Monday, January 22, 2018

Birth and Death

I've been thinking a lot about what it must be like to die, though obviously I never have, I have some theories. I've written some of them before, and probably more succinctly, but I feel the need to work it out as I write again.

I think dying will be a lot like being born. There are so many allegories in our natural life that I think God created to help us accept the perfected versions of what we will experience in eternity. I think being born is one of them.

Life in the womb is a strong allegory to this life, the life before "real life" in heaven. In the womb baby will grow, practice breathing, baby can hear and bond with their parents, baby will develop until they are prepared for life outside the womb.

I've come to believe that the meaning of life, this life, is to help us develop and prepare for the real life, eternal life. To find out who we are and who Jesus is- as he was the one who took it upon himself to destroy the power of sin, making death result in life again, the way God intended death to work.

This life is when we begin to hear God's voice and bond with him, just as a baby can hear its father in the womb. This life is when we practice love, which will be as essential as breathing in heaven. And though a baby's life in the womb is often considered insignificant to the life it will live once its born, it's a critical time of growth.

I think death will be a lot like birth, but I think it's interesting how we grieve for those dying, but not those being born. The helpless baby is frightened, pushed, and pained as it travels the birth canal, leaving behind everything it understood as life before... but we on the outside, we who know that a bigger, better life is coming...we cheer.

I think death will likely be as painful as being born, if not physically, then certainly mentally. But I don't think any of us will remember the pain of the process once we're in heaven, just as none of us can remember the pain of the birth.

All we'll know of our death, once we've reached eternity, will be photos showing our the rejoicing of grandmas and grandpas already in heaven, the excited siblings, and of our delighted Father who immediately cherished us as his own.

And then "real" life will begin as life was originally meant to be. We will be our truest selves, healed physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. We will live at peace with ourselves, with God, with the people around us, and even with the animals and our environment.

We will thrive in a life that is bigger, better, and that is a life I look forward to. In that mentality, I hope to enter into death one day with at least some excitement for what comes next.

P.S. I don't think life on this earth is a requirement for heaven. I think having DNA might be a requirement since I think life begins at conception, but I think life on Earth is an allegory, not a requirement. I think 1/4 of heaven's population will be people who died before being born, as 1 in 4 conceptions end in miscarriage, and I'm eager to meet a race of people who will be as pure and innocent as Adam and Even before the fall.

I wrote this about death a few years ago:

The process of leaving our mother's wombs is a frightening and painful experience. The transition is abrupt and unexpected. It is a process that leaves us cold, vulnerable, and weak. Yet our pain and effort is small compared to the labor of our mothers who did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

If we had the capacity to remember that day I think we would be deeply traumatized. We would be terrified that perhaps we would be suddenly expelled from this world into another unknown life. And of course, the fear of death is exactly that.

As I daily walk towards that time that I should die I will remember that it is natural that death should be similar to birth. Death is also a relatively short, often painful transition that brings us to life. Eternal life, that is. Yet our suffering and effort is small compared to the painful labors of our Savior Jesus. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

When we die and are birthed into heaven, I don't think we will be grieved by the experience. I don't think we'll have any residual trauma. It is likely we will even celebrate that day as our true birthday. For that will be the day we came into the fullness of life.


"Just as Jesus was raised as the first of the harvest, then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back." 1 Cor 15:23

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Paddington



I took Luke to see Paddington 2 while Chad is with Grace. It's a completely magical and charming movie and in a way, was life changing for me. Two marmalade-covered-thumbs up.

I've been really struggling with happiness, and not because of depression. I've been disillusioned with life.

I've really been struggling with the Christian faith. Not because of Jesus. He is what's holding me together, but because I'm really angry at all the churches I've been to that taught that if we prayed and believed, that God would bring all things together for my good... and never clarified what my good meant. I assumed that "my good" meant the things I want; prayers answered my way, "unshakable peace" that things are going work out the way I'd like, God providing what I want- as long as we prayed and believed hard enough.

According to the Bible, "my good" actually means suffering that ends in endurance, personal character development, and hope. Not hope in what I want, but hope that God is good and that he has loved us and made a way for us to be reconciled with him. There's no promise that what is good for me will always look good, and there will be things that I will only understand as good in the hindsight of eternity. That's what "my good" actually means. But no one told me that before.

