Crocodile tears

Feb 13

Crocodile tears

Yesterday we did the big shave for my hair.


For those of you paying too-close-attention, you will realize that this is the day after Maren’s big party at school for which I was one of the coordinators.  Folks, it is a flat-out miracle that my hair hung in there; pre-buzz yesterday it was falling out in locks as I walked around the kitchen making pancakes.  Over the last two weeks, we’ve offered lots of folks the opportunity to give my hair a tug and watch as their eyes grow with surprise when they effortlessly get a lock of hair.  I still can’t believe it stayed through five chemo treatments.

Maren had prayed that my hair would keep for the party on Thursday, and I dubiously prayed along with her.  My hair hung in a full week longer than I was expecting; I was so worried about not having hair (for her sake) on Monday that while I was in the chemo room I ordered myself a wig.  Oh, the things we do to show love to our children, right?  Wearing a wig to her school feels like playing soccer in stilettos to me, but I would do it — and do it with joy — for her.  It worked out; her teacher had the brilliant suggestion of making it a hat party just-in-case, and then my lack-of-hair would have been less obvious.  It turns out we didn’t “need” the hat but wore one anyway, and Maren’s face lit up the room.

Our family is seeing God show up in these daily moments; He is tangibly present, and we are so grateful.  He answered her prayer for “normal Mommy hair” for her party.  We as a family believe He can heal me at any time, but we also acknowledge that’s not what He’s doing today.  Our faith is not conditional upon my healing; we believe He is good and will use our story for good.  But oh my, my heart cries out for that miracle with crocodile tears!

Yesterday the shave itself was fun; two of my college roommates were with us, and their presence made it more fun and lighter and easier.  My friends are awesome; they move around me and we are of the same mind.  We share everything: burdens and delights.

Before the shave was a hard time for us.  I’d be lying if I said this shave was the same as the prior two times.  In 2012 and 2014, I knew I was entering chemo for a set period of time with a defined end and hope for healthy re-growing hair time after chemo finished.  It’s akin to gearing up for a race.  This time, however, I’m on this chemo “indefinitely”.  It’s different, and, frankly, not the good kind of different.

Obviously, killing cancer cells is priority one, and I will happily have no hair in exchange for cancer being harangued.  But — and this is a pretty big “but”– this plan means that I may not be healthy enough to grow hair again, ever.  Ever?!  Because we’re truth-tellers and we love our kids, we are telling them the truth about this.  They both wept when as they processed this.  Maren knows this truth and the truth that cancer, uncontrolled, will kill me, so of course it is all intimately intertwined.  As she, as we, choked out crocodile tears yesterday as we talked and processed this we cling to each other.  I think all four of us studied me with the intensity that new mothers use when they run their fingers along their new baby’s skin: remember this forever.

And then we dig deep and we individually and collectively sift for our treasure: joy.  Maren went and found a particular set of stuffed animals, cuddled them, got out my hats, tried them on, and took about twenty minutes to regroup and get her shave face on.  Greta took note of Maren and modeled after her nearly everything.  We let the kids cut with scissors; there should be some epic “bad” hair photos in the camera.  They gave me a perfectly trimmed mohawk as the room was filled with giggles.  Brad finished the buzz and then gave me a legit deep-into-the-eyes look and told me I’m beautiful.  He kissed me and I believe him.

Joy makes everything better.  I was so fiercely proud of us yesterday as we followed our crocodile tears with dimpled smiles, love-filled kisses, and winks for the camera.  The shaving part was fun.  We did the hard work, the processing, the joy-seeking in advance of it.  We each had to face the choice: would sadness be the emotion we carried?  Or could we each find the fortitude to bring joy to the surface?  Joy times four.  I am so grateful.

Finding genuine joy for ourselves is the best gift we can give to each other.


