Wednesday, June 17, 2015

standing at the edge of grace

“Grace is the sweet moment you never expect but turns up to get you through a day, an appointment, a reality you never, ever dreamed for yourself.” 
― Kara TippettsThe Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard

Some of my moments of Grace this past week...  Hard Grace... but still Grace.

For just over two weeks, I checked on Mama, the dove sitting on an egg in the flimsy nest of twigs and fluff, and stuff, in the tree in our back yard.  Every time, she was there.  She weathered the storms, the downpours of rain, the gusts of wind.  Through it all she remained hunkered down. 

Till that one day last week.  I looked.  And looked.  Up through the branches on my tiptoes, all I saw were twigs.  So I quietly slid a chair over and slowly raised myself up on the wiggly chair.  To my utter delight, there it was- her baby!  The top of its head was fuzzy.  The feathers short.  I had to thrust my camera over my head to get a somewhat clear photo.  

I've seen Mama come and go.  But the fledgling baby remained. Crosby ran in and around barking, and lounging underneath the branches, yet the doves just came and went as they pleased. The mourning "coos" were loud and abundant throughout this nesting phase.

The last time I looked, two heads rested side by side as I went to the front of the tree.  And two tails jutted out the back, side by side on the back of the tree.  It was the last time I saw them in the nest.  

Though I keep checking, as I've heard the doves mate for a lifetime, and often have several sets of babies throughout a season. 

In the meantime, we were back at the hockey arena full time.  It was too hard to capture the below in a decent photo- but I wanted to remember this moment of Grace, and gift, despite how the photo looked.  

Nolan, and one other of his hockey team mates, were invited to attend the 2015 Fargo Force Tryout Camp.  It was such an honor to be asked to go.  Technically, he is too young to even make the team.  It was such an irony to see young men, with birth years of 1995- 1999, as the ones old enough to garner a spot on this USHL team in Fargo for next year, listed on the roster.  Then we see the '00.  And right next to that, is our son Nolan.  Too young to make the team, but wide-eyed and hungry enough, and brave enough, to say he'd love the chance just to try. 

The speed of the skating is fast.  The style is physical and gritty.  The skill is awe-inspiring. You have to be quick with your decisions, and even quicker in the execution of moving that puck.  

But each game, Nolan, got a little more confident.  A bit more used to the style.  He started getting shots on net.  And finally- he tipped a puck in for a goal!  

Coach Eades said Nolan could play with his son, Eddie, on the green team.  Love that "Sioux," color matched up with that team.

There are all kinds of ways to dry your smelly and wet  hockey gear.  Love the jersey looking at home as the license plate.

Nolan played the last game Saturday afternoon, and then we thought we were done.  So we packed up and headed out to eat.  But in the middle of our dinner, his phone rang.  His face broke into a smile.  It was coach.  Would Nolan like to play in the "Young Guns" game?

This time they were divided into Blue and White teams.  Coach Eades took the bench.  It felt like a glimpse of what going to a Fargo Force game next year, will look like.

Nolan rose to the occasion.  He skated well and played more physically.  Even though the puck hit the post, it bounced in, before it came out and technically, everyone knew Nolan had scored a goal.  

We left that night with a small taste of what Nolan's next few years of hockey may be like.  His eyes are open, wide, with the hard work it will take to get himself up to the next level of competition.  But he remains determined.  Filled with hope.  And ready to embrace all the ups and downs along the roller coaster ride of living the hockey life.

When you think of grace, this isn't what you'd normally think of, is it?  This is my Dad's old pick up.  With 4 flat tires, peeling paint, and seedlings growing out of the dirt in the bed of the truck.  We were thrilled when we discovered that Make-A-Wish could garner $500.00 for the donation of our truck to them.  They would even come and get it for us.

So we watched the young man pull in with his truck and hauler.  He placed a charger on the battery under the hood and we sat chit-chatting a bit.  We chuckled at the thought of it starting.  No way.  We'd tried so many times, just wanting to move it.  It wasn't going to budge for us.  We were convinced the young man would have to winch it the whole way.

But isn't life funny?  Aren't the tiniest things often prone to offering the biggest surprises?  

The young man insisted we try to start it. 

