Cancer Free

****I wrote this in February of 2017, the day Natalie received her official cancer free diagnosis.  But, this time two years ago was when Natalie was first diagnosed with cancer, and I’ve asked her mom’s permission to share this story, from my own perspective. I hope you read it…and celebrate Natalie’s beautifully victorious life with me.**** 

I remember it now.

Vividly.

The phone calls came, one after the other.

“Hey, I told Rhonda about the lump on Nat’s tummy, and she said we need to go to the doctor right away.”

“They think it’s a tumor. She will have a biopsy done today.”

“Natalie has cancer….they are hurrying to get us admitted to St Jude’s.”

I didn’t want to believe it; I didn’t want to move. I wanted to stand, frozen in time, pretending that this wasn’t happening to our closest friends.

But it was happening, and so I went to support our friends.

I stayed in the hospital for hours to play guitar for Natalie.IMG_0817

And then, we heard the treatment plan estimate.

Two years!

So, we did what we could. We brought food; we helped pack; we made a care basket for the road. We made a list of how we would help look after their house…

And then, we hugged.

We said goodbye

(Here we are, minutes before they walked out the door.)

All in just TWO days.

As I left their house, I began to weep ugly, big, fat, rolling tears.  I was devastated, scared, and most of all, angry!

I wish I could say I was angry over the injustice and brutality of cancer, especially, childhood cancer.

That would be normal and unselfish and…..righteous, even.

But, at the time, all I could think about was how our life would be forever changed. This cancer was taking away our best friends, leaving us on the outside, in a completely different world, watching, helpless, out of control….

Yet, here I was, angry that our weekly coffee dates were gone. There would be no more last-minute dinner invites. Our weekly habit of putting together our leftovers and other random foods (the extreme opposite of formal dinner parties) would not be resumed.

(In actuality, there would be more dinners.)

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I was angry that my own daughter would lose a very special presence in her life. Natalie, you see, is the closest thing to a sister Isabela has. How could we bring her through this? How could we show her hope in the face of this destructive and life-threatening cancer?IMG_8335IMG_8299IMG_3643IMG_0268

I was angry and there was nothing I could do to save the day….

Because, that’s what I do, you know? I’m that friend who swoops in, brings food, cleans your house, helps you move, takes you to the airport at 3 a.m., watches your kiddos, helps wherever and however  I can. I am there, and I want to be there for my friends.

But this time I couldn’t. There was absolutely nothing I could do but pray, wait, pray, wait, pray wait, pray wait and OH, how hard that is for a broken and fallen person, such that I am.

So, with shaking hands and faith,  I pulled over into the parking lot of a mall and I wept.

Loudly …

I felt like I had experienced a death, yet I knew even in that moment, it wasn’t about me at all.

Still, I wept.

wept selfishly at how everything would change for us, yet I knew that this was the least of things to weep over.

Oh, how I wept.

wept bitterly over the loss of our strongest support system. Yet, I knew that in reality, they were the ones losing their support systems, their home, their community and quite possibly, their daughter…

Yet, however self-consumed I was, I never said a word. I have never shared those feelings about that day. Part of it was shame – man, I felt guilty – but mostly, it was because it wasn’t a story that needed to be shared, from me, at the time. It wasn’t my right, it wasn’t my priority, and most importantly, it wasn’t my truth.

Somehow, even in my anger, even in my grief, I knew this.

It wasn’t about me.

It was about them.

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It was about Natalie, her family and doing everything we could to be positive, even if we were scared out of our minds. It was about sending small gift packages and funny memes, even when we were depressed and questioning God’s providence.

It was about always respecting and valuing their faith and never-ceasing to share scriptures of hope with them. Even when hopelessness was raging inside me so much so that all I could hear was the rushing winds of fear and the howling screeches of anxiety….I could NOT give in. I needed to be strong.

And, in the dark night of my anger,  I realized I could not stay. I could not live there. That knowledge gave me gumption. It gave me the ability to speak back to the storm around me.

You know, looking back, I’m glad I stopped to weep over my selfish concerns. I’m thankful that I got it all out, then and there. I needed to take a few minutes to release my fears over the situation and even the ones pointed at myself, the “what if I won’t know what to say,” and the “what if I won’t know how to be a good friend through it all” kind of things…

I needed to release it so I could see clearly. So, I could stand on the other side of fear, and say, ” No! I will NOT  hide out. I will not be so distracted by my day-to-day that they will have to go through this alone. I will be a constant. I will listen. I will supplement fear with faith. I will pad frustration with gentleness. I will finish negativity with reminders of blessings and truths,  however I can.”

Sitting in that car, I calmed down and made an internal vow to not just encourage my friend, Natalie’s mom, to be strong. But, I also made a vow that I would stay strong too, even if I had to fake it….

My friends, I have truly  failed at a lot of things; I have truly failed a lot of people.

But, this is one thing I might have done good on.

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Still, I do have regrets. 

