imkristen_ imkristen_

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K R I S T E N M O R R I S  "make room for good things to run wild” ▸ photographer + joy artist ▸ @calmorrismusic + me ▸ rue + jo’s mom ▸ cancer journey with #fightingcal ♥

Five years without my mother. Five years closer to being by her side again. “Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight / Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight.” #theresmamabear #breastcancerwarrior

“Cancer: a disease in which abnormal cells divide or multiply uncontrollably and spread to, deform, and destroy body tissue.”
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What about when abnormal circumstances multiply uncontrollably and destroy reputation or relationship?
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What about when abnormal incidents multiply bills uncontrollably and destroy hope?
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What happens when out-of-control destruction changes soul-tissue? Spreads to the mind? Deforms the heart?
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Cancer is such a living analogy in the physical body of the way suffering and trial work in “the whole” (heart, mind, body, soul).
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Different stages. Different types of ‘cells’ affected. Different forms of treatment. Different pace of damage. Different prognosis. Different reality moving forward. More chronic or more acute? In tumor form or spread throughout, diluted but... everywhere?
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No one’s said to Caleb: “You’re to blame for this. You obviously ate too much sugar and it’s your fault. I don’t feel bad for you.” Maybe “we” feel a reverence for cancer because we *all* know that story of the super-healthy-person who had it, and we all know those super-unhealthy-old-people who have never had it. We know there are no cancer-promises. We’re learning and as we know better as the human population, there’s effort to do better, generally. But we *know* deep down cancer can get any of us. “Someone I care for has cancer? *bleep* That makes me genuinely sad and heavy for them... and it scares *me* for me.”
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Sometimes The Bad News comes with more... speculation. More... judgey-security. “Well... they made those choices and that’s why this has happened. *I* for one would never bring such a disaster on myself.”
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Maybe... maybe Their Bad News doesn’t need our ideas about WHY it went wrong. How we wouldn’t have let *that* destruct our life. Or if it did happen to us, how *we* 💃🏼 would handle it. Maybe Story requires conflict, a problem to overcome, by definition, and maybe if it wasn’t This it would have been That, and despite appearances... it’s as out of our control as cancer. Not that there aren’t better, more-beneficial ways to live. (Continued below in comments!!) ⬇️

“Give us faith to be strong
Give us strength to be faithful. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This life is not long, but it's hard
Give us grace to go on.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
(Andrew Peterson) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The third month of this “Caleb has cancer” story has begun. The last week of chemo was simply: hard. Not “the most miserable ever.” But, to say it how he did, “I just feel bad. I can’t pinpoint anything specific, just everything feels bad.” And that was the best minute when he wasn’t nauseous and and and (other pin-point-able struggles). Being hopeful, grace-filled and trusting doesn’t mean you pretend you aren’t tired (in your soul, in your mind, in your body) or that you’re ungrateful or unaware of the chilling goodness at your right hand. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It means you can feel the thorn in your heel... and it does indeed hurt. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It’s unspeakably hard to watch Caleb fight, and it’s holy ground, brimmed with beauty, to watch him fight. It’s everything. This last week or so is another I’ll never forget (I say that a lot, huh? 🙈)... with big memories and days, on either end of the Joy-Ache Spectrum. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Thank for standing with us, for hovering over us, for being a strong support beneath us. Thank you for praying. Please keep praying. The next few weeks are very critical ones, and when his body would really “respond” to the treatment, or not. “I’ll always remember you this way,” my love. “Fight on, Fighter.” #fightingcal

In Joshua 4, after the nation of Israel safely crosses the Jordan, the Lord commands them to “take up each of you a stone upon your shoulder, according to the number of tribes, and lay them as a memorial, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” • One of the most shaping principals of all of God’s word to me: “tell this to your children’s children.” Remember. Re-tell. Pass it down. Show them the stones. Tell them what they mean. Write it on the tablets of your hearts. Hang it around your necks, their necks, like a beautiful locket. Listen for their questions, and be ready with a story... a story about floods and “no way out” and miracles and more to come. So much more, little one. #morriscrewineurope

