Life Reconstructed - Life After Breast Reconstruction

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.

Instead of taking five minutes to reach the closest Starbucks (is there a better point of reference?), it would now require twenty minutes. Yes, a 40-minute round trip for a Grandi-licious cup of coffee. Fear tempted me to re-think the move. I had enough trouble driving around the corner on rainy days. How could I even think of driving twenty minutes to anywhere? But I refused to allow fear to determine where I lived.

Enough was enough. When I declared this for the first time, I heard the heavy thump of my foot hitting the ground, claiming my right to freedom.

We moved to the house on four acres with a mountain view. Every time I get into my van to drive down a two-lane road for twenty minutes one way, it is an act of faith and it feels like a gratifying kick in the shin to the enemy.

After writing such a bold statement, I wish I could end this post in true David and Goliath style, but I can’t say my fears are totally slain. I can, however, say that with every small declaration against fear, freedom gains ground.

And isn’t this where victory over fear begins for us all?

 

Photo Courtesy of Cathy Baker

Cathy Baker is an award-winning writer and author of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach as well as Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains. As a twenty-five year veteran Bible instructor, she’s led hundreds of studies and workshops. She’s also contributed to numerous anthologies and publications, including Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Upper Room, and Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family. In addition, her poetry can be found in several popular anthologies. She and her husband, Brian, live in the foothills of the Carolinas where she one day hopes to have her very own Goldendoodle.

 Photo Courtesy of Cathy Baker

 

 

 

Praying In Every Room of Your Home

by Cathy Baker

Subscribe to Cathy’s Blog, Cultivating Creativity and get a free copy of this book. In it she shares specific ways to pray over every room in your house.

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Breast Reconstruction – Thoughts From Women Who Have Been There (a profile series)

Breast Reconstruction – Thoughts From Women Who Have Been There (a profile series)

On Tuesdays, starting next week, I will begin featuring profiles of women who have undergone a single or bilateral mastectomy. Most of the women to be featured have been through reconstruction of some sort, and a few have opted to go flat as it’s called in the breast cancer world. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s a decision all of us in the “mastectomy club” have to make.

Breast Reconstruction Photo by Kim HarmsThese profiles are not meant to be exhaustive interviews. Instead they will highlight some key parts of the process, providing insight and encouragement to women who have unwittingly found themselves in the bizarre world of mastectomies and reconstruction. It’s a heart-breaking, weird, scary, challenging, and for me at least, faith-deepening experience. If you are a new member of our club, I hope the words these women say help you feel less alone.

My desire is that these profiles will also be educational for those of you who have not been on the receiving end of the statement “You have breast cancer.” I pray you never hear those words spoken to you, but I can almost guarantee that at some point in your life someone you love will.

If you or someone you know of would like to be a part of this series or would like more info, please contact me through the form below. (If you don’t hear from me within 2 days, email me at kimharms@rocketmail.com.)

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When Cancer Pushed Me Out of the Boat and Into the Water

Photo By Kim Harms

I’m talking about cancer and water and sinking and faith strengthened by a stormy sea at inspireafire.com today. You can start reading here and follow the link at the bottom to the rest of the story.

 

When you pass through the waters I will be with you. Isaiah 43:2

The image of water was a big deal to me during my cancer year. The power. The tranquility. The danger. The beauty.

Cancer was my water. Fear-inspiring, yet fused with the beautiful. So hard, yet covered by a peace I cannot explain. The water was rough, but Jesus was constant.

One night long ago on the stormy Sea of Galilee, Peter jumped out of a boat and began walking to Jesus. He sees a man walking toward him on the water and says “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you.”

In her book, Crossing the Waters, Leslie Leyland Fields describes Peter’s walk like this.

“He walks atop the waves anyway for a few steps, but fear opens his eyes and ears too wide. He hears the wind; he feels the water at his ankles. He knows this is impossible-and he sinks.”

