Wednesday, April 16, 2014

deserved recognition

"You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia,and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition."   1 Corinthians 16:15-18

There is something special about a person who can come in and be a breath of fresh air for you.  
My friend, Janis, did this for me in college.  You can read about her here.  Miss her.  Still.
A group of people one summer who took me in as one of their own blessed me with an unexpected gift.  They are dear friends still to this day.  
Sometimes people come from your past into your present as I wrote about in this post.  
But then, once I start naming names, I consider all who remain unnamed and wonder if it is such a good idea.  I love, appreciate, and thank everyone who has refreshed my spirit no more or less than those who have been named thus far in a post.  
Sometimes, though, a person comes along during a certain time in life and you know without a doubt that she/he/they were meant to cross paths with you.  They were sent for you.  Or you were sent for them.  Perhaps both.  And it's worth talking about because it is a story of God's perfect plan and provision.
Like my nurse during radiation therapy.
(Just as a forethought, there was nothing therapeutic about radiation, not in the sense that I like to think of therapy, anyway.)  I know...random.
Radiation was the beginning of the end of my cancer treatment.  One final step to reach the goal.  It, by far, was the most difficult for me out of everything I had to endure from October 16th until March 11th.  You can find my beginning moments in "weak but strong". The middle and ending moments of radiation were not easy either.  But there were blessings to be found along the journey.
Jennie was the first person I met during radiation.  Her smiling face, friendly demeanor, they were a comfort.  She talked of normal life things.  Bringing my mind other things to think about while sitting in that room was a huge blessing.  Sharing with me her story, her life, it made me feel something like what I remembered "normal" to be like for myself. Always with the assurance that I will find myself again.  (I have as I shared a few weeks back.)
I met with Jennie every Monday.  Those Mondays were the highlights of every week.  For a few minutes at the beginning of each week, I felt peace.  There was a sense of longing, though, that remained in me that she would get to meet the real me.  The me she met with was so out of character, I was confused to who I was any longer myself.  Jennie always asked the hard questions.  I answered them as best I could.  She pressed, consoled, encouraged.  I needed it all.  
One Monday, not even halfway through my six weeks and two days (due to Snowpocalypse and Icemaggedon) she asked how I was and I flat out lied.  (Sorry, Jennie!!!)
I said I was okay.  
I was anything but okay.  
The very next day I told myself that if she was sitting at her desk, not on the phone, I would ask to speak with her after my treatment.  Part of me so wanted her to not be there because I did not want my weakness to become known.  Part of me so desperately wanted her to be there because I was falling apart and fast.
She was there.  
Not on the phone.  
I asked.  
She made time for me.  
I fell apart in a safe place, in good company.  
For the first time in weeks, I really believed I would be okay again.
She (and my radiation oncologist) gave me a soft place to fall and help to get back up on my feet again.  Her encouragement and insight were so needed.
I am forever grateful.
We met up again for my three week checkup after my last treatment.  It was a joy to catch up!  
Thank you, Jennie, for refreshing my spirit each day we met and others inbetween.  Know I so appreciate what you do and how you go about doing it, even when the days are long and the stories are so many.  For this, you deserve recognition here.  I am blessed to call you a friend.

Friday, April 4, 2014

made new

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, 
to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 
to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, 
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  
Ephesians 4:22-24
I have been given relief this week.
An "a-ha" moment, of sorts, has given me freedom to let go of the search for the former me prior to October 16th, 2013.
God spoke to my spirit through the morning show on our local Christian radio station.  It is difficult to explain it, but for whatever reason, I needed to be made new.  God can and does use all things for His glory and our good.  Even cancer.
It is found in the verse above and in Revelation 21:5...
Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” 
He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”
Yes, I know these verses speak of salvation through Jesus Christ.  We do become a new creation when Jesus is Lord of our life.  We are made new in Him and His righteousness. This newness does not have to begin and end with salvation.  As we mature in our walk with Christ, things are revealed to us and in us that we need to put behind us with God's help, His forgiveness, and/or His healing.
God carried me through a cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiation therapy in order for me to be made new.  For His glory.  For my good.  I am not the same person.  If for no other reason, I believe He has given me story to be shared with others.  An experience that will help someone else down the road to endure their own.  A new understanding.  A new empathy.  A new perspective.  
Gone now is the desire for my old self.  In its place lies a kindled fire to find the path for this new self.  Another verse that makes more sense to me is Mark 2:22:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
I am new.  So are the things that I will do.  Matched together by a God who was, and is, and is to come.  He knows the former and the future.  He knows me and how I fit into both.  He knows me and yet uses me.  An amazing God changes me to make me more like Him.  A forgiving God who uses an imperfect person as myself to further His Kingdom.  That is only something God can do.  
A new self needs a new path.  
No more searching behind me, only ahead.
What a relief!

