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Monday, December 12, 2016

Guest Blogger For West Ridge Community Church

I had the opportunity to be the guest blogger at West Ridge last week. Sharing the article below. Thanks!

A Giving Heart

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In my late 20’s I was in Industrial Sales.  I was out driving through Chicago with another salesperson, Michael, and on the side of the road there was a man asking for money.  Michael immediately rolled down his window, in a not so great part of Chicago, and handed the guy $5 and said “God Bless you”.
Now, the cynical part of me immediately had questions.  “Why would you roll your window down in this neighborhood?” And, “How do you know he won’t use that money for drugs or alcohol?”
What Michael said to me changed the way I have thought about giving from that moment on.  He said, “It is not my place to question why they need the money.  It is only my job to give it when I am called to.”
I believe that the devil wants us to question, doubt and think a way out of giving to others.  But, if we are listening and God tells me to give, I do my best to block everything else out and just give.  It is not up to me how they use the money, but it is up to me to listen to God when he is talking to me.  And guess what?  He talks all year, not just at Christmas.
2 Corinthians states in 9:7 that, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So, decide in your heart that you will not question, but that when you are called, or nudged, that you will just cheerfully give and let God do the rest. You will find greater joy in giving freely then questioning what you have been called to do.
Blessings~ Katie Van Gheem

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why Does Bad Stuff Happen to Good People?

Hello.  I was guest blogger this week at West Ridge Community Church.  I am sharing the link above, and the post here.  Also thought I would share this cute picture of Josh and Ella :-)


Why Does Bad Stuff Happen to Good People?

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I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked this question, and have even asked it myself.  My daughter, my perfect four year old daughter who’s only sin was probably taking one of her brothers toys, was diagnosed with cancer when she was four years old. Four years old.  At that point can we even determine if she was a “good” person yet? She was just a child- my child.
I found myself being asked by both my Christian and non-Christian friends more than once- If there is a God, how could He let this bad thing happen?  How can you believe that God exists if he can allow your child to go through such pain? It was hard to answer because I felt like what they were asking me ran deeper than “Why did your kid get cancer?”.  They were asking if I still believed in a God that would let this terrible thing happen to my child.
My first answers were definitely more in the “I don’t know” category, because really- I didn’t know how to answer that question. I have read plenty of scripture and books on why bad things happen during my Christian life, but now this was a bad thing happening right in my family. As time passed, I knew that the family it was happening too wasn’t just my immediate family, but my entire church family too. I do not believe God “let” my child get cancer.  But, what I do believe is that He surrounded us with a huge church family that, prayed for us, brought us meals, and surrounded us with love.  I believe that God put the right people and doctors in our path to keep our child healthy, safe and alive.  I believe that God prepared us for this difficult time before it ever happened.  I believe that God surrounded us with love and carried us when we could not move anymore.  I believe God showed us the joy in the situation instead of allowing our judgment to be clouded with doubt, fear and despair.
I believe that God gave us the strength to keep moving forward in His love, and not be held back by this bad thing.  Will I ever really understand why Ella had cancer? No.  Is it the last “bad” thing that will happen in our lives? No.  Was it the first? No. Was God there for us? Yes.  Did he surround us with love? Yes. Did he carry us through when we were not able to do it on our own? Definitely.  God didn’t let my child get cancer.  He kept her alive in spite of cancer.  In spite of the evil one calling our names. His love turned this bad thing into proof that He loves us and will carry us forward during the good stuff and the bad stuff.
~ Katie Van Gheem

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Guest Blogger

I had the opportunity to be a guest Blogger again.  If you interested in reading, you can follow here:
West Ridge Community Church

Blessings~ Katie

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Death and Life

My step-dad died today.  He was 60 years old and died from smoking and drinking.  He was an alcoholic.  He drank heavily my entire life, but he was a happy drunk, so no one really thought of him as having a "drinking problem".  He also started smoking when he was 16 and even when he had a tracheotomy, he kept smoking.

He has systematically pushed away every family member for the past 20 years.  His only friends were people he knew from the bar he hung out at. He lived pay check to paycheck in a small dingy apartment.  He had no pets.  He even asked for his kids not to be called when he was at the end.  The one friend that was left asked someone to reach out to me. I went to the ICU last night to find him completely sedated and on a ventilator.  He was "extremely agitated" according to the nurses so they had to bid his wrists and sedate him in an attempt to let his body rest and heal.