Whatever it is that got him out of that boat, he did it, and the most dynamic personality among the disciples took his first steps on water. But then his circumstances got the better of him.

When I think of Peter, I’m reminded of my rough waters turned serene.

I didn’t jump out of the boat into the storm like Peter.

I was pushed.

Follow this link to the rest of the story – When Cancer Pushed Me Out of the Boat and Into the Water

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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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Life Reconstructed

We live a construction life over here at the Harms house.

I’ve been watching my man build amazing things for two decades. But I never imagined there would be a point in my life when a piece of me would have to be physically reconstructed. That at age 40 my chest would literally be taken apart and put back together.

During that process of physical breast reconstruction, non-physical parts of my life were reconstructed as well.

Pieces of my marriage were taken apart and reconstructed.

Pieces of my thought life were taken apart and reconstructed.

Pieces of my self-esteem were taken apart and reconstructed.

Pieces of my sense of womanhood were taken apart and reconstructed.

And pieces of my relationship with my Savior were taken apart and reconstructed too.

The funny thing is, when my physical body healed, the feeling was gone and I was left with permanent physical numbness.

But as the non-physical parts of me worked through the reconstruction process, the depth of my emotions intensified. I now feel more deeply than I ever have before. I love my husband more. I have more confidence as the woman God created me to be. I find more joy in adventurous things. And I cling to my Savior with a new intensity.

Sometimes I miss the before-cancer me.  I miss life without hot flashes. I miss knowing my husband was the only person who ever got to see me with my shirt off. And I miss the naivety of thinking I’d live my smooth-sailing-life to old age and die on a porch swing with my Corey by my side.

But I don’t miss those things of the past as much as I treasure my life in the now. Breast cancer and breast reconstruction were the means the infinitely wise God used to get me to this place, and I choose to be thankful. Thankful for the trial and thankful for my life reconstructed.

I’m also thankful you’ve come along for the ride 🙂

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The Backpacking Story that was Years in the Making

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Four years after sending a query to Creation Illustrated hoping to write about my first backpacking trip, I received an invitation to write the story.

Four. Years. (I’ve had to wait quite a while for responses to queries in the past, but four years is crazytown. )

It was worth the wait, however, because that query turned into an 8-page spread in the magazine. I love writing for online publications, but there is something extra sweet about pulling a magazine out of the mailbox and finding your byline in print. The fact that it was backgrounded by a giant photo of Palisade Head on the North Shore of Lake Superior and the article was sprinkled throughout with photos of Corey and me made it even more awesome.

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I’m thankful I married a guy who pushes me out of my comfort zone. If it hadn’t been for his insistence, I never would have taken that first backpacking trip or the half-dozen more we’ve taken since.

I wouldn’t have stood on top of Mount Trudee. I wouldn’t have traversed the infamous “Crawler’s Ledge” on the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. I wouldn’t have showered in a waterfall or bathed in a river. I wouldn’t have eaten guava straight off the tree or had the sound of ocean waves lull me to sleep in my tiny little tent on a beach in Hawaii. I wouldn’t have watched my boys skip rocks across a lake high on a mountain in Colorado and I don’t think I would understand the draw of a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (Corey’s next adventure).

I’m also thankful I get to be a writer. I don’t think I will ever tire of arranging words on a page. Even though sometimes it takes four years to get the go ahead to write 🙂

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Backpacking and Breast Cancer

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I posted the following statement on July 18, 2016.

We cancelled our plans for a family backpacking trip to Colorado this summer because a backpack and chest expanders are a bad combination. (Just wearing a seat belt across my chest right now about drives me batty.) Next summer the Harms family will be climbing some mountains.

On July 11, 2017 we climbed a mountain. Well, kind of. We climbed most of the way up a mountain in Byers Peak Wilderness in Colorado. We camped by Horseshoe Lake 11,200 IMG_6535feet above sea level where we were secluded from the world (except for one other family and their 4 alpacas 🙂 )

It was fantastic.