Monday, March 31, 2014

dig again the wells

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
From there he went up to Beersheba. And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.” So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac's servants dug a well.
Genesis 26:1-5, 12-25
Isaac prospered in the land to which God had sent him.  So much so, it bothered the Philistines...again.  I have to think that these Philistines knew who Isaac was, or whose he was, by the mentioning of Abraham's wells being stopped up by them.  Wells, back in the day, were a claim, of sorts, on a parcel of land.  By their filling up these wells, the Philistines were disregarding any claim that could be placed on the land.
These wells were also a source of life for a man and his livestock.  Isaac could not dwell in a land without water.  He had to dig again the well...and again...and again.  He dug out the wells until there was no opposition to whom the water belonged.
Once he found a well without contention, Isaac seemed to get the confirmation he needed to know it was right to dwell and prosper in the land again.  He chose a different location than that of the uncontested well, however.  He went to Beersheba.  Interesting enough, once there, the first act was that of building an altar in praise to God.  Secondly, he pitched his tent.  Then, a well was dug.
The thing that kept Isaac searching, became the last thing established.
The water came...eventually.
This is for anyone who feels as if their life is like a well that has been stopped up and filled with dirt.
If the life you relied upon to give you a sense of what is normal and routine has been replaced by foreign things that simply fill up and take away space once belonging to other treasured things...I totally get where you are.
I also know that it will get better if you just hold on a little while longer.  God knows where you are and He cares about you.  He loves you too much to leave you where you are.
But, it will take some time and, perhaps, some work.  Isaac (or, rather, his servants) had to dig again many a well before they could benefit from the water held within.
What dirt has filled your wells....poverty? sickness? disappointment? loneliness? injury? sin?
Nowhere is it stated that a life centered around God will be free of some sort of pain or inconvenience now and then.  At times, we are sent searching for a new well due to our own sinful choices.  Other times, we must dig a new well because of circumstances not of our own doing.  Either way, we must dig in and hold on to the promises that God gave us before our wells were stopped up.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9
Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them.
For it is the Lord your God who goes with you;
He will not leave you or forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10
In response to God's goodness to me in my life...His forgiveness, His goodness, His healing power...let me be the first to give Him glory as I dig again the wells that have previously been filled with things not comfortable, not welcome, not holy.  I am looking forward to what is ahead with a freshness that must be like what that water in the new well in Beersheba was for Isaac.
God is God and He is matter what!

Friday, March 21, 2014

it was good

God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” 
And God saw that it was good. 
Genesis 1:10
yes and amen

my beach boys

happy and free

It was good.
I am happy.
And free to roam about.
Cannot wait to see where the next road leads.
God is matter what.

Monday, March 10, 2014

then there was one

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while,
will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10
This has been a long winter.
Ups and downs in temperatures, snow and ice, and six weeks of radiation treatments and its side effects have taken a toll on me.  Last week as the weeks turned into only days (and now only hours) remaining until the final treatment, this verse from 1 Peter kept coming to mind over and over again.
As I saw things I wanted to do and longed to do pass me by because I just did not feel well enough to even attempt them, it hurt as much as my body did with physical pain. Thankfully, my sister and niece came into town to spend last week with us...and do things that needed to be done.  It was wonderful to have them with us!  I needed the newness of their visit.  We even were blessed with nice weather two of the days.
Spring brings life to the world that winter has dulled with its cold and bitterness.  It is very fitting that the end of my radiation, a very long and trying experience for me, will end with winter on its way out the door.
Who I was before October 16th, 2013, is no longer.
I have not been myself since then; dulled by procedures, panic attacks, and pain.
Who I am now is yet to be discovered, reawakened with the spring flowers and budding trees.
My canvas is clean, awaiting my Creator's strokes of genius to paint life on it again.
In new ways.
In bold colors.
Just as He does each spring with the rest of His creation, I will be restored.
He is God and He is matter what!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

