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Reassurance of Normal

Reassurance of Normal

 

Corey is my best friend, but I had the opportunity to spend a morning with my girl BFF last week. She’s the one who shares my disinterest in girly things like shopping and jewelry. The one who has navigated boy mom world with me from day one.  The one I call when my kiddos do something amazing like backflip off a picnic table. And the one I call when this job of “momming” is knocking the wind out of me. She’s a gift.

I’ve even shown her my bare chest. I know that sounds so weird and wrong, but stick with me here. I live in post-breast cancer world, so my normal is no longer a normal person’s normal.  When you’ve had your breasts removed and rebuilt, and you’ve had a stranger tattoo on them to provide a sense of normalcy and scar coverage, you just want your best friend to see them and say “You don’t look weird.”  And then you laugh together over the fact that you seriously just flashed her. And then you pause in the somber reality that it was a malignant tumor that brought you to this strange place.

I’ve found that since this whole cancer thing happened, there are moments I just need reassurance that I am normal. I need assurance from Corey that I’m beautiful. And I need assurance from my friends that I’m not a weirdo.  Don’t we all need a cheerleading squad sometimes?

Enveloped in support of those who love me, I need to plant myself firmly in God’s word which tells me I am created in His image. And I need to trust that even with a slightly altered body, I am deeply cherished by the God of the universe. Click To Tweet. And I need to believe that He works good through the hard.

Maybe your life has been altered in some way by cancer, and maybe not. Regardless, we all walk through hard things. Don’t be afraid to lean on those who love you.(This likely will not require you to flash your BFF.)  And more importantly, don’t discount the God who brings beauty from ashes. (The One who can take your broken, unnormal self and make you whole.)

 

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3

 

 

 

 

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Say No to Fear and Yes to Freedom – A Guest Post By Cathy Baker

by KimHarms 0 Comments
Say No to Fear and Yes to Freedom – A Guest Post By Cathy Baker

Cathy Baker is a writer friend I’ve never met. Funny how this crazy online world works. 🙂 She blogs at Cultivating Creativity and her second devotional book, Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains, just came out this week. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her to through our connection at inspireafire.com., and I’m honored to share her guest post here on Life Reconstructed today. If we allow God access, He will reconstruct the broken parts of our lives, and that is what He is doing with Cathy. He’s helping her say no to fear and yes to freedom. Read on, she’s got good words to say.- 



Say No to Fear and Yes to Freedom

Fear has plagued me since an automobile accident over three decades ago.

Its invasion began soon after the accident when I refused to get on a highway. Driving or riding, it didn’t matter. Like a disease, the fear began spreading into other areas of my life. Within a matter of years, I was afraid to drive or ride over bridges, through tunnels, or busy roads. Our lives, unlike the fear, became very contained.

I’ve missed out-of-town birthdays, trips to my husband’s hometown in DC, and early on, even a few family beach outings. Truth is, I’ve missed out on much more but even I can’t bear to admit how much. Guilt clings to fear like a well-fitted backpack, creating a heavy load for anyone to carry, especially a Christ follower who has taught adult Bible studies photo by Kim Harmsfor over twenty years.

I know that love casts out all fear and that fear is not of Him. At one point, I considered stepping away from teaching because guilt constantly whispered how can you call yourself a Bible teacher when you struggle with all these fears? Recognizing this voice was not from God, I sought counsel from a wise friend and scholar of the Word. He asked, “How would a good father respond to your fears? Would he banish you from his home or heap guilt on your already weary soul?” I drove home with a fresh appreciation for my good, good heavenly Father and moved forward in many ways.

Over the years, I’ve kept a journal of God’s faithfulness. When a difficult trip came up, I wrote it down. Sometimes the sentence was as simple as Lord, help me drive to the grocery store in the storm. Every time God chose to miraculously clear the skies or the roads, I gained confidence. And on those days when the skies refused to clear or a kiss from the bumper from behind left me rattled, I found comfort in knowing God was there, allowing it for my ultimate good.

A year ago, in an effort to move closer to our grandchildren and to the mountains, we decided to leave our beloved century-old home and the city we’d lived in for twenty-five years. Leaving everyone and everything I knew to move an hour away (which was approximately 55 minutes outside my comfort zone) required a tremendous step of faith. We found a home that sat on four acres with a spectacular view of the mountains. The only downside was the drive to civilization.