I wish I had visited more. I wish I had quit my job so I had the freedom to leave and give Natalie’s mom a break when she needed it most (this is a big one).  I wish I had sent more care packages. I wish I had texted more often. I wish I had prayed more; I wish I had cleaned her house more while they were gone.

But most of all…I wished I had loved Natalie more. I wished I had hugged her more. I wished I had enjoyed her laughter and freedom to just be who she was more.unnamed

(Beautiful Natalie, home from St Jude’s)

I wished I had given more attention to her, I wished I had talked to her more. I felt so ashamed when I thought of the type of friend I was to my own best friend’s daughter.

I felt intense regret for not playing with her more or playing the guitar for her more, all day if she wanted……

This precious and beautiful life, our Natalie. So full of joy and perfection, our Natalie.

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This is my greatest regret…..

But yet, there is hope, you see. Read on…

Today, I received a phone call from Natalie’s mom. I had been waiting all morning for this phone call; I knew it was the day of her scan. When the phone finally rang, I ran around the house, desperately searching for my phone, answering it when I heard it.

This silence was tinged with anticipation, and in a split second, I thought “No, please do not let this be the silence of mourning.” But, her voice broke through the tension, choked with tears, saying, “ She is cancer free, Natalie is cancer free!”

I don’t remember what I said. I’m quite certain there were no real words spoken, anyway. Whatever it was, it was lovely, shattering the darkness with one loud, beautiful and deafening crash!

It’s over!

It’s finally over! This time, I can cry tears of joy, defiant joy! No more death, no more disease, no more cancer, fear, anxiety and no more insidious and ruthless cancer lurking behind us!  Life has won today! Life has won; Natalie has won; God has won and hope has returned. Thank you, God. 

Thank you, God.

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(cancer-free and home-coming party)

-A.

“Why do we doubt the Lord of the seas

Who has parted its waves; made a way from the enemy!

Why do we doubt the God of miracles

Who has raised the dead, created the world!

From dust, He made flesh

From death, He raises LIFE

His works never stop

His word stands through time….”

Military Family

“There’s nothing like family.”

Thats the saying, and it’s true. There is nothing like family. For us, we are keenly aware of this because we have lived away from our dear family for so long.

You know,  as a military family, we have our own little sayings. I’m not sure if this is an official one, but “there is nothing like military family” rings true for us.

This family doesn’t have the same DNA running through our veins, but we are family none the less. We are the ones who get together on Easter, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, and other holidays, because none of us have family nearby to celebrate with. We are the emergency contacts on each other’s school forms; the ones who bring dinner when the other is sick; the ones who mow the yard when the other is deployed. We are the babysitters and the pet-sitters; the extra-key holders and the come over for let-over eaters.

We can sit at a table with other veterans and automatically bond, even if we do not know each other or have anything in common except for the service of sacrifice. And if we are lucky…we adopt each other, becoming the family that gets each other through our assignments

There is nothing like military family. Listen…in  this family, we get it.  We get the sacrifice, the burden and of course, we get the lingo. We get it and that knowledge alone brings us into family. It’s a beautiful comfort in such a temporary world.

When I go to Belgium this summer, that is one thing I am excited to witness. I am excited for these kids to find a new family in their hearts. To bond together, to adopt each other, to become brothers and sisters and to sit at the table of fellowship, ingesting the goodness of family.

“There is nothing like military family….”

While that is true, I know something truer. We are all family, made one in Jesus Christ, with the same blood running through our veins. And in Him, we are called to extend and enlarge our family.

This is what I hope to do there and with my life. I want to live with intention and  invitation into my family. I am not sure who I will be when I’m there in Brussels, maybe a mentor,  a sister or even a mother,  BUT I do know that whatever role I fall in,  the love of God will be with me. And, through His love, my family will grow. And for that, I am blessed.

Eternally blessed,

A.

missions donation link: https://www.gofundme.com/getAliciatoBelgium

Despite All Things, Redeemed

Brave.

Fearless.

Warrior.

Courage, my heart.

For some reason, those words popped into my brain, a vision of letters somehow engraved into thin air…..

And I thought of every bar necklace, every t-shirt, every coffee mug that stands boldly with declaration of intent.

BRAVE

FEARLESS.

I wonder….what if we actually held the sign of our truths? What would mine be?

Fearful….

Afraid….

Insecure…

Anxious….

Lonely….

Regretful….

Not all at once, but sometimes and many times…too many times.

I am a vessel of many feelings, fear probably the strongest and most deceptive of all. Oh fear….what death is born from your whispers!

And,

The older I become, the more this truth empowers me, rushing through my veins and carrying me through unpredictable, volatile, HEAVY, storms:

That

despite all things, I am REDEEMED and living in a yet-to-be-fully-explored FREEDOM, and THIS is the fulfillment of ANY dream, EVERY hope, and where my humanity and eternal JOY collide.

The fear of the unknown?

The devastation of fairy tales ruined?

Rejection and betrayal?

More specifically:

When my marriage is in the desert place, due to our neglect, and as we rebuild, we wait, hand in hand, for the rains? I am still redeemed.

When miscarriage upon miscarriages reveals the betrayal of body to heart? I am still redeemed.