so close

photo credit
Driving South on I-85 toward my radiology appointment this past Thursday, the thought crossed my mind of how nice it would be to just keep on going until I ran out of road.  (This would be Mobile, AL, if I continued on I-85 to I-65.)
Wanderlust is setting in big time after 5 weeks of being home with another week and a few days remaining.  
Road trip withdrawal is real, if anyone ever asks.
Knowing there are no less than 11 sleeps until Freedom Day is kinda, sorta, but not really that comforting.  Know how slow those final few work days actually go before your week of vacation?  Yeah, that's where I am.  So close, yet, so far.  There is a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel visible to the naked eye now, though.  
It is not a problem finding a place to go once this glorious day comes, it is a problem figuring out where to go first.  This, I do not mind having to solve.  :)
Goodbye, February...Hello, Freedom!  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

halfway there

I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, 
because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints. 
I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing 
every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ. 
For I have great joy and encouragement from your love, 
because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
Philemon 1:4-7

Last Tuesday, I had my 15th radiation treatment, marking the halfway point.  The day was celebrated with a massage, which was a gift from my wonderful husband for Valentine's Day, followed by visits from two friends, both of whom stopped by with hugs and gifts to celebrate my halfway mark.  I am blessed to have such an amazing support network!  I am greatly encouraged by all the encouragement I have received from wonderful friends and family in my life.
I am relieved to have more treatments behind me than before me now.
I have learned (or re-learned) a few things thus far in my journey.  Even more things will come to light these next few weeks, I am sure, but for now...
Similarities begin and end with a diagnosis or the circumstance.  No two journeys are exactly alike.  Nor will anyone's response to their diagnosis and treatment, trauma, or circumstance exactly match another's.  When sharing your experience with someone going through something similar to yours, speak carefully and assume nothing about how you think things should be handled or how "normal" it is to feel a certain way about things.  Allowances for individuality should be granted in hard times just as they are in normal, everyday life.      
Stress expresses itself in strange ways.  I have always known that I carry stress in my neck and shoulders.  It is no different this time around.  However, I have discovered for myself in these past few months/weeks, I internalize everything under stress.  I clam up, but my brain goes into overdrive. Things said are processed more deeply.  Love is shared more freely.  Hurts are felt more intensely.  It is an exhausting process to try and find balance between logic and feeling.
Support makes itself available.  Seek it out.  Accept it.  Allow people the blessing of offering it however they are willing and able.  Appreciate it.  Give it in return as you find opportunity to do so.
Seasons come and do people.  There is a poem that starts out..."People come into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime." by the infamous "Author Unknown", according to most sources on the internet.  Like it or not, it is true...and we have no control over it.  Nor should we think we can or ought to have any control over their coming and going.  If we trust that God has a purpose for our lives, we can trust that He has a purpose in whom He allows in it and out of it.  Negative energy is wasted energy.  Chasing after those who want to exit the scene for whatever reason is not an option.
Strength letting go.  asking for help.  facing fear head on.  submission.  the name of Jesus.
Simplicity exists in the small things.  Scripture.  Bed time stories.  Coffee.  Hugs.  Messages.  Ice cream.  Weights.  MacGyver reruns.  Photos.  Memories.  Quietness.  Laughter.  Sleep.
Sweating and Tom's all natural deodorant are not a match made in heaven.  One has to switch to a all natural type of deodorant during radiation treatments.  One without aluminum is Tom's.  Let's face it, though, honestly, Tom's does not endure 60 minutes of cardio, nor 30...not even close.  Good grief, it does nothing for you even when you do nothing.  Come on, March 12th!  My first day of freedom and antiperspirant use again can not come soon enough.  My gym membership depends upon it.
Setting a daily goal to reach helps you focus.  No matter how big or small the goal is for the day, do everything possible to make it happen.  Something has happened and focusing on any given task has become terribly difficult.  I force myself to get something accomplished each day.  Whether for myself or someone else does not matter.  I feel better and I sharpen my focusing skills when goals are met.
Sticking to something routine-ish encourages normalcy.  When nothing feels normal, neither do I.  If nothing else is the norm for me, I rely on my 100 pushups to give me my normalcy.  Been doing them since August, so it was something normal before cancer, surgery, recovery, and radiation.  Has nothing to do with them at all, actually.  I like that.
and, finally...
Smile.  Because you can.