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I Found My Breast Cancer Story on Rise and Soar Above the Cancer Valley

by KimHarms 6 Comments

Photo by Kim Harms

Look what I found in the big wide world of the Internet while doing a little writing research – my story on author Shirley Corder’s website. I remember when she requested my cancer story for her Testimony page, but I don’t remember ever seeing it after if was published. What a fun little surprise.

Things like this make my heart happy. It’s a boost of encouragement from God through my computer screen. He’s like –

Hey Kim, I know that sometimes you think you’re losing your mind with this whole writing thing and that you should give up and  apply to make pizza at Caseys, but I have you right where I want you. Trust me. Besides, remember that time you got a job at Piccadilly Circus in high school and you messed up two pizza orders on your first day and then quit? You’re a great girl and all, but you’re not really cut out for food service. I created your brain for the keyboard, not the kitchen. Stick with the words. Love, God

 

 

 

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The Things My Eyes Can’t See

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I sat on the deck overlooking the Rocky Mountains in the cool of the morning. Coffee in one hand, Kindle in the other.

I’d been reading through the New Testament, but for a change of pace I downloaded a little vacation devotional from Amazon for our week in Colorado.

On our first morning in Granby, I read this prayer.

Heavenly Father, Awaken my spiritual eyes to see you fully, in all your glory. Give me discernment to see beyond what my physical eyes will allow. Amen.

The prayer struck me as odd considering I was getting an eyeful of God’s creation every time I stepped outside. It seemed to me that that should be enough.

But those words stuck with me, and throughout the week I found myself praying my own version.

Dear God, Help me to see what my eyes can’t see.

My eyes saw some beautiful stuff. Adam’s Falls. Horseshoe Lake. Alpine Ridge. The Colorado River.  Had I seen only those physical things, I would have arrived back in Iowa with a greater appreciation for the enormity my creator.

But I would have missed something.

The thing my eyes could not see.

The Rafting Adventure

A week before our trip, I contacted a rafting company about scheduling a family rafting trip down the Colorado River. The woman I spoke to was kind and promised to email me some info before booking our non-refundable Monday, July 10 excursion. I didn’t receive the email. So I called the company back. No answer. I called and I called and I called. Finally I was able to leave a voice message asking them to send me the info that I needed. No one returned my call. No one sent me any information. I was so frustrated. And maybe a little angry.

I finally gave up and scheduled with a different company for a date later in the week.

Then Monday morning (which should have been non-refundable-rafting-excursion morning) came. Along with it came a puking teenager.  No way was my 15-year-old getting on a raft.

Had our original rafting adventure been scheduled for Monday as I had hoped, we would have had to cancel, and we likely would have been out $400.

Seeing the Unseen

We ended up having a blast rafting a few days later when we were all healthy. We even got to jump off a cliff into the Colorado River.

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While we bumped along in an old school bus on some rough backwoods roads following rafting, my prayer popped into my head.

Dear God, Help me to see what my eyes can’t see.

And I saw it. I saw the thing that eyes can’t see.

I had been soaking up the gorgeous mountain views with my physical eyes all week, but my spiritual eyes were awakened to something just as beautiful. Maybe more so.

I saw God loving me, not in an “I created these mountains for the your viewing pleasure” kind of way, but in an “I even care deeply about the little details of your life” kind of way.

God knew my plans before I made them. He knew my kid was gonna start puking at 6:00 on Monday morning. He knew how terribly sad this penny-pinching mama would have been about a $400 loss. He even knew which rafting company was going to let my adventure loving boys jump off a cliff.

I am so very thankful for my physical sight. This Midwestern girl could stare at those mountains for hours. But I am even more thankful for spiritual sight that allows me to see the things my eyes can’t see. (Even if it required me jumping off a big rock into a cold river.)

The devotional I mentioned is called Pauses for the Vacationing Soul, by Cathy Baker (a fellow Inspire a Fire writer.) It’s just a tiny little ebook that I bought on Amazon. Its focus is the beach, but I made it work in the mountains 🙂 Well worth the 99 cents.

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When I Was Scared by Lewis Harms

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I go through all the boys notebooks at the end of each school year and keep a sampling of what they’ve done. Lewis’ stories often inspire laughter. But this rare gem brought tears.

I was scared too, Mr. Lewis.  And what I wanted most in the world was to protect you from the fear I was feeling. I wanted to kick that fear and the cancer right out of our house. But I don’t have that kind of power, and the best I could do was to let you see me take my fear and put it in the hands of the one who can take fear away. I placed it on that alter every morning, and at least a hundred times each sleepless night. And I know that you saw God at work in me as I wavered and struggled to land on the side of trust.

