Thursday, January 25, 2018

What do you want from God?

What do I want from God?  Is that even a fair question? What does God owe me?  How do I dare ask anything from God?
John 1 recounts when Jesus offered the opportunity for his disciple, Andrew, to answer that very same question.  “What do you want?”
What I want in life changes each day, each year, each season of life.  I look at my kids and often see very wanting children.  I want. I want.  I want.  It’s hard for little ones to see past today, so they want the right now.  Usually it’s food.  Often my attention.  Many times just stuff.
As my kids have gotten older, the wants become different:  direction, a spouse, a job.
Now as I sit well past childhood, the teen years, and young adulthood, I still face the question:  what do I want?
I have begged God for my children.  I have pleaded with Him for healing.  I have daily asked Him to help me be the mom and wife I need to be.  Yet, what do I really want from God?  Do I really want Him or just something He can give me?  That, my friend, is the million dollar question.  I am truly grappling with that.  I know what I should say, but is that the truth?  Do I approach God, to come before my sovereign God, my Savior, to rub a magic bottle hoping to get my questions answered.  Seriously?  Yes, going through the motions certainly seems like that.
Back to John 1.
Andrew had been listening to John the Baptist tell who this man, Jesus, was:  the Lamb of God.  Immediately, Andrew changed his walk to follow this Jesus.  He approached him.  He walked next to him.  When asked what he wanted from this Jesus, he responded by asking where he was staying.  What a curious answer.  Did he simply want to know where he would be staying that night?
I began my walk with God forty-two years ago.  I didn’t know where that walk would take me.  I really didn’t know much.  I talked to God.  When the BIG things in life came up, I asked God about them.  I walked a little closer to His side when life got really scary.  When I was lost and confused I certainly reached up to hold his hand and took  another look in the book of directions He had already provided.
God graced us with the chance to come to him with questions.  He graced me.
The sky shines blue and cloudless today.  The morning was rough in school, but tomorrow will be another day.  As of now, cancer has been dealt with in my body.  I have an immeasurable list of things to be thankful for.
So, what do I want from God?
I want to walk through this day with an awareness that God is right there.  I want to know that when I lay my head down tonight that God is there, and I can talk to Him.  I want Him to spill out all over my kids.
Lord, thank you that you are not distant from me.  Thank you that you listen even when my questions are incessant.  Thank you that you have all the answers.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Do you have a resolution or a new word for the year?

I welcome 2018.  Goodbye 2017.
I can count on one hand the times I have made resolutions for the new year.  Maybe that means I am wimpy,  or maybe I am just a realist.  However, God has put a word on my heart that echoes loudly, almost annoyingly.  NEW.  That is it.  NEW.
I sat bundled up in the warm van while my crazy kids skated on the frozen lake in frigid temperatures and I went back to my Bible and took a look where God himself used the word.
In the ESV, the word is translated 143 times in 128 verses.  There is a new king, a new moon, new grain, new gods, a new house, new ropes, a new cart, a new garment, a new sword, a new song, new friends, new things, new life, new heavens, new earth, new covenant, new mercies, new spirit, new heart,  a new tomb, new teaching, new tongues, as new commandment, new creation, new self, new way, new name, new Jerusalem, and all things new.
2017 brought me new things:  a new diagnosis, new schedule of treatment, a new body, a new normal.  I have a hard time accepting the new to be honest.  New things are usually welcomed.  I mean who does not like a new pair of shoes, or a cute new dress.  Maybe the new kitchen gadget or the new app on your phone is practical or super fun to use.  I also like new to me stuff.  Garage sales make me smile.  I never truly thought of new stuff as an unwelcome change.
I think God is trying to show me new things about new things.
God makes things new that he wants to make more like Him.  He uses new things to bring worship to Himself.  He is right now creating new things that no one can even fathom.  He is making me new.
Every morning I am reminded that my body has new scars.  Yes, they will fade.  Eventually.  Yet,  they remind me that both that the new tumor was removed and that my new body is on the way to healing.
2018 will bring a new son-in-law, a new high school graduate, and I’m sure many other new things completely out of my control.  I will daily fight the fear of a new diagnosis.  I will push my way through a new fitness regime.
God is all about new things.  This year, He is whispering daily that His new is good.
I am resolved to listen to His truth.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Not so Silent Night

