating against the highway grew louder as silence made us soak in what was happening. We were two weeks into the month of September already.

There was no time for frustration from a lack of communication because obedience meant we needed to process quickly and act fast. We began the adoption process a few days later when we got home.

Throughout fall of 2010, we got adoption plans in place. We found an adoption agency that worked with cancer survivors and felt a peace about pursuing domestic adoption. A generous grant from The Samfund paid for our home study. Friends who’d adopted gave us advice. Family and friends offered generous financial gifts to help us. We prepared our hearts to be parents and assumed, based on agency estimates, we’d be parents within 5-9 months – May at the earliest.

By the first of January, all of our paperwork was submitted, our home study was approved and we were waiting to receive the news we’d gone “active” with the agency.

And then we received the text.

burgessfam-mermaidbirthday

Great is thy Faithfulness

If you’re familiar with our adoption story, you know the text we got that cold January night changed everything. Three weeks later, we brought home a 4-month-old baby girl (from our hometown!) and quickly became Mama and Daddy. Amidst the dramatically intense emotional roller coaster during the three weeks leading up to her adoption, we looked for signs we were on the right track. One of the biggest confirmations:

Our baby girl was born in September.

That September day in 2010 that welcomed her into the world was 7 years ago today. I’m thankful that 7 years ago, we obeyed the call to start the adoption process. As we’ve celebrated our daughter’s birthday for the past few days, I’m in awe of how incredible of a gift she is to us. And I am struck by God’s faithfulness.

In the nights I prayed, journaled and cried blaming God for my second cancer, yet asking him to make me a mom, God’s been faithful.

In the hours that a birth mom wrapped up her baby girl and hoped for God to give her a good life, even if that meant letting someone else raise her – God’s been faithful.

In the hope that my husband heard God correctly and we stepped out in faith to adopt, God’s been faithful.

Despite my doubt that beauty could come from ashes, God’s been faithful.

As our daughter has grown from a baby to a beautiful, radiant, joyful, kind and creative 7-year-old little girl, God’s been faithful.

From September to September, God’s been faithful.

mermaidparty-cupcakes mermaidparty-pintailonmermaid

Mae-hachimal-birthday

Slow Down and Step Up

Isn’t it funny how when we’re younger, time can’t go any slower?

Mae’s birthday is in two months, but September cannot come fast enough. She updates her birthday list each day and mentions it at least once. I, on the other hand, was up until midnight the other night looking at mermaid theme parties on Pinterest, rapidly trying to get a plan together.

It’s not really my thing, but she’s requested it so this Mama’s going to attempt to make it happen.

Sitting comfortably into my 33rd year of life, I feel like I’m riding a rocket ship most days, and time doesn’t want to slow down. It could be partly because I’m planning already for March 2018 at work. And I am still in denial that I just enrolled my daughter for 1st grade earlier this week.

How is she almost 7 years old!?

Step Up

While a transition of the perceived speed of time has come with age, and I’d honestly rather have childhood’s view of it back, another transition that’s come with getting older is very welcomed.

It’s the transition of perspective regarding what other people think, also called fear of man. I’ve stepped up into the security and confidence that come from a rooted identity in Christ. It helps me disregard the fear of other’s opinions (most of the time – I am still human). I’ve given myself permission to like things that are simply just “me,” and to find my own styles and tastes. Case in point:

homemade-strawberry-jam

I made jam this week to relax. With such a passion for women’s empowerment and leadership, never did I think I’d pick up a “stereotypical” old-school cooking and baking hobby, but I absolutely love it. (And so did my household because this stuff rocked!)

national-hotdog-day-fight-crc

I celebrated National Hot Dog Day with my team. Sure, hot dogs and chips aren’t the healthiest option on the menu and I can’t eat them a lot, but I love them. So I eat them once in awhile and it brought simple joy to my day.

db-walmart-skirt

I bought a skirt from Wal-Mart. It was not expensive and it’s comfortable. It’s nice and cool for the summertime heat. And frankly, I don’t care where it came from – it’s perfect for me. Now THAT is freedom talk right there.

Acceptance

Part of me wishes this growth would have happened sooner, I wonder what a 16-year-old me with this confidence would have been like. But for the most part, I’ve accepted it as my life’s path, and the journey many of us go down in our own way and timeline.

I also want to be open with the struggle it is to stay in this place. Each time I open my computer to write or do something that could be unpopular or full of tension, the fear of man rears its head again. But the grounding in truth and love of Jesus brings me back. This is a routine I practice mindfully each day, without it I’d be back at age 16.