In hindsight, I can see that it was a good thing that God had us all work through the fear instead of immediately and miraculously removing the source of it the first time we asked.  Because through it, we gained a true raw story of God’s faithfulness right here under our own roof. A story we can remind ourselves of the next time something scary walks through our door.

God is good. God is faithful. And perhaps he is closest when we are scared.

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Breast Cancer and Tree Houses

Breast Cancer and Tree Houses

One year ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Today Corey and I closed on our tree house. (Sometimes I name my houses 🙂 )

These two things don’t seem connected, but they bookend a chapter in the same story.

Building/Moving/Selling/Moving is woven into the fabric of our family life.

Many of our decisions are weighed on the moving scale. When we build, I choose finishes and fixtures more for resale than for my preference. We base furniture purchases on three things: style, comfort and weight. If it’s too heavy, it’s not worth moving no matter how beautiful it is. And that 2011 family vacation to Colorado? Postponed for a year because it collided with a closing date…

The Harms family moving plan going into 2016 was to list our pi house (314 Centennial) in June. Then I got cancer and all plans for every part of life were put on hold while Corey and I brushed up on our knowledge of useless facts by playing Trivia Crack in Medical Clinic waiting rooms.

By June I was feeling pretty good. The cancer was gone. I didn’t need chemo. And I was in between reconstruction surgeries.

And I just wanted to be normal again.

Normal to me included listing our house. So that’s what we did.  img_20160617_124656627

When we were preparing to put our house on the market, we decided that we were ready to get off this moving rollercoaster. We wanted to find a place or build a place that would be permanent (well maybe not permanent, but closer to permanent than we are accustomed to.)

So Corey was like, “What do you think about buying a duplex on main street and living in it for a couple years while we wait for something we like to present itself?”

I am not opposed to adventurous housing scenarios, but within two seconds of walking in the door of the duplex with our real estate agent, my response (internally) was a resounding “No Way. Uh-uh. Not Ever. My husband has lost his mind.”

When I got home, my prayers went something like this. “Please Lord, don’t make me move into the house with overflowing poop toilets and grease dripping down the walls.”

We all know how that turned out.

God has a sense of humor, and he moved me into the place with the overflowing poop toilets and the grease dripping down the walls. Thankfully, the poop and 95% of the grease img_20160708_195421724_topwas gone when we moved in. I eventually captured my hubby’s vision (I usually do. Sometimes it just takes me a while.) And together we spent a month gutting and remodeling the place before moving in.

The original plan was to live in our newly remodeled duplex for one to two years. For a variety of reasons, we decided not to build this time around, so Zillow became my friend. In the mornings I made my coffee, did my devotions and checked my Zillow for new listings. (You see, I got on board with moving into the duplex, but I just wasn’t convinced of the two year plan.)

One day this fall, Zillow was good to me.

Listed was an in town acreage with a house hidden back in the trees, smack in the middle of the neighborhood most of the boys’s friends live in. (Did I mention it comes with a tiny house by a ravine?) Be still my heart. img_20161215_141100758

We looked at the house that day and made an offer (that was accepted) that night. Corey really liked the place. I really LOVED it.  And the boys immediately started making plans for ziplines and trails through the woods.

But some issues that turned up on inspection made it very clear to both of us that we couldn’t go through with the purchase.

That was hard. I so very much wanted that place, but I knew that God was telling me no.

Fast forward two months. The price has gone down and some of our concerns have been resolved. We began negotiating with the seller again and came to a price we could agree upon.

It turns out God wasn’t saying no. He was saying wait. The waiting part was key, because without it we would have missed the sweetest part of the story.

Because we were totally flexible on the moving date, we left it up to our real estate agent and the sellers.

The date picked? January 20.

When we told the boys about the closing date at the supper table, Owen said, “God knew he was going to do that, didn’t he?”

Yes buddy. I have no doubt.

One year to the day after receiving the hardest news of our lives, Corey, Carter, Owen, Lewis and I are walking through the doors of our tree house.

God, in his lavish love was like, “See guys? I took care of you through the hard stuff and now I am giving you this gift.”

That’s who God is. He is healer. He is sustainer. He is a father who loves to give his children good gifts.