When I looked at him, there was no love left, only pity.  I felt sorry for him.  Can you imagine what it would be like to be at the end of your life and have no one. This was completely his choice. He chose smoking and drinking over everyone else in his life.  He chose not to be in contact with his kids.  His marriages failed. His life was, from my view, so empty.

Don't let this happen.  I want to scream this at everyone  Do not end up like this man.  Show the people around you that you care for them and love them.  Use your actions to show people they are important.  Do not choose the things of this world over the gifts God has generously given to you.  Don't be a fool like this man was and toss aside people who want to care about you.  Don't end up on your death bed alone.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

6 years ago today....

I don't know why this year, it has bothered me more than others, but it has.

Six years ago today, I was at Costco when my phone rang and I didn't pick it up. I saw that it was Ella's doctor.  We were not expecting results for 3 days.  I knew it wasn't good and I didn't want to get this call while I was standing in the middle of a big box store. I got out of the store, and minutes later Steve was telling me what I already knew- Ella had cancer.

I know all the things to be grateful for. I'm staring at her right now and she is just smiling. But, some days are just harder than others, and today is one of those days. Steve came home to a torn apart and half painted office tonight.  That was my therapy today, and my way to not think about the pain my daughter went through, our family went through.

Tonight, I just pray for the others and their families going through this right now. Cancer sucks.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Self Control with a side of Oreo

I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger this week. Take a peek if you have the chance!


Self Control with a side of Oreo

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day-Mental Camera

I love photography.  I love taking pictures that mean something when you look at them.  They tell a story or inspire a feeling.  Some things I just can't get a picture of that expresses how I feel.  These are the times I wish my Mental Camera was as good as my Cannon 5D.

Last night, I sat with friends and family to watched the fireworks.  Okay- I did not watch much of the fireworks.  I was taking the time to sneak peak at each of my friends and my family.  I admired how my husband was called over to "snuggle" with Ella and Avery on the blankies.  Josh was wrapped up mummy style in a blanket on a chair next to me.  Friends sitting by their spouses, admiring the show. Kids, way bigger than they were a few short years ago, now sitting in their own chairs, too old for the blankets, and watching the beautiful display. My mental camera was taking a million shots. Admiring how we have all grown and changed over the years and how we have supported each other. Remembering how they held my hand at church the weekend after I found out Ella had cancer, supported each other through deaths, births, loss of jobs, gain of jobs and laughter.  Lots of laughter.
Best I could do !
My mental camera is cool, because there are emotional attached to those images. Most people would look at this image and think of a bunch of people watching fireworks.  I just see love.

Happy 4th of July!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Father's Day

Father's Day and Mother's day are never easy days for me.  Yes, I do try to focus on my beautiful babies and my wonderful husband and I thank God for them.  They make those days more about the Mother and Wife they helped me to be, than the Mother and Fathers I came from.  But, at some point in the day, my parents always creep into my head, and the "little Katie" inside of me longs for just a small glimpse of a Normal Rockwell type of childhood I wish I had.  My grandma collected these plates and I loved to stare at them when I visited her in Reno and dream about the ideal family. I know I am not alone in this.  So many of us have a story to tell about how we grew up, and for some of us, hell most of us, it doesn't look anything like Norman Rockwell paints it.
So to recap- shitty parents, I fell far from the tree, love my husband and kids and family I married into.  My "real" dad I didn't meet until I was in my 30's.  My first step dad beat my mom.  My second step dad is the one I knew as dad for most my life, but he drank too much and he and my mom were always fighting. They divorced in my 20's and he disconnected from me and his kids a long time ago. The pain caused by both my parents runs deep in the three of us. 

This weekend, I find out he has cancer.  He doesn't call any of his kids, because he has no relationship with any of us and he is all alone.

Ok, honestly, part of me thought for a brief moment "Well, that's what he gets.  He put no effort into having a relationship with his kids and now he will die alone.", but that's not what I believe.  I believe that judgement of this man is not mine to give- It's Gods. I was able to forgive my "real" father enough to walk with him through his cancer treatment, so I feel like I am called to do the same for the man that at least attempted to be a father to me- even if he did a shitty job.

