Friday, December 23, 2011

Blue Christmas: Re-Run

One of the best things about the 'discipline' of keeping a blog, is that it really does become a chronicle of your journey. I've been wrestling with what to post today. My last entry has already climbed well into my Top 10 list, because it is just the type of 'content' that teachers are looking for: Graphic Organizers + Foldables = HOT commodity! It's taken me months of 'learning' to figure out how to create such a post. If you came here today hoping for more of the same, another teacher grand slam -- turn back now. Flee. Run for the exit. The pendulum is about to swing.

If your life is set in the midst of a Martha Stewart-Norman Rockwell sort of backdrop, click away now and head to your nearest up-beat blog address, one chock full of recipes with cranberries, family crafts with cinnamon, and grandiose pine swags of decorating ideas complete with tinsel tutorials. My writing today is about to get real. [I promise that the next post will swing back to happy-happy + upbeat joy, so please do indeed come back.]

BUT. If your life is not of that glossy magazine-ilk. If you have troubles. Or issues. Or conflicts. Or frustrations. Or challenges. Or bad news. Or divisiveness. Or struggles. Or loss. Or heart ache. Or concern. Or agony. Or wounds. Or questions. Or searching. Or good-byes to articulate. Stay tuned. You've come to the right spot.

I am going to re-post my entire entry from exactly two years ago.... I'm not sure that blog-experts would approve of such a cut & paste, but that's my plan. It's an old post that hardly any one read back then, because I had no readership really. Be fore-warned: It's a strong post. I wrote it right before my second diagnosis of Breast Cancer -- which makes it all the more poignant reading it now. [CUE: Heavy-duty fore-shadowing, indeed... I wrote the original post exactly one week before the mamo that sent everything into tail-spin, the sequel.] 

I only keep one blog. Consequently this one's a patchwork quilt of my time as a survivor of various life 'train-wrecks' punctuating an overall life of contribution, creating and caring. One side of my world informs the other. But today I pause to acknowledge that life is not just one big long parade of polka-dots and smiles. Planet Earth.

It's been a long two years. A second diagnosis of early Breast Cancer. Bilateral Mastectomies. Complications (you don't even want to go there with details lets just summarize by saying) INFECTIONS. Fired my surgeon. Got new specialist, new hospital. Frozen shoulder. Months and months and months and months and months of painful physical therapy to be able to lift my dominant hand over my head. Lymphedema (again in the shallow end of that pool, too. I have much to be grateful for on the BC continuum.) Kinesio-taping for months on end. Lymphedema sleeves and gauntlets -- stares and insensitivity from waiters and miscellaneous total strangers -- oh, and pain, did I mention pain? -- and a constant revolving door of medical appointments. That was the year of 2010.

FLASH-FORWARD. 2011. This was the year I lit a candle on Easter in an Italian cathedral. Truly. In. Awe.

Duomo di Milano, Italy: Easter Candle Prayers -- Mine lit for the CURE
Tonight. I just read that one of my dear "Team January" surgery-sistahs received the news earlier today that her BC has metastasized in various places through-out her body. Stage IV. [There is no stage 5.] She is a HUGE influence on our team -- because of her brilliant support from her medical training she informs all of us, but more significantly her impact on us is because of her enormous heart, kindness and sense of humor. She's young, with her first born daughter's wedding on the horizon. Tonight I also read of another Team January member who received her prescription for anti-depressants earlier today. Are the two related? You do the math. Mets are everyone's worst fear. TAK (pseudonym) received the news today. The news NO one ever wants to hear on December twenty-third. Falalalala-lalalala? Really?!?!
It was TAK's announcement that jogged my memory about my earlier post: "BLUE CHRISTMAS."

My Angel "Saint"creation, forever watching-over-me
It's a tough road. This post is dedicated to all of my BC sisterhood familyhood. [I miss my dear friend Saint so very much. Whole families grieve, not just we sisters.]  My earlier writing which follows this ever longer-intro, is probably all the more appropriate now, than I realized it would be when I wrote it two years back. Perhaps this will be my annual Dec. 23rd post? Something in the vein of a "Yes, Virginia tradition."

Certainly there is pain beyond BC. I dedicate this particular post to everyone who is hurting, like my grandma-friend who has just received the news that her unborn grandchild is not likely to survive being born. Yes, this post is for everyone who has lived thru the fires of this life (the actual burning down your house kind with a lengthy ICU stay as my brother experienced this year + the try-your-soul, refining types) the tragedies, the set-backs --  all of which become magnified at this time of year in the face of the Hallmark Channel's non-stop happily-ever-after of sappy-endings marathon.

Light a candle. Say a prayer. You are loved through-out this human soup of life's experiences. Loved with a power only imagined and possible by a Creator capable of sculpting both the Grand Canyon and the daisy. You are loved. You are loved by a Maker that harnesses the power of an infinite universe of twinkling stars to the specificity of a sand dollar washing up at your feet as you walk the relentless and thundering surf. 

You are loved in the midst of it all. That to me is the miracle of this season. We can lift one another up by listening, by being available, by caring, by our mere presence being the present.... even when there are no words, or perhaps especially because of the times there are no adequate words. Whether with a hug in person or a message through cyber space, we can impact the lives of others. I offer you my experience as an example of the goodness of grace abounding. I 'sit' in solidarity with those experiencing blue. There is indeed strength in tears, but especially in blue tears.

Dec. 23, 2009
What a blessing. What thoughtfulness. What consideration.
Tonight our church hosted it's first ever "Blue Christmas" service.