When Rue was born I assumed he’d sleep in the cradle by our bed until he moved into the crib in his room. I was taken off-guard, in wonderful ways, by all the time we spent sleeping in our bed together. My heart unraveled at his *complete* peaceful happiness snuggled in, floppily molded around me. The visible bliss, the easy sleep, the clear desire to be with us. An emotion so wide and thick yet airy I could never describe it. • When our girl was on the way, I daydreamed about long hours spent in bed with her... another round of one of the best things I had ever experienced in my lifetime: mutual, entire, cozy wanting-and-having. However, as I’ve said endless times before, she arrived a very different little being. And from day one she’s preferred (demanded?) she sleep in her own space, untouched and on her terms. I would be lying to say I didn’t lope through some complicated emotions (“Does she love me??”) in the early days. But we’re good now. I KNOW she loves me. She’s an expressive lover. And she’s also developing, not bound to a label. For the better part of a year, she always falls asleep with her brother just a forearm away. And early every night she slams open our door, and stumbles into our room, to go roly-poly-bug-style on my pillow. If I turn away from her at all, she bops her booty my direction until some part of her is touching some part of me. • These last two months, especially, have cracked me open. One of the most comforting, emotional, all-encompassing gifts of this season have been my girl’s love of getting her sleepy body pressed up on mine. I love that she wants to be there, though I “respected and loved” her other preferences too. I love holding her, listening to her breath, and actively knowing “these are the nights I’m going to re-live forever.” The mama’s daydream, set aside initially, now a nightly guarantee. More magical than anything, even mommy-daughter portraits in front of the Eiffel Tower (though that *was* quite dreamy 😉✨). #morriscrewineurope #summerjolee #lifegivingsquares #thesepicturesarepoems

“Oh God,
I am furrowed like the field
Torn open like the dirt
And I know that to be healed
That I must be broken first
I am aching for the yield
That You will harvest from this hurt
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So I kneel
At the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn
At the glowing edge of spring
When the winter's edge is gone
And I can see the color green
I can hear the sower's song.”
(The Sower’s Song - Andrew Peterson)
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My heart doesn’t feel “led” with a word for this year... and that’s very me. Some years it’s “there” and others it feels kind of forced or general. Last year I KNEW ‘embody’ was a focus for me. This year, however, I have an anthem. @breabird sent Caleb and I a playlist for our time in hospitals... and the first song will always mark this season of our lives, and it has blessed and comforted me enormously these last few weeks.
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2019: The Year of Trembling Out With Tears and Hope “The Sower’s Song.”
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We’re at Moffitt starting Caleb’s second round of chemo. We’re good and blessed and laughing and snoozing and... pray for C: the duration of this is hitting him. He has a long road ahead. He’s trusting, grace-filled and full of faith, but sad too. Which is good. It is sad. “We shall be led in peace, and go out with joy. And the Sower leads us.” #fightingcal

Last December (12/5/2017 at 2:33 PM, to be exact!) we booked a trip we’d been wanting together, and seeking to make happen together, for eight years: a month overseas. Back in Dec ‘17 we looked at Caleb’s work calendar, and had about seven weeks in the fall with nothing booked yet. So... we just picked a date in there. “Randomly,” I mean, really: randomly! The cheap-airline we were using had about 8 different dates with $99 NY —> London options... so... we picked one! (“Sep 1-Oct 1? Sep 5-Oct 5? Sep 20-Oct 20?” “How about Sep 10 to Oct 10?” “Why not?” “Sounds good.” “Alright.” “Lets do it!”) We could have never known what September, October, November, and December 2018 would be for us then. But if we could have known, we wouldn’t have changed a thing.
The date we mostly could never have written, planned, organized, or made-up ourselves is October 10, 2018. October 10, 2018 will be as central to us as the day we got engaged, our anniversary and children’s birthdays... we will never forget it. It won’t pass by unnoticed in 2025 or 2031.
I want to tell you about October 10, 2018. But we’re going to start (continue) where we left off: on October 1, when we arrived in Paris for 10 days.
Pay attention, because the sudden turns in this part of our lives leaves us with “NO WAY”-type reactions. Lots of “whoa.” and goosebumps and... story yet to tell. #morriscrewineurope

A #FightingCal Update: As you know, C’s chemo is a 28-day cycle (five days of treatment, 23 days off. During those off-days he gets checked twice a week, and we also have appts for all his transplant prep.) His first cycle will finish this week, and the second round starts Monday. Overall chemo hasn’t “bothered” him too much... we had a couple pretty horrible days of managing side effects (chemo? medicine? a combo? Lots of trial, error, and focus when you’re trying to manage sickness, but thankfully we’ve been able to adjust quickly when a “oof-day” has hit.
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Christmas was a joy! I have much stored in my heart from the season that was life-giving and “just what we needed.”
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A huge milestone for us was on the $$$ end. C is to be taking a second chemo (a pill, taken alongside the infusion), but it’s brand new and... requires a $13,600 paid-in-full copay every month 🙂🙃 (can you imagine going to the grocery store pharmacy and swiping your card for a $13,600 transaction. 🤯😂😂😂). Insurances haven’t been approving coverage for it yet because it’s so new, but we had a social worker help us apply for financial assistance and we just heard back: we’re getting it for free! Fully covered by grants from the company. HUGE answer to prayer. The prescription was called in weeks ago, but we can go pick it up today! Another relief was getting all the filing, approvals, faxes and and and taken care of to start our healthcare coverage claim. It’s a part-time job doing paperwork when you’re sick, so having that in motion (while the bills start arriving in the mail) is a nice mental load “off.”
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Last little/big thing: on Friday C did labs and his platelets were the highest they’ve been yet! Really encouraging since we were told they’d dip from chemo... always looking for small signs of progress and healing. He has a ways to go, but I’m thrilled with each 🙌🏼 step! (For reference: a healthy man’s platelet count should be 300k. When we found out he was sick they were 12k. They’ve been under 20k ever since. But on Friday they were 36k!)
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Thank you for caring for “staying in it” with us, and for reminding us over and over that we’re not alone ♥