I went to the hospital today,  I helped my brother navigate through the day and the hospital (I'm kinda familiar with Loyola). I did not recognize my dad.  He is down to 123 lbs. He didn't say much to me, I didn't really expect him to. When they came in to give him the pre-op information, they told him he might not be able to talk again.  I told him if he had anything to say, he should say it now.  I was hoping in my heart he would try to make some amends with my brother- he just shrugged his shoulders and went back to watching TV.  They wheeled him down the hall and we walked behind the gurney.  He sat up and stopped them.  He called my brother and I over and thanked us for being there. We gently hugged him and he was gone. The cancer has spread though his throat, larynx, tongue and spine.  We will find out tomorrow what the next course of action is.

Forgiveness isn't easy. It is sooooo hard to forgive someone who never asks for it.  All I can do is what I am called to do by God.  Forgive like I have been forgiven.  No one said being a Christian would be easy.

Thank you Steve and Gerry for being such loving examples of what a Father really is.  Happy Father's Day.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Guest Blogger

Hi all! I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger at my church this week.
Just have to say, I love my church peeps! They have stood by me and my family for the past 10 years, and prayed for us when I didn't have the strength to. Thank you all- I love you!!!!!
West Ridge Community Church- Elgin, IL

Ella is doing well!  Tomorrow is her last day of 4th grade.  Today when I picked her up from school she had her arms wrapped around 3 other girls and they were all crying because one of them would not be back next year. They have been together for 5 years and they have grown such a beautiful friendship! They are a blessing to each other for sure!

Looking forward to a fun summer with my kiddos.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Advice to New Cancer Moms

Ella is a survivor.  I am still learning that this is the new reality.  Last week we went to a survivorship meeting and reviewed all the drugs, possible complications and late onset side effects that can happen.  So far she has not shown any learning delays, and if I may brag for a minute she is in an advanced math class and working 2 grade levels ahead.  She is also reading at the junior high level- stick that in your pipe and suck on it cancer!  The only issues she has had are yellowing of the teeth and stomach pain that cannot be explained.  We are working on her diet to help with stomach issues and she can whiten her teeth when she gets older.  For now she is just excited to be getting braces. 
So, as the mom of a child who is a cancer survivor I keep thinking, what advice can I give parents who are starting this journey? 

  1.     I know it is a cliché, but this too will pass. I know it doesn’t feel like it when you’re in it, but time will pass and life will go on. The hard part is not thinking about the “what if’s” and just enjoying each day for what it is.
  2.      I’ve said this before, but find God. Seek him to walk this path with you.
  3.    Enjoy each day. Worry about tomorrow- tomorrow. Nobody wants to hear this, I know, but if you waste this perfectly good day worrying about what might happen tomorrow, then you have wasted a day with the ones you love. Don’t do this. This day is a gift of their presence. Soak it in.
  4.    Enjoy each day. It is important enough for me to say twice.
  5.     Make time for you. You may be a mom, dad, or caretaker, but you are also- you. Take time to take care of you when you can, and DO NOT feel guilt about it.  One of my favorite examples of this is the air mask.  When you are on a plane, they instruct you to put your air mask on first, and then assist the people next to you.  Why? Because you cannot help them if your incapacitated.
  6.    Get help when you need it. Don’t be stubborn ass; ask your friends and family for assistance when you need it. They are your friends and family- that’s why they are there- to help. Now, some won’t and you will lose friends, but new ones will come. If you need to talk to a professional- go do it. Who cares what anyone else thinks. Do it for your loved ones so you can be there for them!
  7.    Take the time to morn your losses. I don’t mean death; I mean the life you thought you or your child would have. Dreams you created for them, plans you made for your family, and friends that can’t support you. Loss is more than death. Loss is losing what you thought you had. It’s okay to take time to be sad about all your losses.
  8.   Go on a date.  Go with your spouse, significant other, parents or friends.  Just get out of the house and do non-cancer related stuff! This falls under taking care of yourself, but also the ones that are there to support you.
  9.   Appreciate life. We do not know how long we are here for. Don’t just idly let the days slip by and get stick in your routine. Smell the fricken flowers, eat fantastic foods, drink the good stuff, and laugh at fart jokes! Be grateful for the day and the people in it.

    Blessings ~ Katie