We had to go in search of Dad's keys.  We watched as the young man inserted the old key into the steering column, and turned it over.  It chugged, and sputtered, but the boy sat turning the key, and low and behold... it sprung to life and started! 

I mean- it started and ran so smoothly- we all just sat chuckling, and shaking our heads.  And all I could feel was my Dad.  Smiling.  And saying "That truck was the best truck I ever had. It was never much to look at, but that engine just kept going and going."  That truck sat outside for two Minnesota winters, with no protection from anything- and started like a charm.  

As I've watched and listened, I've discovered Grace can even come knocking on your door.  It was nearing a time when I settle in for the night.  Fatigue has been gnawing at me and I am resting in bed early evening.  But the knock on the door was insistent.  Who could it be?

A Cash Wise Grocery Store, delivery driver, asking if I was Vicky Westra, by chance?  My eyes wide in wonder, I assured him I was and he smiled and said okay- lets get this thing started.

Oh my... not only did it start... it went on and on.

Crate after crate was opened, as bag after bag of groceries traveled into my kitchen.  Bunches of fresh fruit.  Bags of chicken breasts.  Bags of lunch meat for sandwiches.  Cheeses of every kind.  Eggs, potatoes, and pizzas... etc.  A turkey even, with stuffing!  

The bags on the floor were just a small part.  The table and counters were all filled as well.  I lost count at 24 bags of groceries!!

And the driver?  Said it was all anonymously ordered and paid for.  He couldn't give me a clue!  He said he was a supervisor for the store and wanted to personally come out and deliver these to me.  He also stated this has happened only a couple of times over the years.  You could tell he was as touched, as I was.  We have eaten so well, because of this!  Colton has cooked away.  And Nolan was well fed for all of his hockey games.  We're so touched and humbled by this generous and thoughtful act.  

It seems as though, God was preparing us for all that was to come.  Our "nest" of comfort was being prepared for the newest journey we are about to embark upon.

We got right down to business at my appointment with Dr. Panwalkar on Tuesday.  

I think the word we could use to describe my test results would be "stinky."  Or some variation of that.  As we went frame by frame through my scan, slowly the yellow spots, indicating active cancer, began to appear.  Some of the ones in my lungs have been there for a long time.  But alas, there were quite a few new ones as well.  

And then he kept scrolling.

And there's my colon- shining bright yellow in a huge blob.  And right next to that?  Another huge blob on my uterus.  Oh and then- a spot in my pelvis... and then? Yeah, it just keeps going.

But, I was about done.   Why do I need to know any more?  

Stinky.  Way too yucky to even know how to respond.

My mind just thrusts itself forward and wants to know what we're going to do?

Dr. Panwalkar is quietly searching my face.  

"I think we should consider chemo again," he says, hesitatingly.

And my face blanches, as I recoil.

"No?" He quickly questions.

"Maybe we can try another estrogen blocker?  A different one?"

But I tell him.  Even though what my face tells him is true.  As much as I don't want to do chemo- I don't think I have any other choice but to do chemo.

To go aggressive.

Aggressive chemo is indeed what I need to do.

Which one does he think?


And somehow, as I sit nodding, I know there is more.

"And?" I say.

He smiles and says...

"Perjeta, and of course Herceptin."  

"You will lose your hair.  Your white cell counts will go low.  You will have to come in the moment you have a slight fever.  Your sense of taste will be off.  Diarrhea is often part of it.  You will have to do steroids- and watch for rashes..."  His voice trails off...

I'm sitting and nodding and knowing.

And somehow, despite how yucky this all is... I don't want cancer to steal my joy.

He is my tower of Grace I lean on.  Will he do another picture with me?  And when I tease about how "famous" he is, he shakes his head and laughs his hearty laugh.  And we smile.  

Because living well?  That is what beats cancer.  

Living our moments well, with as much Grace as we can.

We may be needing some help with the boys, and other things, but as we slowly figure out this new path, your ever faithful prayers for guidance and clarity and strength are so appreciated.  

~much love to you all~


  1. Grace from above is greater than anything ...

    I am in awe of the amount of determination I read with each line. Grace is also shouting throughout this post.

    I'm also amazed at the generous gift - what a blessing!!

