Monday, January 30, 2012

Finding our way...

How does a person find their way in life? Decisions have to be made daily. Some are seemingly insignificant, & others carry more weight. Curves come our way when we least expect them. Some of these curves we may have invited into our lives without even knowing it. Sometimes we see them coming, but we cannot prevent them. Other times, we reap what we sow.

How do we make decisions when we don't have a crystal ball, & we don't know what to do? Being in limbo is painful. It is confusing & frustrating. It clouds our eyes & makes our decisions even harder to make. Sometimes, we just have to do the best we can for today. We can seek the council of people we respect. We can pray unceasingly, hoping for an answer. We can sit down & write a list, weighing out the pros & cons. Scripture is available, but sometime it's hard to find the passage that applies to our problem. We can look at the fork in the road, & try to get a sense of where each path would lead. We can pray for a sign, & sometimes God sends us a sign we can't ignore. We can try to separate our emotions from the issue, but let's face it, that is difficult at best.

I have had to make some decisions in my life that were painful. My first step is always asking God to guide my heart. My next step is to avoid making the decision if possible until I reach that sense of peace & conviction. I do seek the council of respected friends, loved ones, & experts. That can be confusing too (especially when they don't agree on the solution).

I have made some of the toughest decisions in my life in the last three years. I have not regretted the choices I have made, because somehow I found the peace needed to make those decisions. I have noticed a pattern in my life. In the midst of extreme chaos, confusion, & despair, God has spoken to me through His still small voice. Somewhere in the midst of sheer agony, I heard His quiet voice unmistakably guiding me. His voice wasn't audible, but it was distinct. It came with words that aren't words I would normally use. Most importantly, it came with an awesome sense of peace.

As I look back on those decisions, I realize that God was with me. How do I know this? Only by His peace. Sometimes, my decisions took their toll on people I loved or involved their well being. I've never had a crystal ball, & truth be told, I am the better for it. I've had to make my decisions solely based on the peace that comes only from God. In following Him, I have learned to rely on Him & to recognize His voice.

A Faith that Stands

Recently, a dear friend of mine questioned me, "If someone asked you why you believed in Christianity, simply, what would your answer be?" My response is simple: I need a faith that can hold up to the trials of life. I need a faith that has the answers to life's questions. I need HOPE.

At age three, I asked Jesus into my heart. I was sitting in Sunday School singing, "Jesus Loves Me" & I accepted that fact... Jesus loves me. Yes, Christianity is that simple, a three year old can follow Christ. Over the years, my faith has deepened. If it had remained at the mentality of a three year old, it would be a pretty immature faith.

I haven't always understood certain things about Christianity. I've had a burning desire to reconcile a loving God with all the suffering & evil that takes place in the world. Trying to understand how a loving God can allow the atrocities that occur in life & still be a loving God has caused a lump to settle in my throat, the kind that makes you want to cry, a confusion so troubling it hurts.

I began to search & for an answer. How can a loving God allow hurricanes, sickness, suffering, abduction, terrorism, heartache, murder, earthquakes, & such? I came face to face with the answer, a book entitled "If God is Good" by Randy Alcorn. It begins in the beginning. God is a loving God. He gives us a choice. We are not programmed to love Him. That would not be love at all. Satan is a fallen angel. He wanted to be more powerful than God. He fell from Heaven, & when He entered The Garden of Eden, the world changed. It became cursed. The world is not how God planned it to be. Thankfully, it is only temporary.

Here's where TRUST enters the picture. I know God holds me in the palm of His hand. The Bible says so. I know all things work for good because I love Him. The Bible says so. Therefore, when bad things happen, I know God has the whole picture from beginning to end (past, present, future). If He allows evil and suffering, then it has to be for the ultimate good. I don't have eyes to understand God's ways. His ways are not my ways. He is God, & there are some things this side of Heaven, I will never understand. Again, that's where TRUST begins.

If I decide that God is not loving because He allows terrible things to happen, I am arrogant. If I decide there is no Hell, because I don't want to believe that, I am arrogant. I cannot make up my own religion just because some of the things about Christianity trouble me. That is arrogance.

I have a nasty cancer. I have completed chemo therapy & am one week away from life changing surgery. My future has uncertainties. My prognosis depends somewhat on the lymph node count which we will know soon after surgery. I can be angry at God for allowing my life to change in the blink of an eye. I can be depressed because I don't know the outcome. OR  I can trust in Him for His ultimate good. I know He is a loving God, & I believe "all things work for good for those who love the Lord."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

True Intimacy

Today our Pastor pointed out that it is impossible for two people to know everything about each other. He said he sometimes even surprises himself when he says or does something unexpected. I have to agree. There have been times in my life when I wanted to insert my foot in my own mouth. I regretfully said something & wished I could take it back. So... it stands to reason: If I can't know myself 100%, then I can't know another person 100%, not even my husband.

I married my high school sweetheart. We in a sense grew up together. We were 13 & 14 when we met, the summer before our freshman year (at a carwash). We've now been married for almost 28 years, & best friends for 36 years.  I think in those 36 years, we've been through almost every emotion known to man. We have loved, laughed, cried, fought, made up, comforted each other, feared for each other, rejoiced together, worshiped together, suffered together, kept each other's secrets, & so on throughout the years.

We have buried my sweet father & his beloved mother. We have seen each other through sickness & health. We have raised 3 lovely daughters, loved 4 dogs, & pampered 2 cats. We've tried camping & even canoeing with a sail (not a good idea). We have married off 2 daughters. We've weathered an empty nest & found ourselves more deeply in love than we could imagine.