I love backpacking with my family. Something about all of us doing a challenging thing together brings me great joy. I love the taste of  Mountain Meals eaten out of a bag while sitting on the ground, and I love relaxing by the campfire together before retiring our sore bodies to our tiny little tents. I could do without the middle of the night trips to the outdoor loo, but I guess it wouldn’t be backpacking if I didn’t have to pee outside. IMG_6542

The Gift

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, our friends/tax guy/realtor Chris and Tami Hicks offered us a week of their timeshare. Not only did they offer it, they made sure we took them up on the offer by reminding us every month or two that they wanted to give us a vacation. So thank you Chris and Tami for the condo with a view of the Rockies, and for helping me accomplish a goal.

We had a fantastic week of swimming, rafting, hiking, eating lots of junk and relaxing in our own personal hot tub room.

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An Easy Section of the Hard Trail

My boys might say that rafting or cliff jumping was their favorite part of the trip, but for me it was definitely the backpacking.

Goal Achieved

Last year at this time I was recovering from reconstruction surgery #2, and dreaming about the day when I might be able to extend my arms over my head again. This year I strapped on a 20 lb. backpack and climbed a mountain.

Last year going for a half-mile walk with Corey was a grand accomplishment. This year I hiked for hours on what alltrails.com lists as a HARD trail.

Last year I had no feeling in my alien breasts. This year…still no feeling 😉 (A relatively small price to pay to rid my body of cancer.)

But that’s not really what this is about. This is about living the life God gave me to the fullest.

Last year that meant a lot of resting and letting other people take care of me. This year it means checking the goals off my Post Cancer To Do List and hopefully encouraging other women who are in the midst of hard things.

Backpacking is my last checkmark.

List complete.

I guess it’s time to write a new one.

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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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10 Things I Hope for My Boys as They Enter High School

by KimHarms 2 Comments
10 Things I Hope for My Boys as They Enter High School
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Photo courtesy of Rachel Vespestad

Every time I drive past the high school building looming by the cornfields on the outskirts of town, my palms start sweating. Maybe because my high school friends scarred me for life by making me watch Children of the Corn in the 90s.

More likely it’s because the sweet six pound baby, whose chest movement I observed closely on a nightly basis to be sure he was not dead, will soon be navigating the gauntlet of secondary education.

It freaks me out a little. And it’s gotten me thinking about the things I hope for all three of my boys as they traverse those formative four years between childhood and adulthood.

I hope they don’t unnecessarily stress out about grades.

Sure, they may get a bit more in college scholarships if they hang onto that 4.0 for 4 straight years, but I’ve seen what the stress of that can do to people, and I’m not sure it’s worth it. I want my boys to work hard of course, but I don’t want them to lose their minds striving for perfection.

In real life a 4.0 just doesn’t matter much. A fulfilling, successful career and a perfect GPA have very little to do with each other.

I hope they have a teacher like Professor Haws.

Professor Haws gave me the biggest boost of encouragement a professor could bestow upon an insecure 20-year-old. He could have easily let me slide through his journalism course at ISU, accept my grade and move on. But instead, he pulled me into his office, told me I was a good writer and suggested I change my journalism minor to a journalism major.

I didn’t take his advice, but his words are still with me. And those words gave me the courage to pursue my first reporting position after college. I moved on from newspaper writing to magazine writing, and now I’m working on my first book. A few words of encouragement from the right person can be immeasurably valuable.

I hope that each of my boys will have a high school teacher like my college professor who sees their potential and then takes the time to pull them aside and say, “I see a talent here, and I encourage you to pursue it.”

I hope they don’t focus so much on the now that they forget to plan for tomorrow.

High school kids are insanely busy. Some of them walk through the school doors before seven a.m. and return home in time to eat, sleep and start all over again. It’s not hard to understand how kids who live in such a harried atmosphere can get stuck in the now. When do they even have time to think about tomorrow if they are always charging full-speed ahead in today?