    I wish I wasn't a faraway kind of supporter, but instead in your town, to help with down to earth type stuff.

    You remain in my prayers.

    1. Susan- Grace from above IS greater than anything- that deeply resonates with me. Let me steep in that Grace. Each line I write- is an assertion to myself- I am working to make sure I am in the right frame of mind to DO this. Your far-away support is just as important to me, friend, your faithful words truly help!

  2. I have always admired your strength and determination, Vicky. You are still filled with so much grace in this journey you are on. You amaze me, sweet friend! Still praying for you and always will be!

    That's really exciting that Nolan got this hockey chance. From the pictures I've seen and the stories you have told, I really believe he has a chance to go far.

    Blessings come in many forms. I am so happy for all of you that you were given such a thoughtful gift of all those groceries. Wonderful!

    Sending warm hugs and love.

    1. Thank you, Eileen. Your Grace-filled words do so much to bolster and strengthen me always and I am deeply appreciative of all of them, as well as your steady prayers. Much love to you~

  3. Praying for you Vicky. God Bless.

    1. Thank you, Jennifer~ God's blessings to you as well~

  4. My dear sweet Vicky,
    As the tears flow after reading this post, I am reminded of the statement Gitz made that I read on your blog..."Choose Joy!" And you do.

    Even as you stand at the edge of grace, and such hard news, you are gracious and grateful and authentic and real. You are loving and caring and fully you, the you we all love so dearly.

    Just like that mama dove who sat on her nest and weathered the rain and the storms, who did what she needed to do to bring her baby into this world... you weather these tough storms.

    Just like Nolan, who came back from such a serious concussion to skate again and show what he is made keep going like the little engine that could. You have weathered so much and are willing to weather more so that cancer doesn't steal your joy and your life.

    Just like your Daddy's beaten down truck with four flat tires, and no one thinking it can start again, you start again against all odds. You show strength and love and care and a deep determination to be here...for more time, more days, and weeks and months and years. You do not give up!

    And just like all of those blessed groceries that came and came and came, and surrounded
    you with such abundance and meals and goodies... we are ALL surrounding you now...with prayers and hope and belief and an unstoppable love. No matter what, we are here, with you, through it all.

    I would give anything for you to not have had those stinky test results and those yellow
    signals of cancer. I would give anything to be able to take your place in this next trial. I have lived such a long and wonderful life and so wish God would let me give you, my dear soul sis, some of the years I have left.

    But while I can't take this on for you, I will be here, holding your hand, no matter what.

    What I know for sure, is that thousands of us are with you. Like those groceries that just kept coming, thousands of us are praying and believing and hoping. We will not give up. We love you, Vicky Held Westra, no matter what.

    To the moon and back, always!
    Your Soul Sis,

    1. Linda said everything I would have, and she said it beautifully.
      Holding your hand and holding you in prayer.

    2. PS. I just want to add---why am I sitting here crying for someone I've never met..? It's your words, Vicky. You have touched me with every post, good and bad. And-it's your very soul, poured into every post--you have made me a better person for having read your blog.

    3. Agreeing completely with Linda's amazing and true words. Amen and amen. Love and prayers, dear Vicky.

    4. Linda, your way of saying what I'm feeling is always so meaningful to me. Thank you, dearest heart.

    5. Oh goodness- Linda- all of this is pure gift to me- and to see all of these people chiming in to say how much YOU touch them with your beautiful words- speaks volumes to me as well. To think that you would offer "time" to me completely has me on my knees and in full tears- humbles me more than I could ever say to you. I love you sweet soul sister! To the moon, always, and all the way back!

  5. Praying for you and your family. You write so honestly and beautifully. Amid such trials you offer hope and encouragement. You are a shining example of faith.

    1. Maryellen~ what kind and gracious words for you to leave here. Thank you. I pray He is using me as a tool and I will relay those words that seem to flow through me, as long as I can, in the hopes that it shines the light straight back to Him.

  6. You dear Vicky are the model of Grace for all of us. May God bless you and your dear family as you start this hard thing. I pray for you all.

