The New Normal

The following is a blog post from Garland House (yes, I read ‘girl’ blogs too, grin) and it shares some pretty wonderful things so I’m including them here in my ‘journal collection’.  Here’s a quote from Janie Booth that may offer you some context and draw you in to listen for a few minutes today…

“I remember, before I had cancer, reading magazine articles or listening to someone give a talk on life. I was just like anyone else – maybe touched for the moment but not really changed. Things are different for me now. Life is fragile, precious, brief. But what about you?”

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Friend Janie and The New Normal

The following article was originally posted in November of 2007.  I am posting it again as just two days ago (on Saturday, May 8) our dear friend Janie went on ahead of us to be with Christ.  I am just one of the many, many people who are already aching for the day when we will see Janie again.  And just in case you did not enjoy the blessing of knowing Janie, the article below will hopefully give you a small taste of how amazing she is.  Her husband Chris posted an article on his blog here about the day Janie left earth – he will be sharing more as he is able.  Here is the original article from 2007, complete with life lessons from Janie herself at the bottom.  Janie would laugh to know I posted her article twice on what she always referred to as my “blu-ugh” (I had to force her to contribute).  She is already missed terribly, and quite frankly it is hard to live in a world without Janie – but she would scoff at that idea – and so we press on because she would be so aggravated if we moped.  We love you Janie.  We miss you quite a bit but we are so thankful that you are happy, safe, and having fun.  I know when I get there you will already know all the hot spots and all the cool people – I can’t wait for you to introduce me around.  I don’t have any delusions that you are actually reading this blog now, since you didn’t read it before, : ) but I’m mostly writing this for me – it’s hard to be here without you – didn’t realize how hard it would be until you left (which is just like me as you know).  You are such a blessing – miss you and love you so much. Love Kim

Janie is one of those people who have the rare ability of making you feel significant in the first five seconds of talking to her. The first time I met Janie I remember walking away thinking “Wow, I really am special.” The next time was no different and in fact every time I’ve ever spent with Janie I’ve had to be careful not to allow her to spoil me by being so interested in my life that we forget to talk about her’s.

Janie has usually done something more interesting in the last five minutes than I’ve done all year. She’s like a “creative-mom-over-achiever” type – the kind with the glue gun and the shrinky dink machine and the idea to build a replica of the white house out of marshmallows. Watching Janie home school was like watching Martha Stewart decorate. (I can almost hear Janie gagging if she would read this). Not that she didn’t have her proud moments of wasting time and eating a pound of chocolate and teaching algebra while napping (Janie, not Martha Stewart), but she really is a good teacher – she has a knack for inspiring a love of learning- something I have been really horrible at and didn’t even realize it until I watched her in action.

For some reason Janie never got the memo that we aren’t supposed to be so devoted to our kids dreams that we actually do crazy things for them like drive them all over the earth, have ALL their friends over each week, and buy them things like sound mixers so they can sound better when they rock out with their Christian band in the too tiny living room. It’s no mystery why Janie had to put an addition onto her house – to make room for the dance-dance revolution parties.

And something I really like about Janie is her intellectual side. Janie is a good reader – and a good thinker. The kind of person who knows surprisingly much about things with names like “nooma” and “continuationism,” but also someone who is careful not to take herself too seriously. When she and I read a bizarre book together called “the Life of Pi,” I thought I would die laughing at points, and at other points was surprised by some of the deep things we both came up with (out from under that boat!).

About 3 years ago Janie was diagnosed with breast cancer. It hit every one of us like 100 pound hail stones. I remember thinking: “Janie has cancer? How can Janie have cancer?” And while we were all reeling from the news, Janie was out there comforting each one, assuring us of her will to fight, of her hope in God. I’m pretty sure Janie is the only person on earth who got cancer and then sent other people care packages.

Recently my heart has been penetrated by some of her words and it’s caused me to do some things differently. Because of this I want to share Janie with you. I’ve been trying to get Janie to start her own blog (she disdainfully refers to mine as my “bl-ugh”) but she refuses – so here is the next best thing, an article by her with some “cancer-edgy” life lessons for anyone who cares. And if you get nothing else out of the ramblings of me and my friend Janie, I hope you’ll pray for her – really pray. Pray that the Lord would completely heal her of the cancer. Thank you so much for doing that. It means a lot to all of us, her friends.

