When you can't see what's around you

We went camping this weekend for the first time as a family. And by camping, I mean we rented the cutest little cabin in Cliffs of the Neuse State Park. We enjoyed a campfire dinner, made s'mores and took a little hike on the trails by the river. 

Elin was particularly excited about sleeping in a bunkbed for the first time.

Carl and Elin fishing in the Neuse River.

Carl and Elin fishing in the Neuse River.

However, when the sun went down and bedtime showed up, the real trouble started. 

We took it for granted that our girls were used to a routine at home - individual rooms, night lights, comfy beds. It was tough for the girls to rest in something that wasn't familiar to them. We tried to give them things they enjoyed - books, bottles, binkies - to help them to feel calm.

They eventually went to sleep - about 90 minutes later than what it would have been at home.

Around midnight, Elin woke up screaming, "Daddy, I can't see!" She was looking for one of her stuffed animals and couldn't find him in the dark.

A few hours later, it happened again. 

"Daddy, I need you!!" 

She just wasn't sure about this place she was in. The lack of light. The new space. The unfamiliarity of it all. 

But, we knew she was safe. We knew she was OK. We just had to keep reassuring her.

What we didn't do was pick up and leave at the first sign of discomfort. We didn't suddenly fix everything because Elin wasn't sure about the situation. We knew, if we just stuck it out, the morning would come and the scenario would change. 

The girls set up for the night.

The girls set up for the night.

And when morning did come, it struck me - isn't that just like life?

We can end up in these dark places. Unfamiliar. A bit scary or completely overwhelming. We're unsure of the things we can't see and don't know. We feel out of place and out of our element. We don't know why we can't just fix it and be done. 

Recognize those feelings?

It can be with anything - a big move. A new school. A tough patch at work. Infertility. The loss of someone close. A change in relationships. Cancer.

[Insert your own dark place here.]

For me, that's where my faith comes in.

A lot of people have told me that they're surprised how well I'm handling the diagnosis.  But what you must remember is that a majority of people found out about my diagnosis two weeks or so after the whole process started. What you didn't see was my initial acclimation to the word "cancer."

It was very scary. A new territory. A place I had never been or planned to go.

To be told to plan to receive a cancer diagnosis within three days of finding a tumor was overwhelming. 

To be asked how old your kids are by a well-meaning nurse as you're having your vitals taken, and to say that your youngest turns one in a week was soul-crushing.

To not know how much cancer was in my body was a paralyzing.

And like little Elin in that dark cabin, I was calling out to God and reaching out to people I trusted. I wanted this fixed, I needed someone to flip on a light and make it all go away. Or better yet, someone to pull me out of the cabin and say "Ok, we're getting out of here!"

Instead, I had a small group of trusted friends and family come around me who reassured me. People who were willing to sit in the dark with me and tell me everything was going to be OK. People who didn't know what to say, but just prayed for me. People who let me process what I was thinking and just listened.

Just like we got Elin through a tough night in a foreign place, my tribe got me through those first two weeks. 

While I can't see what lies ahead, nor can I immediately fix my situation, I trust that the right people are around me to get me through. To hold me up. To encourage me. To let me know it's all going to be OK. 

I trust that God knows where I am and, just like me and Carl trying to calm down a three-year-old, He knows that my situation is temporary and I'll get through it. 

Not everyone wanted to cooperate, but proof that we made it through the night! 

Not everyone wanted to cooperate, but proof that we made it through the night! 

Jennifer Hoverstad