Point of Grace sang a song awhile back,  “A Not so Silent Night”.  Now, we are not too used to silence around here, so this title makes me smile.  Seriously though, it makes sense.
A swarm of people had invaded Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus told them they had to.  It was not the resort vacation town.  It was a political move.  My guess is that there was plenty of complaining.  The streets must have been crowded.  Every room was filled.  Animals made the trek as well, and they were housed wherever there was room.  The census takers were quite busy.  I’m sure the local vendors took advantage of the influx of potential customers.  They weren’t about to miss out on a sweet deal.   Children were shushed at night when everyone was trying to sleep.  Children were shushed during the day as they ran through the streets squealing, playing with newly found friends.
Then came Mary and Joseph.  The only place they found was a stable for animals.  In a sense, the stable was a garage for the animals that carried people and baggage to Bethlehem.  Can you just imagine what the sounds were in that simple dwelling?  Cows, donkeys, sheep?
Then came Jesus.  Okay, I have birthed four children.  It is not quiet.  It’s busy.  It’s noisy.  Labor is work.  Mary was giving birth.  On her own no less.  Her son, Jesus, the Savior, was born as a baby.  Babies are noisy.  They cry.  Oh, yes, they are amazingly, deliciously, wonderful, but they are not quiet.
Meanwhile on a field nearby some shepherds met with an angel.  Then a whole sky full of angels began praising God.  Wow, that is far from silent.  The shepherds may have met the baby reverently, but they left on cloud nine praising God and telling everyone they saw what had happened.  You can only imagine the whispers and stoppers-by on that holy night.
What I find amazing in this contradiction of silence is that there was peace.  Those same angels who were praising God also proclaimed peace on earth to those in whom he was pleased.  Mary treasured what had just happened.  She had no idea how this would all play out, but she had peace knowing God had purposed all of it.  She could peacefully hold this little one knowing that he would one day save the world.
In the middle of all the noise of Christmas, I am reminded that peace is available.  God is still working his plan perfectly.  Though my life in this little corner of the world is far from quiet and has been quite noisy this year, there is peace knowing that despite pain, unexpected events, uncomfortable situations, even loneliness, I can have peace knowing that the little baby born a couple thousand years ago is my Savior.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Security and Significance

Security and significance play an essential role in a woman’s life.  I’m confident that few would disagree.  Whether a woman is single or married, she is affected by these two elements in life’s  circumstances and choices.  Cancer rocked my world and the world of those I love.  To say that my security and significance became a twisted, unrecognizable mess is an understatement. I was a teacher who could not teach.  I was a mom who could not do the “mom” things.  I was a housekeeper who could not do much at all around the house.  I was an involved parent who had to sit on the sidelines.  My role of a wife became skewed.  Cancer had robbed me of my hair, my breasts, and my energy to name a few losses.  I was hurting inside and out from head to toe.  Who was I?  Doctors and others told me my job was to take care of myself.  For six months, I had to set aside what I thought I needed to do for what I had to do, kick this cancer.
Cancer is now gone.  I am still who I was.  I am still who God made me, inside and out, even though I look different.
Now the bills and EOBs are coming in for the six days I spent in the hospital.  We will have to fight for some to be reconsidered.  Financial security is huge for cancer patients.  What will insurance cover?  Will I have enough for any copays?  How long will this treatment go on?  Will my treatment carry over into another year, so that my copays and deductible start all over again?  Cancer is expensive.  Financial insecurity is real.  In our home, God has chosen to continually bring in work to the firm and has prompted clients to pay on time.  That does not always happen in our home or in many others. Cancer unsettles the most financially prepared individual.  Thankfully, God owns it all and all is at his disposal.
I have been blessed with a loving, faithful husband who has walked each step of that hallway to every treatment and has slept in the chair right beside me in the hospital as well as at home when I could not even climb the stairs to bed.  He has heard every word from the doctors in every appointment.  For others, cancer has separated spouses and even severed marriages.  Some woman head into cancer treatments insecure of how it will affect their relationships. For those woman who are independent, strong, and single, the question my be how in the world can  I attack this awful disease alone?  They enter financially stable and wonder how in the world bills will be paid.  Who will stand with them in the really hard times?  Will people stay away because they just don’t know what to say?
Each day I am reminded of new mercies, new healing.  I am reminded again, how much I lost, but also of how much I have gained.  For a time, God allowed me to feel insecure in my own doing, so that I can more fully realize my security in Him.  He allowed what I thought made me significant to be altered for a time in order for me to see my true significance in him.
Oh, believe me, I would not have chosen cancer for me and my family.  I have been mad.  I have been scared.  I am still dealing with the new me on the outside, and I will for awhile.  Insecurity often raises its ugly head.  I am working back slowly into my significant roles of mom and wife.
As you meet others who have been blindsided with cancer (I am focusing on what I know understanding that this affects women differently), consider their insecurities and feelings of insignificance.  Understand that it is a process that will continue.  There are no easy answers.  No matter how many times, she hears it and denies it, continue to affirm her for who she is.  Understand her fears are real and know that a hug and an encouraging card goes a long way.  Feel free to help her with life when you can.  You don’t have to ask.  Her insecurity may make it hard to ask for your help.
At the risk of sounding ridiculously trite, the most powerful thing you can do is pray for these women.  Don’t stop praying. Tell her you are praying.  Pray with her.  Remind her that God is in all of this, and He is the one who loves her unconditionally.  He is the one who has the resources to take care of any need.  Cancer is unbelievably hard.  It changes your world.  It will change you.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Clearance and Coming Days