THE NEW NORMAL by Janie Booth
I took my 10 year old to get her glasses adjusted today. Her nose pads had gotten so squished that the bar connecting the two lenses rested right on her nose (She claims her glasses get squished when we hug her too hard – what a rough life!) My daughter hates change and was not happy about the adjustment. “This feels weird,” she said, seemingly preferring the bar to the optometrist approved nose pads. “Yeah, it’s the new normal” I jokingly replied, “get used to it.” “The new normal STINKS!” she said with disdain.

I can relate. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 my new “normal” on many occasions stinks. I just finished another round of chemo (8 once a week infusions). Unless a miracle occurs I will be on some kind of chemo for the rest of my life. If I was an Israelite I’d say, “I want to go back to Egypt!” But if I think long and hard about it, there are so many things I (and hopefully my family) have learned on the way that we can’t go back. The “new normal” has eternally changed us and made us fit for another place, but certainly not the place we came from. Here are the most important lessons we’ve collected so far…

Lesson #1 – God is in control. I know this sounds cliché, but recently this came home to me in a new, non-cliché kind of way. There was a time (BC – before cancer) when I had it all together. I would tell God what to do and then go about my business. Umm. That’s all changed now. Now with everything out of control, I realize I can either fight Him or let Him lead, trusting that He knows best for me, even when it looks bad. I try to listen for His still, small voice when I present my requests to Him and I am learning to wait for His answer.

Lesson #2 – Life is fragile. I am so thankful for every night I get to tuck my kids in. I don’t care what kind of day it’s been. When I get up and the worst thing about the morning is making school lunches and homework, I rejoice. I hug my husband tight when he comes home for lunch or home at suppertime. I jump in the leaves. I marvel at raindrops. I laugh at my 14 year old’s jokes. I take my 16 year old shopping. All of these things, for me, could be gone in a heartbeat and I don’t take one moment for granted. I don’t want to waste one minute on petty arguments or stupid things that will pass like bad grades, spilled milk, or an unexpected bill. Hey, leave the toothpaste cap off or the toilet seat up! (Ok, I do draw the line on some things – like I refuse to have a bl-ugh and potlucks are an invention long overdue for extinction) 🙂

Lesson #3 – God chooses the circumstances He planned for my life. I choose how I want to live it. If I need chemotherapy, I can be bitter and angry or I can be happy that there’s chemo to get! Either way, I need to get the chemo! I lecture my kids all the time with this. “You can either procrastinate on your homework and make all of us miserable with your complaining and grousing and exhaustion from staying up too late or you can DO IT NOW and have happy down time. Either way, the homework has to be DONE!” (Disclaimer: this lecture has not worked as of yet.) I have a sign on my fridge that simply says “Choose.” That one little word helps me remember that I get to have control over one thing in life: my attitude.

Now lest you think I’ve got it all together, rewind to yesterday morning when I sat on our couch, all by myself, crying harder than I’ve cried in a year. Trying to talk to God through my tears – telling Him that all of this is just too hard. That I can’t do it. That He should MAKE IT GO AWAY! Every day is not perfect. And I still have so much to learn. I remember, before I had cancer, reading magazine articles or listening to someone give a talk on life. I was just like anyone else – maybe touched for the moment but not really changed. Things are different for me now. Life is fragile, precious, brief. But what about you? Will you take my advice and live like you don’t have forever to live? Will you enjoy your kids, love your husband, celebrate small victories and ignore things that don’t matter – even if you never get cancer? Words you read on a bl-ugh won’t do that. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Only He can give you the eyes to see the marvelous in the mundane. That’s my prayer for you. It’s my prayer for me too.

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2 Responses to The New Normal

  1. Thank you, Tim, for finding this and sharing.

  2. cheribeavers says:

    Thank you for sharing that with us. It’s encouraging to gain perspective on grief. It’s essential to focus on the beautiful picture of God’s heart for His people. God is in control of every breath and every moment. When we grieve and walk through the darkest times; He is our light(Isaiah 60:19-20). When we are anxious or afraid; He is our hope(Phil. 4:6-7). When we can’t bear any more burdens, He carries them all. Dwayne and I are realizing that our story really isn’t about us at all. It’s about God, and His beauty. His plan for our lives is to glorify Himself. What hope! What marvelous hope! There is nothing in the world, no sorrow, no experience, no darkness, that can separate us from His majesty. When there is no comfort, He has brought comfort. When there are no words, His Word sustains me. When the tears flow unceasingly, His promise of renewal through the cross, gives me life. I’m humbled and joyful at the beauty of the life of Janice. God is faithful, at all times, in all things; even grief.

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