Monday, August 28, 2006

Insights and Inspiration

“But encourage one another day after day. . . .” ~ Hebrews 3:13a

Rejoice that you are more precious than gold
Pray for insight to find why you live
He’ll answer prayer and give power for purpose
As in gratitude with affection you give

~Excerpt from poem titled “Incredibly Valuable” by Patricia Kohls Barrett


This week I’d like to share some insights and inspiration I’ve received from friends and family. Many thanks to each and every one of you who have held me up in prayer and encouraged me with words of love and support throughout these past few difficult months:

Dear Eileen: In your column "Becoming Me", you told it like it is. You wrote a good column telling how you feel after your surgery. You will be an inspiration to other women who may be facing this kind of surgery . . .This surgery would have floored a lot of women, but you are handling it very well. God has given you a special kind of husband in standing by you and making comments about his love for you. This is all for now.


Dear Eileen,
Isn’t tragic that the shape of bodies are such a priority when we are looking for spouse, while they contribute so little to our happiness once we have been married for a while? I think quite often if [my wife] had not been in her accident, I may never have realized how much I love her, and how little the shape of her body contributed to my love for her. . . .

[My wife] and I watched “A Fiddler on the Roof” recently. The most poignant part of the movie is where Tevye asked Goldie, his wife, if she loved him. It reinforced the idea that marriage is about commitment and love – our western culture uses it is a by-product of that commitment rather than the other way around.

We continue to pray for you and your family as you journey to “wholeness” . . . .


Wow Eileen - very real - very helpful - very profound.
You go girl!!


Beautifully written and very heartfelt, as always, Eileen. I felt you let us "walk in your shoes" for a little while. God Bless you for your wisdom, strength and courage in handling the surgery and new "physical" you. As we know, that is all that has changed, thank goodness!


Dear Eileen...

You have ploughed through one of the most traumatic/dramatic
operations a woman can have done.

It was smart, it was a preventative strategy, and ~
it was positive for you and your growing family.

There are deep connections which tie us to our body parts.
Especially those parts that are spiritual in their goodness...
the privileged ones that sustain life and nourish our precious babies.

It is how we give ourselves value and purpose...
because we receive so much more as we are giving
from our physical bodies,
our Self adheres to that which is obvious, or seen.

We glance at ourselves in mirrors and confirm that which we see....

So how does a woman who has been a wonderful mother and example
begin to see herself anew?

She does exactly as you are doing right now.
You tear down some things and rebuild.

You cry because you let go....
of incredibly soulful,
physically maternal energies
you once saw yourself as being.

You've come a long way, Baby...
and you'll continue to be the greatest mother,
mother-in-love, and grandmother ever.
Just keep doing what you need to, in order to feel
where you are in the process.

Do not apologize for writing about this!!!

It's real.
It's scary.
It's female.

I learn so much from your strength and honesty...
... and I love you for it.


“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." ~ Lamentations 3:21-24

Pasture burning on the Kansas horizon

Monday, August 21, 2006

Damaged Goods

“As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.'” ~ Romans 3:10, 23

I promise not to keep writing about my mastectomy, but I’d just like to share a few more thoughts I’ve had this past week.

Initially, I cried very few tears over the loss of my breasts because I was so relieved that the cancer had not spread and the doctors didn’t discover any invasive cancer cells in my lymph nodes or breast tissue. But post-traumatic stress is a very real thing, and now it seems I’m making up for lost time! No matter how convinced Keen and I are about the merit of the decision we made, it has still been very traumatic to have part of my anatomy amputated.

Earlier this month we traveled to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, for the annual Van Kirk family reunion. It was a beautiful spot located right on the beach, and we all had a grand time touring historic Charleston, kayaking, swimming, riding the waves, enjoying some delicious seafood and Southern barbecue, and of course, spending time together.

The Van Kirk Family at Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Yet for some reason it was emotionally more difficult for me to have my immediate family see me without my prosthesis. But I didn’t really have any choice since it was hotter than Hades down there and the only way to survive was to dress as lightly as possible!

Eileen "staying cool" in Kiawah

As I continue to adjust to my breast-less chest and the ever-present scars that I see when I look in the mirror, I am reminded of the message contained in the above Bible verse. From a spiritual standpoint, we are all damaged goods. But thank God for Jesus, who paid the ultimate price for our sins and moral failures.

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” ~ Isaiah 53:6 (NASB)

Although we may strive to “do what Jesus would do” and live godly lives, all too often we fall short of the glory of God. But the size or quantity of sins we’ve committed in our lifetime makes no difference to God, for where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. (Romans 5:20). As long as we accept God’s free gift of forgiveness – by faith – then we are washed completely clean.

“Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord, "though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” ~ Isaiah 1:18 (NASB)

A beautiful Christian friend of mine recently sent me a note which emphasized this point in a unique way. “If you look closely,” she wrote, “everyone has scars – some real, some imagined; some physical and some emotional. You have chosen what is important. You chose life and life more abundantly . . . Jesus is the Answer, and He heals all our scars.”

That is so true. My friend Pat Barrett described it this way in her poem titled, “Lessons in Dents and Chips.” This is a short excerpt from that poem:

When I look at scratches and dents
I’m reminded to keep perspective
God uses me to serve Him
Even though I am defective

Just as I must learn to live with my physical “scratches and dents”, we must all learn to accept our personal faults and shortcomings. Most importantly, we need to realize that God loves us, despite our imperfections, and He wants to use our lives to shine forth His love to the world.

“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good beside or beyond You.” ~ Psalm 16:2 (Amplified)

Keen II, Keen, Eileen & Kirk Van in Kiawah (try saying that 10 times fast!)