Fourteen years ! That is how long I have been cancer free. A lot has happened in those fourteen years. A lot of life… to quote a favorite song of mine from Jimmy Buffet – “some of it magic, some of it tragic, but I’ve had a good life along the way.”
Lying in the hospital bed fourteen years ago after having a double mastectomy, I remember the anxiety and the pain and the uncertainty of it all. It weighed me down,.It had me shallow breathing and struggling to get through each hour. The first year was filled with doctors appointments and more surgeries and physical and mental recovery. It was hard and yet it was beautiful to be surrounded by my loving husband, our family and friends. I quickly realized by sitting in a lot of waiting rooms that not everyone was so fortunate. Many sat alone and many didn’t have the resources or support to help them heal. I met a lot of incredible women that year. Despite rough circumstances they were clad in pink and ready to fight. A club none of us wanted to be a part of yet somehow it was a gift that you were. Warriors fighting our way back to normalcy even if that normal was severely altered. I met ladies who didn’t make it and others who are still going strong, living their best life.
I kept a journal during that time and I wrote down lessons I learned from having breast cancer. A portion of that journal was featured in the book “ If I Only Had One Chance to Tell You… Inspiring and Encouraging Real-Life Stories” by Ana-Christina Wadle. I share these lessons with you today in hopes that they encourage you to live your best life too. Having cancer changed my perspective. I am beyond grateful to have had these past fourteen years where I got to see my kids grow up and be a part of all the chaos and fun. Life is precious, let’s enjoy the gift that it is.
My life lessons from battling breast cancer…..
My husband has taught me the power of loving someone unconditionally. He has proved to love me for the essence of me and not just the physical me. This has helped me handle the insecurities that I have about my scars and the breast – disfiguring that came with my mastectomies.
I have learned that 90% is still an A. I don’t have a guarantee that I will be here tomorrow, so I strive to pursue excellence in all areas of my life; but I no longer seek perfection.
I have chosen to go deep versus wide. By this, I mean that I am striving to go deeper with my relationships and time commitments. Gone are the days that I say yes to everyone and everything. I choose carefully what I say “ yes” to.
I learned to forgive others. Forgiveness is powerful – if it is withheld, it damages. If it is granted, it heals.
I learned I am more effective in ministry when I share my struggles. I never want breast cancer to define who I am; it is just part of my story.
I choose to live a life of joy despite my circumstances. True joy comes from knowing the Lord and seeking a relationship with Him.
I hope you can take something from what I have learned and apply it to your daily life. Enjoy the journey!
The melodic sound of the violin bow dancing across the strings has always been a part of my life. The background music to so many memories. It began when I was a little girl and I would sit and listen to my grandpa practice his violin for hours. I would usually be reading a book and he would be playing or composing. I loved my time spent at my grandparents home and music was always a huge part of that.
My grandfather was a storyteller not only with his violin but with his words. As a young man he had traveled to the Orient and fell in love with the country of China and the beautiful people who lived there. He told us stories about his adventures in China on a regular basis and I was always in awe of the adventure. He played his violin in a famous nightclub in Shanghai where he spent 7 years of his life as a young adult, rubbing shoulders with movie stars and diplomats. You could see his eyes sparkle when he told stories of the “ good ole days” before he found himself literally running for his life. He had to hide money in his violin case and board a ship in the middle of the night to escape the China that was in the midst of war and devastation. I asked him one time when I was in college if he would have ever left China if he wasn’t literally bombed out of the country and he said, “ I don’t think I would have, but I am glad I did because I met your grandma and we had your mom and now we have you.” I was pleased with his answer of course but always knew a part of his heart still lived in China.
My grandpa and his violin seemed inseparable. He began playing at a very young age and by the time he was 12 he was playing in the Portland symphony. He had his own Vaudeville show in New York and taught music to the blind at The Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind for many years. He had spent his life creating beautiful music and receiving honors and accolades. I was proud of him but none of that meant as much to me as my favorite memory of him and his violin on my wedding day. He wore his tuxedo and played a waltz he and his sister, my favorite auntie, wrote for me and my husband for our first dance. The thought of that beautiful memory makes me smile and brings tears to my eyes as I can still hear the melody so clearly.
My grandpa died two years before I had children. His violin put inside the worn leather case where it remained asleep until just a few weeks ago. Thirty years later the strings have been restored and the bow has been repaired and beautiful music is being played in my home. This family treasure has come to life once again. This time the violin is being played by my daughter who is 18 and who happens to be Chinese. I always wished my grandpa could have been here the day we brought Lexi home from China. We adopted her when she was 10 months old. I was able to be in the country my grandfather loved so dearly and was thrilled to be learning so much about the Chinese and the heritage I want my daughter to have.