“Made prepared for the day of battle, but the victory is the Lord’s.” (Pr 21:31) • Last year it was clear to my spirit than the word and concepts of “embodiment” was going to be central for me. I spent an enormous amount of time in 2018 learning how to connect to my body. Caleb and I often used the image of a wild mustang learning to trust it’s new friend and owner. Little by little, day by day, building a repertoire and learning how to think about each other. I have a long way to go, but this year was profound. I learned how I experience grief and stress in my body, and how I’ve tried desperately to ignore it. I learned a great deal about what was happening on the inside, turning away from an external-exclusive approach to care. Probably chiefly, I learned to be so grateful for what my body has done and can do.
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I hate crying in front of people, but when my doctor looked me in the eye after some lab results and said “You’ve been trying so hard, but you need help. No one could fix this on their own. You’ve done everything right, you’ve done everything you could, but your body needs a lot of healing.” (In fact, she said she’s never seen someone as young as me with as poor results on a number of tests. I’ll elaborate more very soon.) I willed my tears to stay inside until I was alone, but the moment I got in the van, I released a hot flow of relief. I started learning how to pay attention to my body’s whispers. Started noticing sensations in my hands I never have. Started to notice ways I’ve tried to outsource stress: twitching eyes, fidgeting fingers, bouncing and restless legs, hunching over to hide. My body carrying my soul’s hurt and flinches.
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I couldn’t have known what the end of this year would call me into. But I have been prepared for battle. As healthy, knowledgeable, consistent, and connected as I’ve *ever* been in life. Already waist-deep in studying and learning to nurture the body. He made me ready.
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“Good is the pleasure of God in our flesh, longing in all, as in Jesus, to dwell, glad of embracing, and tasting, and smell, good is the body, for good and for God, Good is the flesh that the Word has become.” (Brian Wren)

“All I want for Christmas is my two front...” • Well THAT hit me harder than I was expecting 😭 Phew. We worked so hard for that tooth... your third to grow in, the first to fall out. Sheesh. That *got* me. My handsome, kind, wonderful, very-big-still-so-little boy. I actually love your teeth. So. There’s motherhood. 😩 #rowdyneil

“I’m aware in talking with you that there are situations that are easier to get help with than others. I have a ‘Casserole Problem.’ I have a problem, and people bring me stuff to eat. I’m prime CaringBridge material. And I was just wondering if it was hard to get help for what you really needed?” (Kate Bowler, who has been managing and fighting Stage IV cancer, so shrewdly and gently asked this to Mark Lukach, author “My Lovely Wife In The Psych Ward,” which you can guess it’s plot line.)
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Here we are in-between, after the feasts and gifts, before the fresh start. I want to be A Kate with the platform cancer has given. I want to emphasize and make-space tenderly for The Other Kinds Of Problems. I want you to be encouraged to as well.
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As nearly everyone else, I carry pains in my secret garden. My own, and others’. I know of pains, through stories I value more than any earthly treasure, and am honored to even be invited into; pains not mine, personally, but theirs, and then a-bit-mine through osmosis or infusion.
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Private relational loss. Mistakes that had brutal ramifications, justly or unfairly so. Mental health battles. Childhood trauma battles. Lifelong griefs that “get old” for everyone else. Financial oppression. Stuckness. Aloneness. Lostness. Meaninglessness. Infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth (all so painful, so different, so similar, so personal). Chronic sickness. A child’s diagnosis. Losing “your people” suddenly. False accusation. Failure, after such effort. Marital heartache. Change, and all it can bring up. “A new, blindsiding future.” Abuse.
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Have you been able to get the help you really need? Have we been able to give help how they really need? How are you? You matter so much. As much as we *need* and are leaning all our weight on the support God’s given us through “a great crowd” during cancer, my heart is positively lurching for people in the corners, in the shadows, harder to see. I wish I could do more, but at the very least I have to say: I’m *so,* so sorry, I acknowledge that I have no idea what that pain in your heart exactly feels like, but it must be so “much.” Sending love, no-answers, and support.

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that, while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.*” (Charles Dickens) • *And the sight of a toddler-mama, newly smitten with her baby, loving with the most tenderness. (Swipe to see the video, to the song “Rich Beyond Reason” from the 2015 Cinderella 😩✨) #amorrischristmas

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