    1. Thank you, Michelle, your words touch me so and I am honored. So thankful for those prayers!

  7. Powerful blogpost.....
    From the fledglings nestled comfortably in their nest and finding their way into the your son's hockey puck finding the Mr. Willard's truck showing the world that it still has power under the hood, you have woven words here that speak volumes about you and your mighty battle, my friend. Beautifully written....heart-wrenchingly difficult to read, yet you share your innermost feelings so graciously with us. I thank you for trusting us with these words....knowing that we are praying for you and standing in the gap for you asking our Lord to be with you every step of the way through your treatments.
    Love you so much,

    1. Jackie- your eloquent words speak straight to my heart. I am so touched you show up here and are willing to read, when I know how very hard it would be for you. Thankful for you, always. I am abundantly blessed to have your precious words and love you right back- so very much~

  8. Vicky, you are the poster lady for grace... and I'm humbled by your amazing attitude.

    1. I am trying to make sure I am in the right frame of mind to deal with all of this- this is me giving myself a "pep" talk so to speak- with my back against the wall- the choices are fewer and this way- with Grace- is the easiest for me.

  9. There is so much to love in this post....from the lovely story of the doves, to your dad's truck starting, to the amazing gift of groceries (love to hear that Colton is cooking!), to the amazing opportunity that Nolan earned through all of his hard work and skill as a hockey player. So much joy! You prefaced your personal news with this happiness, which is your classy and graceful way. I am so sad to hear that the cancer is active and has spread. I know that chemo will be rough, yet I am praying that it will grant you healing and shrinkage of the tumors. You must lean on all of those who love you and your family, and let us help in any way possible! People really do want to do something, lesson your burden. Please count me in when you consider anything you might need, or anything that would make things a little easier! Please don't ever hesitate to ask!

    Love, hugs and prayers - always!

    1. Steph- the beautiful card and generous gift are such a beautiful testimony to how much you have lessened our burden! And I will ask for help, if needed, I promise. I am so grateful to you and the Sistas and all the support and love I feel from the whole group. Much love to you~

  10. So much of life in this post, Vicky. The victories and joys, the deep meaning, the practical love given through groceries, the smile from your dad as he seemed to show you that he told you so - that truck could run. Bet he's saying the same thing about you and about what tough stuff you're made of. Sometimes the things of this life, "stinky" though they are, do not add up to the sheer strength of will, determination, joy, the belief of those who believe in us, and the continuous touch of the miraculous that defies all.

    Every day you step in and you walk on. Every day you choose to believe, you choose to be gracious, you choose to be real, and you choose to not only have hope but to offer hope to those around you, including us. Hope for many things but always looking at the big picture of the stories around you, around us and finding the tiny laugh, the huge joy, and embracing and working through the heartaches as they come.

    I pray that this next round of meds pushes back the nasty yellows and ushers in the clear and the fresh. I pray your body feels each prayer winging it's way to God's heart and your spirit resonates with the sound of rushing words and heartfelt cries that send healing on their wings. I pray for courage for you as you face the next round and for super human strength. I pray you defy every odd and confound every doctor in new and astounding ways. You are one for the books, Vicky Westra. Keep knockin' 'em down, my sweet friend.

    And you know I have to share funny things when I find them because you tell me that's what you love. So, here it is. When I typed in Westra World tonight, I realized that with the right key strokes (two at a time) and the right rhythm - including the spaces - that search sounds like this: W-E S-T R-A space W-O R-L D space. And when you use that 1-2 rhythm as you type, you can sing the opening strains of the Mexican Hat Dance to your blog name. Now, here is a fact that will simply change your life I'm sure. Only me. For only you. We take our laughs where we can find them. I love you, Honey.

    1. Oh Robynn, you immediately have me wanting to type and hum- as awful as the "hum" part will sound coming from my tone-deaf self. I love that you grasp that humor and levity help. Your eloquent words speak to me- and yes- the key to this is the "choosing" part. Just like our sweet Gitz taught us- choose each day how you will do this messy and hard, as well as joyful and blessed life. You are so dear to me! I hope you always fully feel that!

  11. So many beautiful notes to drench the dark ones. Sending love and prayer - xo

  12. Thank you Linda for such a beautiful acknowledgement and Robyn for the Mexican Hat Dance song running through my head.: W-E S-T R-A space W-O R-L D space. And thank you Vicky.