This week marks six weeks since surgery.  Each day brings more healing.  Each day moves us closer to a new reality.  Not sure yet what to expect that reality to be.  Not sure when to expect that reality to plateau.  As of now I am still on the uphill climb toward complete healing.
Last week I met with my oncologist who discussed with me how we are going to approach these next five years.  Yes, five years.  Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) means that after chemo and surgery there is nothing more to do.  Praise the Lord, there is no further evidence of cancer in my body.  Many of you have shared how you have prayed for just that.  Thank you so much for your faithful prayers.  God has chosen to answer very graciously.  That said, there is also no other preventative treatment either.  I will not be taking any other meds.  There are some benefits such as I will not have to deal with any side effects of harsh meds.   I have no residual cancer, and therefore, I do not qualify for any clinical trial.   I will be meeting with my oncologist regularly and will be having blood work to monitor liver and bone function.  At this point I will not be scanned regularly.  As I am the one most aware of  my body, I will need to be cautious of any crazy changes:  bone pain, difficulty breathing, severe headaches, and significant weight loss.  TNBC has a greater reoccurrence than other breast cancers before the five year anniversary.  After that milestone, the rate of reoccurrence drastically drops.  Can I say again how thankful I am that God is in control of all of this.  My tomorrows are known by him.  He has laid out my days before even one of them came to be.  Oh my, how much I need to hold on to this!
Today I met with the micro surgeon who did my reconstruction.  He is so kind, for which I am thankful.  In addition to kindness, he is really good at what he does.  If I simply looked at the medical aspect of breast cancer surgery, I would be over the moon excited about my situation. It is amazing what the docs can do.  Still, in December, I will need to have outpatient surgery to revise a few things.  When you look at me, you would never know.  Trust me when I say that things are not quite right yet.  I have decisions to make which I never thought I would have to consider.  They are not major life decisions.  Still, as a woman, considering the way my body will look is difficult.  Today was an emotional day.  Just saying.
I am cleared to do what I am comfortable doing.  So,  I guess that means I need to assume my chauffeur job again.  This mom of many cannot say thank you strongly enough to my parents and friends who have filled the gap when my kids needed rides all over creation.  We have been loved so practically.  My kids are watching and have been the beneficiaries of lots of love.
I really hate cancer.  I have friends who are fighting this terrible disease as I write this.  Cancer robs so much. Yet, God gives.  He gives grace, help, and peace.  He give love when I feel unlovely. Bryan and I still have much to work through, but we know God is in it.  Day by day.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Baby Steps Towards a New Normal