To find acceptance of myself is a golden nugget that’s appeared in my 30s.

Which is really timely, considering I’ve got a 7-year-old’s mermaid birthday party to pull off in two months.

Getting Angry at God

Today I’ve been “cancer free” for 8 years… again. On June 9, 2009 my second occurrence was found, breaking my 8-year “no evidence of disease” streak. Part of me wanted to sit in a puddle of worry today – what if the streak breaks again? Another part of me, a much smaller part, wanted to celebrate. I had some pizza and ice cream for dinner. But deep inside of me, I wanted to share what happened as a result of this day 8 years ago. It was a day I lost trust in the one thing I’d held on to my whole life. I wanted to be honest with a topic that’s pretty tough to be honest about and give some glory to the light that’s brightened my path. If you too have struggled with being angry at God, I pray you’ll find you’re not alone. If you’re still in this boat, keep pushing yourself to work through your painful questions. It’s not an easy topic to think about, but the burden does get lighter and the more you seek, the more you’ll find. Be blessed. –danielle


For a second, I was convinced a gang of bandana-wearing bullies had just taken me to a back alley and drop kicked me in the gut. That, or I’d horribly overdone it at the Chinese buffet.

A fresh incision down my abdomen brought searing pain. I could barely roll over in the uncomfortable bed.

I looked around the sterile white room and tried to focus my gaze on the fuzzy blurs that kept moving. The blankets were not warm anymore but felt like rough sandpaper on my dry skin. Slowly my surroundings made sense.

The surgery. The cancer scare.

The thought of cancer hit my consciousness and jolted me into a reawakened state.

“Did the surgeon find anything? How did the polyp look? What do we know so far?”

Focus came to the fuzzy blurs. I saw solemn faces with looks that required no words. A few days later, the pathology report confirmed my deepest fear: cancer.

Again.

As automatic as a driver’s side window button, my sly smile appeared at the news. And not because it had been caught stage I – the earliest stage possible that didn’t require treatment.

The smile had been my golden ticket eight years prior when I’d first heard the dreaded word cancer.

I’d forced a smile and recited lots of verses to myself about God’s good plans for my life. My working class, Midwestern family roots served me well during the first diagnosis. I did not make public the freak out happening on the inside. I trusted in God, and related with the Bible character Job who’d also watched his life go to crap.

I accepted the narrative that God would use cancer to spice up my testimony. I felt respected for that. And to be honest, it felt really good and comforting.

So for round two of cancer, I tried to cope with the same smile. But this time, something changed.

The Band-Aid wouldn’t re-stick.

I was very confused since I thought my faith was stronger than ever. I worked in full-time ministry. I’d just planted a church. I was writing devotionals. How could the same faith-filled approach not be working?

Although my incision began to heal, my heart began to bleed – and not just a few drops of blood from a sidewalk scrape. Frustration and pain began to seep into my mind and heart like I’d been stabbed.

It was dark and messy yet from the outside it was hardly noticeable. The roots of masking run deep.

In a moment of weakness, I called a counselor. She happened to pick up her phone and soon we started meeting.

At first, I didn’t realize what was happening. When I felt any struggle, I assumed it was because I faced colon cancer for a second time at age 25.

Discontent with work, uncomfortable with physical touch, fear of planning ahead – my survivorship got credit for it all. That is until one day the counselor challenged me with the idea of being angry.

I quickly denied the claim as I lounged on her comfy couch and chowed down on her mints. I might as well have been kissing babies and waving flags on a campaign trail because I soon gave quite the case for my stance:  I’d forgiven people who’d wronged me! I’d memorized verses that said God works for my good! Cancer was my blessing and my testimony! Mad and bitter? Not me!

It took about two days to realize she was right.

And only because I’m stubborn, it took years for me to admit it.

I was angry. Very angry. Many things stirred my anger, but none more than God. As I peered into hidden feelings I’d never let myself experience, I saw the root of my pain so clearly.

Deep down I believed the cancer was God’s fault. I was really pissed off that I’d been diagnosed a second time… and He didn’t prevent it. I questioned His goodness. I doubted His love. Deep mourning over the loss of fertility and questions as to why I survived yet others didn’t swallowed me up. Bitterness that my faith-filled, Christian walk hadn’t spared me from such pain swelled. I asked “why me?” I pointed my finger and shook my fist upwards. I said a bunch of cuss words in my car.