In a way that only God can orchestrate, her Chinese heritage includes a young talented and adventurous violinist from Oregon. To watch her hold that violin and create such beautiful sound is an incredible gift that makes me so thankful for the past and so hopeful for the future.
I write these words on today, April 28th, my grandpa’s birthday.
This Covid 19 experience…It is weird and uncomfortable and at times overwhelming. It is freeing, it is comfortable and at times amazing. Yes, that describes my life right now in the midst of this pandemic. It has provided a wide range of emotion and experience. It has been unifying in a strange way, the world on lockdown. How do we handle this as leaders?
One thing I am certain of, no one will get a pass. We don’t have the option to not go through this or sleep through it and wake up to life as it was pre Covid 19. Now, more than ever, we need people to show up and live life in all of it’s strange and beautiful nuances right here, right now, together. I think how we show up now will have lasting affects on how we are able to show up in the future for those who we do life with, for those we lead.
The last few weeks have provided a lot of opportunities for me to speak to different MOPS groups, church events and leadership events, all from my home office. I wanted to share with you some of the things that I have received the most positive feedback on. 7 key strategies to focus on.
- Be authentic and self-aware. If you are struggling with your emotions, that is OK. We all have our moments. I spoke to a group last night and shared with them a real struggle I was having. I am not sure why when I heard Dr. Fauci say perhaps we should never shake hands again, it bothered me so much that I cried. It just did. I thought of my Dad telling me when I was a little girl the importance of having a strong handshake and looking people in the eye. I am an affectionate person who loves to hug and I tease that at times I almost “pet” people when we are talking. Not sure that was ever a good idea but now it definitely would not be ok. I was able to have impact because I shared what to me was honest, sad and authentic. Most importantly be authentic when you are talking to God. He already knows your struggles and can handle your anger, confusion or sadness about this whole mess our world is in right now.
- Be decisive yet adaptable. As a leader, your people need you to make decisions and provide clarity so they too can move forward. Because the news each day is rapidly changing, your mindset and then actions need to also be able to adapt quickly to a very rapidly changing world environment. This is where trusting God is critical.
- Be engaged but set boundaries. As I mentioned earlier it is so important to show up for your people. It is also important to set boundaries. In a time where most of our population is working from home it can be easy to just keep working instead of setting good boundaries. Making sure each day you are taking the time to take care of yourself by getting outside, moving your body and getting adequate sleep. Protect the time that you have with your loved ones you are in quarantine with.
- Be grace filled. Everyone is handling this pandemic a bit differently. Give people grace and remember to give yourself grace too. We all will have times where what we say or do probably wasn’t the best. Grace!
- Be positive and consistent. The people that you interact with will appreciate a positive outlook and need your consistent contact. It is a great way to stay connected during this time of social distancing. Technology has been an amazing asset during this time. At the touch of a button you can connect with a Zoom call, Face time, text or phone call. I also have loved sending and receiving good old fashioned letters. So let’s make it a priority to stay in touch so no one feels alone.
- Be grateful. I have started a gratitude journal and each day I write down three things I am grateful for. A posture of gratitude is key to staying positive.
- Be spiritually intentional. For me this happens to be the most important thing I can do to lead others well. I set aside time each day for prayer and reading my Bible. Right now I am reading through the book of Psalms. I love the raw emotion and questions that David brings before God. I also love the reminders of God’s faithfulness to his people and all the examples of his enduring love and strong character.
We’ve got this, because God’s got this! Praying for you as you lean into the responsibility of being a leader in such a time as this.
Sherri Crandall is the Vice President of Global Ministries and Leadership Experience for MOPS International. She is also a blogger and speaker for women’s events across the country and internationally where she shares her passion for encouraging women to live life to the fullest.
Prior to being on staff with MOPS International, she was the Director of Women’s Ministry at Mission Hills Church in Denver, Colorado.
Sherri loves to garden, read historical fiction, play a little tennis and most of all hang out with her family and friends, even better if it is at a beautiful campground in the Rocky Mountains.
Sherri has been married to her husband, Rusty, for 33 years and they have 4 young adult children and 2 dogs. She makes her home in Highlands Ranch, CO.
Hi all –
These days of quarantine have been challenging and I know many of you are serving our communities on the front line. THANK YOU ! I wanted to offer a bit of encouragement.