  13. I'm new to your blog, but this touched my heart in a hundred ways. Prayers for you, beautiful Vicky...

  14. As I scroll down, I notice all the bits on your sidebar and how positive and inspiring they are - like you. This life we all live is challenging and all the people who know you and follow you through it are rooting for you like we all root for goodness.

  15. My sister finished this "cocktail" the end of March and the cancer is gone! I pray it works for you.

    Blessings to you and your family.

  16. Sending cyber hugs and prayers. Love the grace notes sprinkled through your week, especially the surprise start in the old truck.

  17. Oh my Vicky! I love the smile with our Dear Dr...despite 'all' the news! How does one grasp "ALL' the news??? 'All' the yellow blobs? it brought tears knowing how this news must have been for the moment, yet detached...yet not detached at all! all the yucky and now....chemo and yucky! Yet there is you... 'Grace under fire' and you will not allow it to steal your moments or your joy! Despite how your mind must be going in every choose Joy! Prayers will continue always for you and your superman and those talented boys of yours! Hugs and much love!

  18. Sending you prayers and love. What you said, "Because living well? That is what beats cancer." and "Living our moments well, with as much Grace as we can." are so true. We choose to live.

    Somehow, we are indeed Sisters of Circumstance yet with our individual diagnosis and treatment plans.

  19. Go Nolan! What a nice lad he is growing up to be.
    Yes, your Dad must have been smiling. I know mine would. He loved his car.
    I sure hope the aggressive way works. So many women have cancer today. It's not normal.
    I was thinking maybe it's from the water bottles we drink from? Apparently you should not drink from bottles sitting in the sun . Heat releases toxins from the bottles. We are full of plastics these days.It's natural to put them into microwaves.
    I found this site.
    It helps people find funds for the things they need. It could help with the treatment costs.
    People are so kind and generous and every little bit helps. That was really nice of the person who sent you grocery gifts.
    Cooing doves are a God send. Nothing sounds nicer and having them so close to you, giving birth...Vicky, God must certainly be sitting by your side.Those are good messages. Keep up the good fight honey. xoxoxox

  20. I am just so sorry to hear about resuming chemo. I know that news just had to take your breath away. I so appreciate your sweet spirit about the rotten deal you have - it certainly doesn't make things easier to throw a fit about it or be angry (although it certainly would feel good for a hot second!). I am praying for you as you prepare for all that comes with hard core chemo, for strength to endure it, for peace as you wait, for good drugs that help with side effects!

  21. I feel the most amazing connection to you, Vicky. When I read your heart and your thoughts, it seems we're sitting in your kitchen, talking.

    Reading your blog always drawn me to the Father. His Grace is all over you, my friend.

    I'm praying for you...wishing I lived next door! xoxoxoxo

    1. Somehow your writing is what led me to Vicky, Julie. I appreciate that and feel such a personal connection to both of you. Thanks for introducing me to Vicky.

    2. Somehow your writing is what led me to Vicky, Julie. I appreciate that and feel such a personal connection to both of you. Thanks for introducing me to Vicky.

  22. My dear soul-sis, Vicky,
    Thinking of you on this Father's Day morning knowing that you are celebrating Rick and also missing your special Daddy. I am so grateful your Dad gave you such s sense of being seen, loved and adored. Your Dad's handprint, as well as your Heavenly Father's handprint, is written all over the joy and love you give to others.
    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, always!

    1. My, Linda. Truer words were never spoken. What an example of how to be a GREAT father. He sure lives in you, Vicky. Just checking in on you in the wee sleepless hours. Lots of love.

  23. I saw your comment on Karen's This old house and thought you were such a pretty lady, that I would come and visit you. (I love your striped top, too....looks like one I have) I'm so glad I did. I've read some of your story and my heart goes out to you. I will pray for you and visit you again. You have such a beautiful spirit that shows in your lovely smile. Sending you sweet hugs from Florida, Diane

  24. I don't have the right words. I just want you to know I think of you, and pray for you often. I pray for complete healing, and strength for your sweet boys. (All 3 of them). If there is anything I can do from Northern CA, please let me know.


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