One day I took a hike and beat the side of a tree with a fallen branch to get my point across. I thought maybe attacking his creation would get his attention. Fortunately, nobody else was in the woods that day. And, I packed lots of snacks.

I’d been uncorked and the pain poured out until my bottle ran dry. This happened a few more times.

And then one day, I was done. I didn’t fight with Him anymore. I felt a little numb, but at the same I also felt peace.

Little by little I began to feel whole again.

I wish I could put to words a single moment where everything changed. Something like a shining star fell from the sky, or a glowing angel showed up out of the blue and set me straight.

Although some pretty supernatural circumstances did happen over the course of my process, there was nothing quite like that. I did read through the story of Job again which slowly helped diffuse my bitterness.

But there was no magic wand, secret prayer or prescribed checklist that got me back to the point I trusted God and stopped calling him mean names.

The way it happened is actually a lot like how my incision healed.

Soon after the cut, it was painful, embarrassing and red. Every little movement hurt. But I gave it extra care and some time to heal. In time, the pain went away. The scar turned pink. It didn’t hurt to cough or laugh anymore. When I gave it more time, I could roll over without any problems. And in even more time, I began to do a few sit-ups.

I can still do a few sit-ups to this day. I’m sure if I got help from a trainer, I could do many more. Maybe one day I’ll train for that. I’m good for now.

My body was made to heal, and heal is what it did. I played a very minor role in that process, but I had to be intentional about it. I had to want to get stronger. I had to release control.

The incision isn’t sore like it once was; now it’s a faint white line running down my abdomen. I pray it won’t ever need to be cut open again. But if it is, I know how to handle it.

I’ll ditch my smile for a big fallen stick and head for the woods.

The Winding Vines of Self Doubt

vines-self-doubt-writerIt’s hard to write.

That’s one explanation for why I seem to only crank out blog posts when people die lately. Writing’s how I process grief.

Life logistics are a big excuse too. And there’s some truth to that.

My rear sits in a cushy roller chair across a glowing computer screen most of the day. When my rear is not in that roller chair, I’m usually picking up my house. Or trying to get my daughter to give me details about her school day. Or catching up with my husband about work. Or chatting with our roommate who’s often graciously making dinner, attempting to “help” her with jobs like opening the bag of shredded cheese.

This life is blessed, no doubt. It gives me much to write about. So why don’t I write more? Busy schedule is about 10% of it.

The other 90%?

If I’m being honest – it’s scary. Like really scary. Vulnerability is not easy to begin with, but especially when there’s a vast unknown between the taps of a keyboard and readers’ eyes. It’s easy for doubt to creep in.

The Scary Vines of Self Doubt

I love writing. It makes me come alive in ways nothing else can.

But sometimes the space between the words in my head and the words on a page creates fertile soil for a vine of self doubt to grow up, wrap around my lungs, close in tightly and narrow my capacity for air.

I don’t think I have anything to say. I don’t think anyone is reading. I don’t think what I have to write matters. I don’t see writing as a gift.

Around and around the vines wrap. It doesn’t take long before I’m convinced the world is much better off with my thoughts and observations unsaid. The laptop stays shut. The blog goes unwritten.

That’s the main reason I don’t write more.

building-house-self-doubt

Good Company

I was really beating myself up about this until I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a gospel for writers, and realized this is common. I’m not the only one who sits down to write and is then hit with anxiety, distractions and doubt – not to mention random sugar cravings.

I got to thinking – it’s probably common for anyone who desires to use their gifts to face insecurity at times.

I bet there are builders who question their floor plan designs before breaking ground. I know there’s moms who panic about their parenting abilities before the baby arrives. I’ve met leaders who doubt their vision before addressing those who follow them. I’m sure there’s painters hiding beautiful canvases out there, doubting anyone will be inspired by their brush stokes.

It’s amazing how the vines of self doubt wrap around us so quickly. It’s like they know something we don’t, and they work very hard to hold us back.

Why?

Probably because our gifts will change the world. Or at least a small corner of it. And that’s exciting, yet scary stuff sometimes.

But if a builder goes ahead and erects the house, someone gets shelter. So I’m pushing myself and forcing myself to sit down and write. I’m telling myself I have something to say and reminding myself writing is a gift.

Why?

Because I want to help change the world. I’m tired of the winding vines of self doubt. And because if you too feel yourself entangled in this invisible overgrowth, I hope you know you’re not alone.

Older posts