Though I know my boys will be busy in high school, my hope is that they don’t lose sight of planning for the future. That they will find the balance between being involved in what they love and being overcommitted.

I hope that they don’t focus so much on tomorrow that they forget to live in the now.

On the flip side, I hope my boys don’t get so concerned about growing up that they forget to have fun now. High school is the time to toilet paper friends’ houses in the middle of the night. It’s the time to drink cases of soda and have Lord of the Rings marathons. It’s the time to play basketball in the driveway, and football in the backyard. I hope they enjoy those four years and treasure the fun and friendships that will surely change after graduation.

I hope they learn to enjoy showering.

What a glorious day it will be when my kids happily hop in the shower to wash their sweaty boy smell down the drain. I hope for a day when hygiene is a welcome thing and not a dreaded task that takes precious time away from basketball and video games. (This hope came to fruition shortly after I wrote this. And it was in fact, a glorious day 🙂 )

I hope they appreciate their high rate of metabolism.

Seriously. My boys can drink two cans of Mountain Dew and eat a family-sized bag of Doritos and, as far as I can tell, all it does is make their feet grow. This will not always be the case. One day those washboard abs will decide they need proper nutrition to be maintained.

I hope they don’t outgrow a back scratch from their mama.

We aren’t all that touchy-feely at our house, but every night at bedtime I scratch those ever-growing boy backs. And the scratching motion seems to be directly connected to a mechanism that opens their mouths to give me a glimpse into their thought world. It’s one of those guaranteed moments of connection between me and my boys, and I will miss it dearly when it’s gone.

I hope each pair of crazy expensive sports shoes we purchase last a full season.

I believe their feet are the most expensive part of their bodies. So. Many. Shoes. Remember those unbreakable spray-on shoes Flint Lockwood invented in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs? He had something going there. Seriously. Million dollar idea.

I hope they don’t have zits on picture day.

Oh wait. Photoshop. Forget this one. Zits only exist in real life.

I hope they take the Proverbs to heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-7 New Living Translation) So many people will be vying for their attention and allegiance through their teen years. My hope is that my boys keep their Savior at the top of the pile.

*This post was actually written a couple years ago when my two oldest were in middle school. I found it buried in my files of written-but-unpublished-stuff and decided it was worth sharing 🙂

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6 Things Every Dad Should Know About His Daughter @ Inspire a Fire

by KimHarms 0 Comments

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Dear Dads, I don’t have a daughter, but I am one. And this list of 6 Things Every Dad Should Know About His Daughter is inspired by my experience.

1. She is paying close attention to you.

By the time I was four, I’d seen my dad build and fix a lot of stuff, so I was utterly disappointed when after I had a serious mishap involving a trampoline and a metal tractor toy, he wasn’t able to put my broken arm back together. Sometime over the course of two surgeries, a week in the hospital and four months in a cast, I realized that though my dad wanted to solve my problems, he couldn’t fix everything. If you show your daughter you are making an effort, she will notice.

2. Your presence matters.

Like a lot of dads, my dad wasn’t big on showing affection when I was growing up, but he was always there. Always. Every activity I took part in, no matter how boring or how long the drive, he was there. And his presence not only made me feel important, it made me try harder. So when you are physically able, just be there. Even if it means slipping into the back of an auditorium with your work clothes on.

3. She sometimes chooses activities based on how she thinks you will respond. Take notice.

Sure I had a crush on a guy on the wrestling team, but the real reason I took stats throughout high school is so I’d have a common interest with my dad who wrestled at Mankato State. It gave us something to talk about. Dad even took me to the NCAA Wrestling Championships and let his friend, who happened to be the Athletic Director at the University of Iowa, sneak me mat side to meet my favorite Division I wrestlers. That was a big deal for a 17-year-old girl.

To read the other three pieces of advice, head over to Inspire a Fire.

 

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