When rejection from family turns spring into winter, chilling your very insides into a frozen congealed mass of tears ready to BREAK out. I am still redeemed.

When anxiety paralyzes and handcuffs and whispers and rages and threatens and tries to re-identify you. I AM STILL REDEEMED.

In the valley of death...I AM STILL REDEEMED.

And this is my and YOUR greatest JOY – the horizon of HOPE waiting …….

THIS is what I believe. And this is what has carried me.  THIS has redefined me and EVERY relationship, my marriage, my perspective, my PEACE and has EMPOWERED me to survive with my mental and spirtual health not just intact, but strengthened. Stronger.

The beauty of redemption is that it changes FEAR into PEACE.

I am redeemed. Today, and forever, redeemed. And I seize that as my biggest WIN, my brightest JOY and my driving HOPE.

I am redeemed. Despite all things, redeemed. We are redeemed. Through all things, redeemed!

 

Thank you, JESUS

Twinges of grief

Six years ago, I wrote this blog.
Angel Baby.
And, from that, this.
Sweet Seraphina…how I desperately prayed that God would show me your face somehow. “Please,” I asked…give me a dream, a vision, a picture!”
God answered.
And then I moved on.
I’m pretty good at moving on. Mostly because there is a deeply rooted hope that drives me ahead. But still, there are days like today….
Days where the memory of what could have been teases.
I am ok with that.
But years and years later, as a woman, I cannot help but feel less than.
Less than, that my body couldn’t sustain a pregnancy (and pregnancies thereafter).
Less than, that my body’s cycles have betrayed me on a consistent basis.
Less than, that I simply cannot do part of what defines my womanhood.
Less than, that most days, I do not even want what I cannot have.
Less than, that the grief of others is greater than mine.
Deep inside, I know I am not less than. I know that my femininity is not defined by what my body cannot do or by my body, for that matter. I know this; I believe this, and I live with joy and hope and  peace and blessings and wonder and pain and loss like every single person in this first world country-  privileged I am.
But I do grieve.
And, I am ok with that, too.
“…… but joy comes in the morning,”
A.

 

T-ball memories.

I never played t-ball,actually. I’m pretty sure I never hit a ball off of a real tee. However, I did start off with the amazing red plastic bat and ball.


Summertimes in the 1980’s were pretty darn cool. I would say it was because no one was fearful of kidnappings or strangers or crazy people, and we could do whatever we wanted. However, my mom was 3 steps ahead of everyone back then and reminded us constantly that “there are Jeffrey Dahmers everywhere!” ( In her defense, she is a Chicago native.)

But no, summertime was cool because every kid got to do what we dreamed of doing all year: play outside all day, go swimming every day (or most days), ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, make up outrageous games, and play ball.

As a kid (and to this day) my dad worked on the railroad. That means that that he worked almost everyday and a lot of hours. However, he always seemed to make time on the weekends to take us down to “the field” to play ball with us.

I remember it all so well.  The cooler of water and pop (Chicago lingo), packing up all our gear, putting on sunscreen, and walking a block or two down to “the field.”  My mom and dad would warm us up with a game of catch and then my dad would start hitting a few balls to us. During this time, he would have us rotate to all the different bases, explaining each role in a casual, off-handed way. Finally, he would let us have turns hitting the ball.

My mom was actually a pretty good hitter, but unfortunately, my older sister was a crazy little outfielder who caught almost everything. I’m quite positive she could have played centerfield and caught every ball at every corner…..she was so fast, and her arm was powerful. I always hated playing outfield after her.

Fortunately, I was a good hitter so at least I could rub that in my sister’s face, because she wasn’t. (-: We really cherished all the advice my dad would give us.  I still remember him telling me not to be predictable on the mound and how in giving us all his “secret wisdom,” we felt special and important.

Looking back, he was so cool about it. I can definitely remember getting yelled at by my dad, but never on the field. My sisters and I loved those weekends. And not to mention, we were a pretty decent team…for a team of a mom, dad, a 7 year old and an 8 year old ( and a 2 year old who probably played in the dirt the whole time).

In 3rd grade, my dad signed me up for summer ball, and I still remember my coach’s name. I was so excited to be on a real team that I made sure to wear my favorite skirt to practice. In true Davila style, my dad asked me if I was sure I was making the best clothing choice and then let me go on to face the consequences.

I ran onto the field wearing my skirt and never looked back.


That sounds like I played forever, but I didn’t. I actually quit right before my freshman year because it got serious, and I decided that I hated being told what to do. I managed to maintain that attitude all the way into the Air Force recruiter’s office and joined the USAF in 1998 …along with thousands of others who also hated being told what to do.


In closing, it is pretty cool to watch my own daughter play ball and to see how much she loves it. I am so grateful that we get to make these sweet memories. Every time I watch her and Chris, I am reminded of my dad and our summer ball days.

Thank you dad for making such great memories with us. You raised three softball players, and one actually still plays (-:  That’s gotta be worth something!

Love you forever,

Alicia.