Reality check…again.
I am 2.5 weeks out after a life changing surgery. They say that you don’t remember much.  It’s true.  Some memories fade in and out.  All I know now is that I sit here cancer free, though not without scars.  The pain in my body is managed with regular OTC meds.  I do not need any home care visits as my physical healing is progressing well.  My mind is what I now fight with daily.  Not that that is anything new.
They say the docs did an amazing job.  I believe them from a medical perspective. I am extremely grateful for the skill of all who cared for me.  The advances in medicine have blessed me.  I do believe that cancer would have taken my life had not the doctors been used by God to treat me.  However, I now need to get used to this new body.
It still hurts.  Even as I type this, my emotions are trying to leak out.  I am standing up straighter, and my kids celebrate that,  even though I am a sloth.  Today, I am prepping my mind to try again to sleep in my own bed next to my husband.  The first time was an epic fail, tears and all.
To be honest, I am not a fan of looking in the mirror.  I know that beauty is not simply a physical thing.  I know that God has created me fearfully and wonderfully.  Nothing can change that.  I know that my hubby loves me no matter what.  Still, any woman who has lost her hair, had her breasts removed, and has a scar from hip to hip will hesitate to say much positive at all.  Remember, this is a reality check,  friends.  I know truth.  Sometimes truth hurts, that’s all.
In future months, I will be heading back to the surgeon to revise a few things and put the finishing touches on my new chest.  Tattoos. Who would have thought that?  Since I have no feeling there, they say it won’t hurt.
I have three docs whom I will be visiting regularly over the next five years at least. My cancer needs to stay away.  If it chooses to find me again, we will be ready to fight.
Daily, I hear my kids mention things they want to do “when Mommy is healthy”.  I miss that.  I hope I never again take for granted the days of being healthy.  Yes, we did a lot this summer.  More than I thought we would.  Bryan has been a super hero to our family.  I did a lot of sitting and watching.  I look forward to really being Mom again.
Cancer is just really hard.  Not harder than any other disease, I am sure.  As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I have read so many “inspirational” quotes.  To be honest, I don’t believe half of them.  Call me crazy and a negative woman.  However, I don’t believe that this cancer, this pain, this loss, is what makes me anything special.  I don’t believe this makes me a warrior. Yes, I have survived, but not by anything that I did.  There are many others who have followed the same regimen and have had far different responses.  God has chosen to use this cancer to change me: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I don’t like it, but I know that God loves me through it all.  Cancer is not about me.  It is about Him.
I am quite tired of sitting in this chair doing basically nothing.  I will be ready to be cleared medically in a few weeks.  Not that that does not bring its own element of fear.  Will I be able to do what I did before?  Ugh, my minds goes crazy sometimes.
I close with the verse that I need so desperately.  You have heard me say it more than once.  God has used this to massage my hurting heart on many occasions.  (Paraphrase). “God will keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed on Him.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Last Chemo Day

Today marked a milestone.
April 3rd was the day I was officially diagnosed.  Within two days I had seen the oncologist.  By the 12th I had completed all the necessary prelim tests and found myself at a surgical center having a port put in.  The next morning, the 13th, I headed to RCCA in Mt. Holly to begin my first stage of chemo.
Today, August 23,  I walked out of that same floor relieved and crying.
Sixteen times Bryan and I made that trip.  He has been by my side every single step.  Even my oncologist noticed.  Sadly, many cancer patients arrive by themselves for various reasons.  I personally need my hubby right there with me.
Now I have a month off, relatively speaking.  I can get school moving at home.  I get to go to see my kids play soccer.  We get to take a few day trips as a family, and even take a weekend away together.  I might be able to sneak in some garage saleing too.  That said, my body is beat up.  My heart and mind do not really match up with what my body can do.  Thankfully, I have stayed relatively healthy despite lower WBC, still patience is not my strong suit.  Ugh.
I am very thankful that I have some time now for my body to recoup a bit before a major surgery on September 21.  It looks like an 8 hour surgery and a  4-5 day hospital stay with a 6 week recovery. Many things are still unknown and will not have answers until after the pathology is completed at surgery.  Triple negative breast cancer will not respond at all to hormone therapy, so that is not an option.  As I am having a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction at the same time, radiation is not a given unless the nodes are involved.  If cancer is still evident in the tissue or nodes, I believe that another round of chemo is an option.  There are two choices, neither of which I really understand as of yet.  I just heard about it today.  One involves oral meds and the other an IV infusion every three weeks for four treatments (I will lose my hair again ) I was a bit overwhelmed and discouraged to be honest.  I was given the stat of 20% of breast cancer patients will NOT need the additional chemo.  We are praying that I am in that minority.  
Today is done.  Chemo is finished.  We celebrated today with Jersey Mike’s hoagies, chocolate cake, outside play on a gorgeous evening, and chats with our big kids.  I came home today to a beautiful flower arrangement that Bryan had sent to the house.  It is so pretty!!  It was a good day.  Tomorrow is new day.  Anxiety can be powerful in my heart, but God is stronger.