It was soft.
It was deep.
It was compelling.

The chancel was darkened except for blue lights illuminating the altar and numerous simple white candles twinkling. The music was presented by a trio, accompanied by piano and acoustic guitar.

It was quiet.
It was moving.
It was healing.

The poinsettia tree was already in it's place of honor, but the focus was much more subdued and it literally stood in the shadows.

The readings selected spoke of 'seasons: a time to weep' and 'deep speaking unto deep.'

It was a blue service. For those grieving, for those in the midst of loss. For those having a difficult time embracing the traditional ebullience of a hyper-over-produced Christmas, which can be a criticism for even the church.

It was a blue service. For the lonely. For the broken. For the forgotten. For the exhausted. For the searching. For the despondent. For the struggling. For the weary. For the lost. For the displaced. For the angry. For the frightened. For the drifting. For the seeking. For the depressed. For the hurting. For the fractured. For the aching. For the mourning.

The pastor spoke of the strength and value of tears -- especially during this season. He addressed loss. He spoke of 'missing gifts' when a loved one is no longer in our midst. He preached about being brought to your knees with questions and searching hearts..... how such times may be when we are most seeking answers and ready & available to listen.
He spoke of consolation.
He spoke of lighting your candle against the darkness.
He spoke of yearning.
He spoke of sorrow.
He spoke of heart break.
It was tranquil.
It was serene.
It was peaceful.
It was very possibly one of the most meaningful worship services I have ever attended. I sat there thinking what a gift for our congregation, for our community. I sat there with tears streaming down my face for most of the service. Gentle tears of acceptance. Gentle tears of peace.
It was gentle.
It was at the same time hopeful.
It was powerful.
Strength from weakness.

As we walked across the dark parking lot on our way to the car, I was thinking how I could possibly convey the simplicity, the majesty and the ringing truth.
This season is so hard, for so many.

I wished that every congregation would host such a service. A 'blue' Christmas. I was thinking of a picture to post here, on this thread. A single candle?
Just as I was considering the options I saw the license plate on the car parked next to ours.
I pray that you will embrace your survivor-hood status and that the season at hand brings answers as you seek -- sometimes on your knees, sometimes while sobbing, that you are loved with a depth beyond your understanding. I pray that you know that you are never alone. I pray that our community offers you strength. I pray that this season offers you a moment of reflection. I pray this season brings you hope -- even in the broken-ness which is ours.

Strength and courage.
Strength and courage.
Strength and courage.

Thank you divine angels for leading a worship committee to have the insight to create an entire service of dignity and quiet for us to collectively mourn our losses. May you bring comfort and consolation to those who are in need here in our community. May we raise one another up, by sharing our losses, our sorrow, our weariness..... dividing it by our sharing it. May you shower us with the gentle healing of our acknowledging our blueness and may that healing give You glory.


Strength and courage.
Strength and courage.
Strength and courage.

[I originally wrote this post to go on the Stage IV thread at BCO in the Discussion Boards in a section entitled "Women of Faith" -- and I copied and pasted it from there into my blog.]


  1. You are awesome! I can't wait to meet you when you come to our school in January!! :) Thanks so much for following me!! I am now a follower of you as well!! :) :)

    Kindergarten Smiles

  2. WoW - you were right, it is a POWERFUL post. My friend's dad just passed away and she's SO on my heart this morning and then I'm led to your post. I love those God winks, your words spurring me to do something, anything for my hurting friend today. and tomorrow. and the next day . . . .

    I am blessed by your energy, your enthusiasm, your thoughtfulness and your reflections. May we all plow though those blue Christmas moments with courage and strength and may we show grace and mercy when we're on the other side.


  3. You are awesome, Debbie! I can't say anymore because I'm crying too hard. (It's a good cry)


  4. Faith, that was absolutely amazing. I am so very honored to have walked that awful breast cancer walk with you. Blessings to you and yours.

    Well said, my friend.

  5. Barbara, Your post is beautifully written and very powerful. Thank you for opening up your heart and allowing me to feel not so alone in my own personal trial this season. Your words have lifted me up.

  6. Debbie, this is such a powerful post! Thank you!

  7. Debbie, I second Rebecca's comments. Thanks for helping me feel not so alone in my personal trials this season as well. Often the people around don't understand what you are going through and it's not always possible to share what you are truly going through either. I hope you have a wonderfully blessed day tomorrow.


  8. Thank you dear folks for your supportive comments. I have much to learn about writing and even more to learn about blogging -- and the yet still more about the role of suffering in our lives.

    If there is anything what-so-ever "good" that can come from my experience through sharing it, I am more than happy to do so. We each have our own battles and challenges. I wish each and every one of you well in the process.


  9. Debbie, it certainly does make you stop and think of those in blue tears. Thank you for the inspiring thoughts about the living who suffer quietly in a blanket of the cold of the winter. May we each be blessed with the gift of sharing our kindness today, tomorrow, and whenever it is needed. A big mommy hug for you!

  10. Thank you, Debbie, for sharing this. I have attended Blue Christmas services, but not this year. I really appreciate you. Carokyn

  11. Hi Debbie,
    I just stumbled upon this beautiful and emotional post. So poignant. Thank you. I recently posted about my cancer journey - though not nearly as eloquently as you. It is amazing how little, itty-bitty cells can affect every part of your life. I hope that you are dong well. Thank you for such an inspirational post. {{{{hugs}}}}}
    ❤Dragonflies in First ❤


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