I've also had a hard time with worship at church. I'm so critical of anyone who leads worship, sings worship, or even smiles at church. I can handle hymns but I really struggle with all the happy music that's so popular in American worship these days. I want to shake them and scream, are you worshiping God only because your life is easy?  What if God gave you himself and nothing else? Would you still jump and clap if  God lead you into a life of devastating loss? 

I've been trying to figure out for weeks why I'm so bitter about Christians being happy...or anyone else for that matter. It didn't seem normal to be that angry because people were happy. I realized it's not happy-in-the-moment-happy (like tickling your children) that angers me, it's the whole life-is-happy-philosophy/faith that angers me. It's the philosophy/faith that everything is going to work out if you believe.

And that philosophy/faith is **expletives deleted**.

I finally realized that I'm actually mad at myself. I was once that clapping-happy Christian, totally naive to any long-term hardship, believing that I was strong and faithful, praising Jesus because my hope in God was based on the belief that life would become better. And I realized it was me I wanted to shake, to scream, don't you know where God will lead you? Don't you know that all this happiness can't protect you from devastation? Don't you know your dreams and hopes, even your children, might be taken from you? How can you be so naive?

Happiness has seemed fake to me lately, compared to the real pain in my life.

I now have an understanding that suffering and real pain exists. I can't un-learn that, even if I wanted to. I can't go back to a happy-life-philosophy. And that scared me. Because I can't live in depression and bitterness, but I had no idea how I could be happy and broken at the same time.

And Paddington really helped me today as I sat through the movie, tears streaming down my face. I loved that Paddington never lost hope. Everywhere he went he spread a little goodness, a little happiness. He wasn't clapping-happy, but by seeking out goodness and having hope that goodness could and did exist...he found it. Happiness. The real kind. The kind that exists despite pain and suffering.

And there has been happiness for me lately. Real happiness as people have shown their love for Grace on her birthday with cards, video messages, and donations for her swing set. The cards have come with tear stains and encouragement that have shown me that people have been willing to step into our suffering and not only alleviate it, but to suffer with us. That is the happiness that makes me feel safe, the type of happiness that is real.

Because maybe my issue wasn't happiness...it was hope. Maybe it isn't happiness I need, maybe I need hope that goodness exists, because God is good regardless of pain in this life, and that in turn will lead to real happiness. Maybe I just had it all in the wrong order.

I think that's how I can be broken and happy at the same time. I can be brave enough to look for goodness and light, though the world is evil and dark, and find happiness wherever the light breaks through. And with each small happiness that God allows, and that I am willing to embrace, evil will be conquered and be pushed back into hell where it belongs. Even if only a little darkness dies, it would be worth it.

I am going to try to re-direct my hope, because in Him is life, and that life is the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And in that hope, I am willing to risk happiness.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Amnesia

I feel like I've been slowly recovering from amnesia. The other day Grace asked for a napkin, but I heard her say "nah-kin." That was how she said it as a toddler. I felt like I was waking up from a happy dream, the type where you can almost, but not quite remember what you had dreamt.

I joked a few times that living that long at the hospital was a form of sensory-deprivation-torture. In BMT isolation we couldn't have pillows or sheets from home, they were the thin hospital ply until she was allowed to go to the "regular" cancer ward. We weren't allowed to have many stuffed toys or even many toys at all, unless they could be easily wiped down every few days. She couldn't have fresh flowers or latex balloons. I did get her a giant mylar Unicorn balloon, but I think she was depressed. She didn't care. Nor did she care about the butterfly decals I brought to decorate her room with. We couldn't have scents, like food, because it made her vomit. Some days we listened to music as she colored, but often she felt so sick that we didn't. I got used to the loss of sensory that connects us to our memories and to ourselves.

Yesterday I made salmon and sweet potatoes and again that fleeting, dream-like feeling covered me. I took me a while to realize I was remembering a happy time when I cooked that meal before. I hadn't realized it had been so long since I had that feeling of contentment.  I had forgotten what a good memory felt like, but I hadn't noticed that I had forgotten.

Really, I've been depressed. It seems opposite of how it should be, and to be honest, I think knowing that makes me more depressed. I should be so happy Grace is home again. And I am. But I'm "should" even more. Christmas was the worst. I literally cried all day, hardly able to get out of bed. Knowing that I was depressed on Christmas made me more depressed. It was like a crushing weight that I couldn't escape no matter how hard I tried.