I started a challenge. It is called the 3:16 Challenge Why 3:16? It is in reference to the Bible verse John 3:16 – ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son , that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I have been watching all of these challenges on social media and I thought if people could encourage each other to do 10 push ups , post unflattering pictures of themselves, or awesome pictures of the food they are making, surely we could challenge each other to pray.
Here is how it works –
- Set your phone alarm for 3:16 pm your local time
- Pray for others around the world
- Tag 3 friends and encourage them to do the same
- Use the hashtag #3:16challenge
It is simple yet profound. Encourage your family and friends to join in. Please know, I am praying for all of you and if you are needing specific prayer, please feel free to send me a note.
We will get through this and be a stronger world for it – Join me in prayer!
I love going to the movies! I enjoy the story telling and the cinematography , the music , and of course the popcorn and Milk Duds. I enjoy laughing and I must confess I cry easily too. That is the beauty of a great story, it evokes a myriad of emotion.
This past weekend I went to see “ Little Women”. I remember reading the book when I was in middle school and then have seen each screen adaptation since. I enjoyed this new version brought to life on the big screen. The story is much more complex now that I am an adult and view things from a mothering perspective. Being the oldest of four children and being somewhat stubborn and very independent, I can relate to Jo March. However, this viewing I found myself relating to the mom and her struggles to keep her family safe and loved. The joy and sorrow she experienced through her children was palpable.
I left thinking more about motherhood and how since becoming a mom the way in which I view life has changed. I believe I am more empathetic and more vulnerable to what is going on in our world and how this affects families. Having the privilege of working with moms around the world through my job at MOPS International, I believe that motherhood is a universal language. The nod we give each other whether it be at the grocery store with toddlers or at the school parking lot with our teenagers – We just get it, don’t we?
I recently read a quote that said, “ When a writer knows themselves, they can write their story and the reader reads their own.” How true that is and what an encouragement to us all. We all are story tellers to some degree. The life you are leading right now is telling a story. I was challenged to think about what my life story is saying to the world. I would encourage you to think about that and share your life with those around you. Sharing the good, sometimes the ugly and all the boring in between unites us in our authenticity, realizing we are all trying to give our best. Share your story so others feel the freedom to share theirs. Maybe something you share will let someone else know they are not alone or maybe what you share will be just the right encouragement to create a catalyst for someone else to branch out and start fulfilling their dreams.
Your story is important, I encourage you to share it!
I am extroverted by nature and love spending time with lots of people. I am energized by the crowd. Sometimes; however, when I spend a lot of time with people and have lots of different conversations, I have a hard time winding down and falling asleep. Last week at MOPS we brought our entire remote staff in to engage in our annual strategic planning. I was thrilled because the majority of my staff is remote and we spend most days connecting via Facetime, phone and Zoom so having time in person was wonderful.
I found myself restless at the end of the week. I was processing plans, replaying meaningful conversations and honestly had a lot planned for the weekend as I was hosting a large party at my house. I decided to stop tossing and turning and make my way downstairs so I didn’t wake my husband.
I walked around the Christmas tree and began reminiscing. My tree is a story tree. It is a bit of a hodge podge so to speak but so many ornaments hold sentimental value to me. A green felt ornament with my oldest son, Justin, centered in the middle with his first grade smile. An ornament with Spencer’s old football number, Taylor’s picture secured in a hot glue gunned popsicle stick triangle. Then there is Lexi’s picture,surrounded by gold painted noodles her beautiful smile and the “ I cut my own bangs with play scissors” look that she sported as a preschooler one year. Our first year married Christmas ornament which is now 33 years old. The beautiful ornaments my sister has given me over the years and the ones we have collected on our travels. Then one in particular caught my eye – It says, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Santa is kneeling in prayer at the manger. It is sweet. I then glanced over to my nativity scene and the lights from the tree reflected so beautifully on the manger scene.
It is the season, the birth of the Christ child. The celebrations of it all. Looking at the baby Jesus in the manger made me grateful that He is not just the reason for the Christmas season but He is the Reason. The meaning to our earthly lives. This Christmas let’s not leave baby Jesus in the manger. As fellow Christians let’s love all people well and share the hope that is only found in Him. Those thoughts allowed me to settle back into bed and I slept so peacefully.
I realize Christmas can be so hard for many. I know we have had our years when the thoughts of Fa La La seemed impossible. This year many we know are struggling with health issues and the sadness that comes with the loss of those we love. Even more reason to stop and share God’s love. Let’s be mindful of the Reason this holiday season and beyond.
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!
Isaiah 9:6 NIV For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.