  1. Cindy Jones /

    You bolster my faith. Thank you

  2. No words, just praying for your miracle!

  3. Nancy McCarthy /

    I love and appreciate your honesty held in love. Your words take my breath away.
    Thank you for sharing this!
    Nancy (Finn’s mom from Walking the Dinosaur)

  4. Aunt annie /

    Jubilant Jen, I am in awe of your choice of joy! You are an amazing witness for Jesus! The world is a better place because of YOU! Your attitude and faith expressed through your writing has enlightened so many us. Thank you for sharing such an intimate moment. Sending blessings your way.

  5. You are amazing. Thank you for sharing your brutiful journey.

  6. Lisa Smith /

    Joy times three over here. Love you.

  7. Sara Riebesel /

    The teacher in me LOVES that her teacher thought to make it a hat party!!! I am praying for you.

  8. Heather Rose /

    The courage, the bravery, the example you give so much to us by sharing your story. Thank you for your transparency.

  9. Marlayne Skeens /

    Gentle Hugs ☀️?☀️

  10. Lori6NV /

    I’m so very happy about hair for Maren’s party. Thank God for small miracles… but we’ll never stop praying for the big ones.

  11. Pastor Gail George /

    I know that you have prayed for a particular ‘hair’ miracle, but for me, the true miracle is your powerful unshakable faith in Jesus, your whole family’s ability to be honest and vulnerable, and the love of all those around you. Sometimes miracles are just too obvious, but you always manage to discover them and show us what they are.

    There is no crocadile about those tears, they are Jesus tears. They are honest, powerful and full of love. Thanks for your testimony, which shares with us all your walk with Jesus.

  12. Beautifully described moments of love – finding the joy and capturing it but also allowing for the release of tears before. You are doing today so amazingly well : )

  13. Sharon house /

    Your strength and courage are awe-inspiring. That your choices always have your family before yourself?? No words. You are one incredible mom, wife, daughter, woman. Prayers for all of you.

  14. Pam Moser /

    I have so much respect for you and your family. The journey you describe is filled with so much grace, love, and chosen joy. Your girls are truly blessed. Love from Georgia

  15. This was a brutiful post, Jen. The joy of answered prayer for normally mommy hair for Maren’s class party, the knowledge that God can heal at any time and the acknowledgement that He has not chosen to do so at this time… I’ve got crocodile tears as I process your story of the past few days. I’m lifting you and your family up in prayer right now. May your choice of joy be undergirded with strength and faith unwavering — always.

  16. Jennifer /

    I so admire your courage to be both a truth-teller and a courageous seeker of joy and holder of the deepest faith. You remind us all to choose well when we have the choice and to especially choose well when we don’t. Prayers and wishes for healing and joy.

  17. I want to be just like you when I grow up. I don’t have words right now.

  18. This moving testimonial is its own miracle. And it reminds me that each person in your family has his or her own story. Praying for all of you.

  19. Jenn therrien /

    Real and moving and inspiring post Jen!

  20. Holding you all in my heart.

  21. Jean Vanderzee /

    Your intentionality of allowing the outlet for real emotions and the guidance through the choosing of joy – it awes and inspires me. These moments will NEVER be forgotten by your girls. Continuing to pray for a BIG miracle.

  22. I sobbed uncontrollably for two days (embarrassing, I know) when I learned that chemo would take my hair. Then, I got a fantastic pink wig a la ’90s Gwen Stefani and I don’t know that I’ve ever looked more fantastic. Not that you want or need a wig, but I also saw a woman at Diner en Blanc this year wearing a white/gray wig to go with the white theme, and it looked incredible. Truly.

    Thinking and sending love to you and your family always.

  23. A comment through a veil of tears. Beauty does come from ashes and joyful Beauty shines through you in Brilliance. When I saw Maren and you in the Valentine’s photo your smiles were brilliant…. On Saturday your roomies sent me some photos from my kitchen-you were sporting a lovely knitted hat. I Knew… then I smiled and prayed for a tremendous memorable weekend!!! The group photo is a brilliant testimony of God’s unwavering love for you and those that love you.. I only hope that we do Our Days Well!! Love you!!

  24. Emily Smart /


    You are an inspiration!