It wasn't until the next day when I sent out an S.O.S. text to several friends did the weight lift. God has shown me three times recently that I must reach out for help and stop pretending to be self sufficient. All three times I tried my best to solve my own problems, just like I've always done, but I've been learning in CR that I need support and apparently God is not going to allow me to survive until I learn that lesson. All three times the crushing weight of despair was immediately lifted, or the problem immediately resolved, when I gave in and texted my friends for help. Immediately as in practically before I finished hitting "send."

Looking back, and with their input and wisdom, I can see a little more rationally as to why I've been so depressed. Grace's brother was SO excited to see her and per their old play habits, he was bouncing and singing and being silly. She wanted to lay on the couch and she did NOT want to be touched. So they fought. All day. Every day. Feelings were hurt and I had two lonely kids who couldn't be in the same room together.

(Feel free to skip...it's insightful to cancer life but a little long and a tad whiny) 


 Since she's been discharged two weeks ago, we've been back to CHLA clinic four times. Five if you count tomorrow. She has to go twice a week and each visit takes about six to eight hours with driving. She's always angry to be there and because she's on steroids, she's always hungry. Somehow, no matter how hard I try, I never seem to pack enough food for these trips. So she's hungry and angry. Also it feels much more critical, and is, since she's out of BMT compared to her other neutropenic periods. So I've called the doctors and nurses twelve out of the last fourteen days with fears about  her pain and rashes. Luckily they're amazingly helpful, but it's always scary for me to have to call, and a lot of responsibility to decide to call. I worry constantly that I might miss some subtle symptom that could put her life in danger.

I have to be a nurse and pharmacist at home, though I have no formal training besides our favorite BMT nurse who helped me get ready before we were discharged. Every morning I spend five minutes flushing Grace's central line with saline and heparin and change the cover and caps on Sundays. I make sure her four liquid medicines, nine types of pills, and two creams are correctly dosed and administered six times a day, even though the doses change constantly. It can be very frightening for because I know her survival is based on me doing a good job.

Grace's cancer is gone, and we hate cancer because it can kill her, but now she has no immune system, even less than when she had "regular" cancer neutropenia. And not having an immune system can not only kill her, but kill her quickly. Not having an immune system requires all kinds of work. We have to keep the house immaculate. All germs and dust and pollen must destroyed. We can't have many visitors, and even less children visitors. She wasn't allowed to pet her cat until recently, and even then she has to wash her hands after, no kisses. I have to keep the cat clean, her room clean, her sheets clean, her towels clean, her toothbrush clean...in addition to caring for a family of four again, instead of two.

She can't drink tap water, she's only allowed bottled. She can't go to restaurants or even eat restaurant food. She can't be in the sun at all, can't swim, can't go to karate, can't go to school, can't go to the park, can't go to other people's houses or any public places. She must take all her medicine, must let me cover her with lotion, must let me take her temperature, must show me each time she poops. As you can imagine, her life is out of her control and she blames me for most of it. I get it, she's seven. All the same it's tiring.

And emotionally this week was crushing. I had three friends whose children either relapsed again,or it's suspected, and each of those children have a critically low chance of survival. These kids and their moms are like family to me. And to top it off, I was trying to save all our neighbors and their children from cancer caused by the SSFL.

(Long part finished, if you care to read on)

So I slowly wore myself down and out without really realizing it. When you live inpatient for that long, it starts to almost feel normal. Waking up two to three times a night seemed like a miracle compared to living inpatient, so I didn't realize how tired I was, only that I wasn't as tired as before. I didn't realize how sad I was, only that I wasn't as sad as I was before. I didn't realize how numb I was, only that I felt more alive than before.

Slowly I've been waking out of my amnesia to find both good and bad are my reality, both good and bad are my memories, and sometimes I can't tell the good from the bad. I'm rejoicing at how much Grace has recovered but I can't imagine the future. I literally can't think past an hour from now. Everytime I try to imagine next week, or next month, or even next year, it feels like falling into amnesia in reverse. I can only see shadows.