 

 

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Thanking God (and John Piper) at Inspire a Fire

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The topic at Inspire a Fire this month is thankfulness. Many of you have already read this letter I wrote to John Piper, but I felt it worthy of being my “thankful” post this month. I can’t read it without an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and love for my Savior who cares for me in such amazing ways.

An Open Thank You Letter to John Piper

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Checking Things Off the Post Cancer To-Do List

Just before my exchange surgery in July, I posted 6 things I planned to do with my post cancer-invasion self. So here I am to brag that I’ve accomplished all but one 🙂 (Backpacking requires some wilderness and a trail, both of which Central Iowa is a little short on, so that one’s gonna have to wait.)

SLEEP

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I am a lover of sleep. I’m neither a night owl, nor an early bird. I’ve always been the girl who could happily go to bed at 10 and sleep until 9 given the opportunity. But things changed in January when that darn tumor freaked my body out. Sleeplessness kicked my butt for months, and Netflix became my middle-of-the-night companion.

But, alas, my beloved sleep has returned to me. My body has healed, and I can finally lie on my side again. Most nights I even spend the whole night in my own bed. (That $600 IKEA futon is getting slept on more often by teenage boys than by me. And I’m fine with that.)

HOLD SULLY

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Holding this little man makes me so very happy. Do you see that sweet sweet face? Just looking at his photo is making you happy, isn’t it? You’re welcome.

RUN

img_20161022_125025I started running again in September, and our whole family loved enjoyed tolerated running the Pumpkin Relay at Center Grove Orchard this year. Sometimes you’ve just gotta make your kids do stuff they don’t want to do. It’s one of the most important rules of parenting. Suck it up Harms boys, this is good stuff.

HUG MY HUBBY

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If a picture is worth a thousand words then the first 3 for this one are obviously “We are dorks.” I leave the other 997 to you.  Regardless of our dork status though, that is a hug. And that’s a big deal.

LIFE

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I am definitely doing life. I’m making writing plans for the coming year. I’m running again. I’m cooking again (though I don’t understand why that has to be part of life). I shot some guns. I played in a wave pool. I slid down a water slide. I beat Corey in mini-golf. I strapped into a harness and did a high ropes course. I watched my boys play football. And now I’m counting down the days to a family vacation on the beach. (It’s 16 by the way.)

Oh, and I moved. Because doing life in the Harms house includes moving. We moved into residence #10 (in 18 years) in August, and now we’re hanging out in a duplex on main street waiting for the next step in our crazy life of rotating houses to present itself.

I fear some of you may think I have a terribly mean husband for making me move so soon after the cancer.  To set the record straight, he is truly the most loving, caring, selfless guy I’ve met in my entire life. And if I’d requested it, we’d have stayed put for as long as I needed.

But here’s the deal. Sometimes sticking with your plan is what makes you feel normal. Before cancer we had planned to list our house this year. And by summer, I felt like was ready to handle it.  The purging. The cleaning. The packing. The moving. In some weird way, all of these things factor into me feeling normal.

Cancer knocked the wind out of me, but I’m breathing again.

And I am busy loving my life.

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Enveloped in Light

courtesy of Katie Swanson

Photo by Katie Swanson

Sweet saturating sunshine

 Remind me always

of how Jesus

enveloped us in light

even when

days were dark.

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Milk Cartons, Tears and a Change in Seasons

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(In my September post at Inspire a Fire, I reflect on the change of seasons in life and reminisce about the day I sent my baby to school.)

Homemade cheesebread with marinara sauce.

“Oh no, what if Lewis can’t open his milk carton?”

Those were the first five words on the back-to-school lunch menu and that was the thought that ran through my head sending a fresh waterfall of tears down my face. Yes, I read the school lunch menu and cried. And cried. And cried.

That was several years ago, but I remember it like it was several blinks ago.

Lewis was (and still is) my baby. The one I had to myself for four years while his brothers were in school. The one who sang wonderful made-up songs, daily made me laugh out loud and liked to wear the same way too small orange shirt. Every. Single. Day.

The one who wasn’t supposed to grow up.

What if he can’t open his milk carton? What if he gets lost? What if he gets hurt and wants his mommy? What if he gets tired and needs a nap? There was no end to the (often irrational) thoughts that filled my head as I sent my little man off to begin his own life adventures.

But I know deep down the reason I kept crying was not because Lewis might not be able to handle school. It was because I might not be able handle life without Lewis…

Head on over to Inspire a Fire to read the rest of the story – Milk Cartons, Tears and A Change in Seasons

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