Have you ever been walking along a path and saw the person in front of you push a branch aside that was in their way? You know what happens next – before you have a chance to react the branch comes flying back and smacks you in the face. Just minutes before this you had been so absorbed in the beautiful scenery and now you're on your butt, hands over your face, reeling from the pain and crying your eyes out.
Sure, there were probably roots in the woods along the way that you had tripped over earlier and some poison ivy that had been quite irritating. Maybe there were some spiders that freaked you out and possibly even a snake slithering by that really sent you into a tizzy. But you had managed to keep yourself together and kept walking.
Maybe you had even lost your balance on some rough terrain and fell down (a.k.a. been diagnosed with cancer, went through multiple surgeries and chemo treatments, rode on that roller coaster far too long only to be told that you were "terminal"). You dealt with it though. You had stood back up, brushed the dirt off your hands and continued walking. The tears had dried up and you had even begun to see the sunshine breaking through the tree branches. You had looked up and saw the sun reflecting off the leaves that were still hanging onto the trees. It was breathtaking and you even broke into a smile and began to relax and then – WHAM! There is that stupid tree branch again. I am so stinking tired of that stupid tree branch. For me, that tree branch is reality.
Brian and I just got back from our most favorite weekend of the year. We love our children and spending time with them but once a year in the fall we get away - just the two of us. We have a 30 year old pop-up camper and we fill it up with food (all healthy of course - not!), movies (we bring along a tv, dvd player and surround sound speakers - you know - basic camping gear), books, magazines and of course, the dogs.
When we first started this it was just to get away. For the past few years though we have left more behind than just the kids. We've left cancer behind too. We look forward to this weekend all year long - our escape from reality. Every year we have a great time. Every year though it becomes harder and harder to come back home. I'm always anxious to see the kids again (not to mention a clean, sanitary bathroom) but reality is always waiting at the door to greet us. Every year it gets a bit harder. This year it slapped me in the face so hard I think I still have red marks. You know, the kind that you get from that stupid tree branch.
I’ve patched myself up again and dried the tears. I’ve wiped the dirt off my hands, once again, and am taking it one step at a time. I was even laughing, dancing and singing tonight (I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas) with Ashley & Emily while we made apple crisp and carved pumpkins. Emily thinks I’m awesome and I think Ashley was very happy that we weren’t out in public at the time.
I still get really angry when I think about cancer and how it has impacted our lives. Cancer is our “it”. Everyone has some kind of “it”. It’s not always cancer and it’s not even necessarily a medical diagnosis. It’s just “it”. Yuck. Not good. An annoying slap in the face by a tree branch when you least expect it.
I hate falling down. I hate crying. I hate starting over again. I hate thinking about “it” and the impact it has had on our lives and will continue to have. I hate the loss of control I have. I hate tree branches slapping me in the face. I hate that I keep using the word hate!
It seems like I usually have a song or a verse to share at this point but today I don’t. Today I just put one foot in front of the other. I know God is there quietly cheering me on. He’s not talking to me right now or better put . . . I’m not listening. I’m sure He’s there though. He’s in the bright red beautiful leaf that refuses to let go of the branch. He’s in the twinkle that I see in Emily’s eyes. He’s in the wisdom that I hear in Ashley’s words. He’s in the delicious aroma of freshly baked apple crisp. He’s in the boom of the thunder and flash of the lightening outside my window. He’s also in the quiet rhythmic ticking of the clock. He’s there. He is.
And every time that stupid tree branch comes and slaps me in the face He’s going to be there to catch me and help me back up onto my feet again. You can run but you can’t hide from reality. It’s always there just waiting around the corner ready to pounce. Thankfully you can’t hide from God either. He’s right there ready to block that branch from hitting you or help pick you up after it strikes. Either way, He’s there. And I’m so glad He is.