Still I know I am improving because I actually want to heal. Actually I don't really. It's frightening to imagine a life outside this one. But at least I'm willing to walk that direction, into the light and wholeness of the healing only God can bring. I am willing to trust Him to heal me in a way that I'll still recognize myself.

In the meantime, treat me like my eighty-something year-old neighbor who had amnesia. Be patient with me if I don't make any sense. And if you find me in your home sorting your mail, or walking down the street with only my panties on, just kindly lead me home with sympathetic words and wait until my door is closed before laughing.

...I realized late last night that our neighbor had dementia, not amnesia, but I was too tired to care that I got it wrong.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Mommy Guilt


Today was really hard. Grace vomited several times and was put on constant morphine as her pain is becoming more apparent. Because of that I feel more helpless. That has only intensified my feelings of being out of control with my son Luke too. It's strange because I feel as helpless about Luke as I do about Grace's cancer.

I think the pain built up this week when he won a citizenship award at school and somehow we didn't find out in time for one of us to be there. Then he went on a field trip the day after Grace's BMT and I wasn't able to come. Because he's six, I only get bits and pieces of his day on the phone at night, but it's nothing near to connecting. And it's really been hurting me today.


Luke was two years old when Grace was first diagnosed and four by the time she finished treatment. He had extreme separation anxiety after. He panicked if he lost sight of me at home. He cried outside the bathroom door. The book "Hand, Hand, Finger, Thumb" stressed him because the adult isn't shown in every page and Luke was worried about who would care for the little monkey. It took a long time before he felt safe again.

When Grace relapsed we spent five weeks inpatient. When we got home he was always saying how happy he was that we were together as a family again, constantly covering me with kisses and holding my hand. And two months later we had to come back with no real estimate as to when we can come home. Twenty-eight days is the estimate if there are no complications and BMT is rarely without complications. Chad and Luke have both been sick so I haven't been home in two weeks. Chad told me that in the mornings Luke goes into Grace's room to see if she's back. He's a pretty sensitive little kid.

Obviously Chad and his Grandmas are a huge support, but I'm his mommy. And it breaks my mommy heart that I can't be there to comfort him.

Thankfully I have other cancer mamas here to talk to about it and I plan to talk to the CHLA psychiatrist about it this week. I've also been digging out of my memory what I learned last time, because I had severe mommy guilt last time too.

One thing that I have to remember is what I learned about oaths. Chad and I learned this a while back. Oaths are how we try to control our lives when we feel powerless. "Even if I have to tear mountains down with my own hands, I'll do anything to protect my kids, I won't let anything ever hurt them." The sentiment of this promise, as I held Grace in my arms as a newborn, was true and good. But when I can't take care of both Luke and Grace at the same time, I violate this oath. In my mind it was the truest-truth but in reality I swore myself to a standard I can never keep. I am not God. I can't stop all things from hurting my children. And if I don't admit to my own powerlessness, and if I try to keep my oath to the extent that I originally meant it, I will break my heart and possibly my mind. Because it wasn't the oath of a mother I made. I made an oath only God could keep, and I am not God.

I'm meant to love my children, nurture them, protect and provide for them, but in the end I can not be God to them. I can't keep their hearts from breaking, I can't shield them from all dangers and all disappointments. I can't heal all their pain or comfort all their sorrows. Still this hurts me as I'm not able to be the mommy that I want to be. I have to accept my limitations and know that God must be God to them and that he loves them even more than I do.

The other thing I need to do is accept that God has placed other people in Luke's life to love on him. I am angry and disappointed that I can't be involved in his life the way I'd like to. But I need to accept that Luke can be loved as much by my husband and Luke's grandmas, and friends and family too. I'm hurt that I can be replaced. I feel stripped of part of my mommyness. But I am thankful for Chad and family, and I need to support them more. They're an incredibly important part of Luke's life.

Also I think it scares me that one day Luke might not be able to forgive me. That somehow he won't be able to understand why I had to leave him for so much of his childhood to be with his sister. Even if he can accept it in his mind it's not the same as making sense in the heart. I fear that it'll cause a rift of jealousy between him and Grace. It can be hard for children to understand such grownup justifications. The thing I have to remember is that my parents didn't always get things right, but I did know they loved me. Even if I were able to give Luke all  my attention and love right now, it still wouldn't be without mistakes. I have to trust that loving him as best I can, letting others love him, and most of all by leading him to God's unconditional love...that he will grow up to be secure in his ability to love and be loved.

It also helps as I remember (my variation of) Celebrate Recovery:

Step One: We admitted we were powerless ...that our lives had become unmanageable...
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18 

Step Two: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us...
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

And finally...I just need sleep. I'm exhausted and it hasn't helped my emotions or mind as I struggle to understand and accept how life is right now. So with that...good night.








Friday, November 10, 2017

#1millionparents

Please share our Change.org petition until we get #1millionparents involved in protecting our children from the cancer causing nuclear and toxic waste at the Santa Susana Field Lab.



Learn more about the site at: www.ParentsAgainstSSFL.com


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New Cells



Today was Grace's bone marrow transplant...and I'm not mad or hurting, I'm really glad...in the most subtle way possible. We bought balloons and the nurses and childlife made her posters and brought gifts and I was happy. I really was, even though I keep my emotions as mellow as possible. I know that if I spend all my energy in one moment, the next moment everything can flip on it's head, and I'll have nothing left for it. It's a survivor's mentality and it's how you mommy when your child has cancer.

Something else that's helped me recover from my anger is that I know that if I am depressed or despondent or ugly-angry, I am accepted and loved by people and by God. It's amazing how that knowledge is a rock in times of trouble. Another thing has been that I've been praying more honestly and looking for wisdom in the Bible.

I'm not great at reading the Bible. I skim it and if I get confused I feel ashamed and if I feel ashamed than I abandon reading the Bible and then I feel more ashamed. It's a very bad cycle. But after Celebrate Recovery I realized that if I don't stay rooted in who God is than I will wander. It's just human nature. So I've been praying for nearly a year that God would help me to care about the Bible, and recently he has.

I've realized that Jesus was probably a really fun guy. Kids were drawn to him and the pharisees rebuked his disciples for being so happy. I think Jesus probably danced at every Jewish wedding and laughed and sang with kids. Also, he really did turn water into wine and he turned a LOT of it into the best wine, not cheap "teach them a lesson about sobriety" wine. I think he liked people enjoying being people, and I think he enjoyed being around people.

And that confused me, the thought of a happy Jesus. Because from what I read he was also surrounded by sin, sinners, and disciples who wanted to call down eternal damnation from heaven onto anyone who had sinned, except on their self-righteous selves. Jesus must have felt very lonely sometimes. He was often misunderstood, often overlooked, often taken for granted, often wanted dead. Everywhere he looked he was surrounded by broken people in a broken world.

And yet this is the Jesus who was probably a really fun guy. So I was trying to reconcile how Jesus, God incarnate, could be happy when surrounded by nothing but entropy and sin. But he had joy. Maybe not always the laughing-dancing-joy, but that unbreakable-peace-joy that sometimes erupted as dancing and joking.

I have a theory. I think that Jesus held hands with humanity but kept his heart in heaven.

He raised Lazarus from the dead but I don't think that was his reason for joy. I think it was that JEsusknew by dying on the cross, that Lazarus could have eternal life in heaven. Because everything Jesus fixed on earth broke or died again. I think he had his focus on heaven, where all will be made right again. Not only will broken bodies will be fixed, but broken minds and broken souls too. I think he found joy in keeping his eyes on who his Father is, and in what good things were to come. And also in those rare moments when people caught on to who he was and what he came to do.

I think that's how he could be surrounded by brokenness and still have joy. And what amazes me is that he also fully entered into people's suffering. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he wept first. He was fully present in the pain of the grieving sisters, which is intense, as I am convinced that God can feel more deeply than we can ever imagine. I think Jesus came to understand our pain, in addition to redemption. He wasn't satisfied to sympathize with his broken children. He experienced our brokenness. He empathized.

So I'm trying to learn from Jesus' example of joy and grief and figure out how to live that as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

We know five other families on the CHLA oncology floor tonight. Needless to say there is a lot of suffering with the potential for devastation to visit any of our rooms at any time. And yet I am trying to find joy by keeping my heart set on God's promises of heaven, while at the same time being present with Grace and with our friends who are fighting for their lives. The balance of grief mixed with the hope of Heaven feels much better than the pretend me that "plastic-happiness-faith." I have been real with God and I have not been rejected.

Also I've dared to be real in these blogs and I have not been rejected by my friends and family. To be at my lowest and to be broken with nothing to offer... and know that I am still loved and accepted is the truest comfort there is. It's what has brought me through many hard days recently. I am so grateful to everyone who's been praying and loving on us in so many ways.

And I am so thankful to have joy. Though Grace's fight is still ahead, today I am so grateful for her donor and for all of those who swabbed for Be the Match, and for all of our friends and family who prayed for her today.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fighting for Peace

Grace's Artwork

Today was a big day...we learned Grace has a "full" bone marrow donor, the most compatible possible, and will have her transplant November 7, 2017. And instead of ecstatic joy, I am hurting.

I think the reason why I am struggling is because it's amazing news- please don't get me wrong- but today has been my biggest nightmare for almost three years. It was the day that was never supposed to happen. I'm so very glad, because in reality this is what will save Grace's life, but inside I am still grieving the fact that she needs it. It makes the cancer real.

And as I write all this I feel so much shame. I feel like I should be happy. I've tried so many times today and all I feel is more anger and fear.

After hearing about the match Chad, Grace, and I signed all the documents that acknowledge that if the graft fails, the result would be fatal. If the graft vs. host disease (GVHD) is severe, it can be fatal. If she gets sick, potentially fatal. Pneumonia, potentially fatal. Organ damage, potentially fatal. It's not standard boilerplate text. They really mean it. We signed eight or nine paragraphs of what could go wrong, and the acknowledgement that the transplant can save Grace's life or take it.

We don't know the survival statistics and we don't want to know. Grace is a fighter. We know that. And the BMT is her best chance to save her life, and the full matched donor is her best change for a successful BMT. Still, despite all my efforts of happiness today, I felt anger instead.

I wish I miraculously had peace instead of rage and terror. I feel so out of control. Peace does come, but I've had to fight for it. That's why I'm writing tonight. I'm seeking it out because frankly I'm desperate for it. But tomorrow morning I'll have to do it again. And maybe mid-morning, and afternoon, and evening and night, and probably in the middle of the night too. Lately I've not often been the winner of these fights. The Bible says that the peace of Christ, which transcends understanding, will guard our hearts and minds. I just never knew it would have to be a minute-to-minute fight to stay connected to him to get a taste of that peace.

Even as I write this I don't feel peace, though I'm trying to with all my might. At least not the harp-playing-Kumbaya-peace. But I suppose it's the I-will-follow-you-to-the-cross-because-you-alone-have-the-words-of-life peace. Maybe that's what peace really is. Maybe the other is what we assume is peace, but it's really more happy feelings on happy days. Maybe "100 proof" peace can only be found in the storms of life, when it's totally his peace and nothing we provide.

The reasons I'm angry:

  • Being angry at everyone and everything is a lot easier than dealing with the real issue, that I'm so scared about Grace's transplant
  • I fell completely powerless and out of control
  • I'm still reeling from the disappointment that Grace's cancer came back and that our plans to move forward with a normal and safe life were taken away
  • I'm exhausted and haven't been taking care of myself very much
  • I've haven't been honest about my feelings and this makes me feel isolated and then I fear and resent others for not understanding me
  • I'm out of energy from pretending I'm ok
  • Feeling beaten down from the lies of the enemy who has been attacking me with bad thoughts about my marriage, our family's future, my value, and anything else that's an easy target...so pretty much everything in my life
In Celebrate Recovery we're suppose to do a HEART evaluation:

H- hurting
E- exhausted
A- angry
R- resentful
T- tense

And I'm maxed out on all those right now. That's the truth of my life and pretending it away hasn't helped, nor has it healed my faith. I think when I'm more honest about my pain, that's when I start to heal.

This very moment I feel less like a trapped animal. I happen to know Jesus likes the real me more than the "pretty faith" me. Because the pretty me is pretend. She doesn't exist. And the weight of supporting a pretend identity has been exhausting and full of failure and shame today. And with that honesty comes the knowledge that I am accepted and loved by God in my worst moments. That is the reason I can go on. I am frightened, but I am not alone. I am willing to face the Valley of the Shadow of Death, because he is with me.

I feel his peace now.

And tomorrow I will fight for it again.