Over the past 36 years, we've put our heads & hearts together to make some very difficult decisions. We have stood by each other & protected each other. We have angered each other & yelled at each other. We have said our apologies & forgiven each other time & again (even when an apology was never given). We have laughed so hard we cried. We've laughed at each other, with each other, & even at ourselves.

I believe the 2 of us have shared a deep intimacy that grows even deeper with each chapter of our lives. Our love seems to grow stronger, even as our struggles grow greater.  I guess it's possible for our intimacy to increase because we can never know each other 100%.  Here's where the profound reveals itself: We have a Father (God) who knows each of us 100%. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows my future, how my story will end. Perhaps this is why I can trust in Him. He will work all things for my ultimate good because I love Him.

The true test of character shows itself in how we handle our trials. In a similar fashion, I think true intimacy shows itself in how a married couple handles changes that come their way. I have a husband that has vowed to love me through this journey, whatever the outcome, & however it changes me. I may have some heavy concerns, but knowing my best friend will not forsake me brings tears to my eyes & peace to my heart that is unfathomable.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Everybody has baggage. Mine is the gift of anxiety. Yes... my mind gravitates toward anxiety even when it doesn't want to. With medicine, I have less anxiety. I believe I am easier to be around for those who are closest to me (my family, especially my husband).

Baggage takes many forms, especially as it arrives with the person you marry. It could be a lack of role models growing up. It could be a bad temper. It may come in the form of not knowing how to manage money or plan for the future. Baggage may manifest itself in low self-esteem, an addiction, poor relational skills, a disability,  or an illness. Baggage can cause a person to be too controlling, less communicative, or less affectionate. It could cause apathy or the inability to function, to handle stress. It might make it hard for a person to trust others or make him/her too trusting. It can make a person crave attention or desire to be a wall flower.  It may cause barriers or even a lack of boundaries.

Fact is... we all have baggage. The question is... are we willing to deal with it? First, we must humble ourselves enough to acknowledge our baggage. Next we must decide if we like our baggage & the effect it has on ourselves & those we love. What's the trade off?  What do we lose or gain if we trade in our baggage for wholeness?

I've pretty much carried my baggage around for a life time. It's a paradox because a person who trusts in God really shouldn't be a worrier, right? I've been told that more than a few times & even criticized for it. After all, if one trusts in God, why worry about tomorrow?

Here's the other side of the coin... I believe God knit me together from the very start. I believe He wired my brain & my chemistry to work just the way it does. I also believe that my anxiety is not lack of faith or trust in God. Looking back, I think my anxiety has strengthened my faith & given me more reason to trust in Christ.  It's given me lots of practice over the years to draw close to God & seek His comfort.  Believe me, it's not easy living with the constant companion of anxiety every day of my life.

As I journey through my current predicament, I can honestly say, "Things are out of my control." I have no choice but to surrender my life & my loved ones to God. Holding on just doesn't work for me at this stage in my life.  Please don't misunderstand me. By surrendering, I don't mean I am giving up. I am trusting God for the outcome.  I am giving my all to fight this fight.  I know He has the whole picture (as I've said before), & I know He will comfort my loved ones throughout this journey.

So how does baggage become a gift? As we acknowledge & begin to hand it over to God, we begin to grow & become more whole & less selfish. As we look back, we begin to see that our baggage made us depend on God. In & of ourselves, it's hard to change the way we are wired or some of the circumstances life has dealt us. However, as we openly admit our trials, I believe the healing begins.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Writing My Story

Recently, I began to think of my life as my story. How do I write my story when I don't know the ending? The answer came to me... "One sentence at a time." I was thinking about what kind of legacy I want to leave. What I'd like to have people remember about me.

I was out to lunch with two much younger women & their beautiful children. We were talking about how sometimes we wonder, "Is it enough to be JUST a mother?"  My response is YES.  Because I am 10 years older than one of them & twenty years older than the other, I decided to share my wisdom which comes only from having raised adult children.  I value my relationships with my three grown daughters more than I value my life. If I don't live to see another day (which I am quite sure I will), I know that each of my daughters has my heart inside her own heart. If I am not here to guide them when their own children struggle, I know that each of them has my story written on their heart & I will live on through them. I know that they will be good mothers.

How do I know this? Because I have invested my life in them, my most precious gifts from God. I don't regret one moment I have spent nurturing them, in conflict with them, or learning from them. I know that they have a compass in their heart that will lead them to find the answers they need in life. I thank God for allowing me the gift of TIME with my children.

Here's a few things that I trust they will remember about me:
  1  Ice-cream tastes better in the summer because the kids are out of school.
  2  Music is more fun to listen to when the kids are in the car.
  3  She loved to bake cookies.
  4  Too much homework ruins family life.
  5  Kindness matters.
  6  Dogs make good soul mates.
  7  The best way to follow Christ is by loving others.
  8  The beach is a good place to find Heaven on earth.
  9  If you want to know what's going on in your kids life, be their chauffeur.
 10 Write your story one sentence at a time.  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What could be worse?

Some people think that I am on the worst journey possible.  While I have to admit that breast cancer has always been on my list of greatest fears... I can now say with my whole heart, "It is not the worst thing that can happen in life."

What could be worse?  Lots of things. Having a child kidnapped & hearing the worst or never knowing how that precious life ended. Being abused as a child (in any way).  Losing a child to illness or the child never recovering from that illness.  Being neglected as a child, never feeling the security of a loving parent. Growing up in a war zone. Seeing a loved one harmed. Watching your teen choose a path that only leads to destruction.  Losing a parent as a young child. Being molested... The list goes on, & I have only named a few.

We live in a broken world. It wasn't meant to be this way. It is temporary.

I am thankful that I got to raise my 3 daughters to young adulthood before this cloud formed over my head & in my heart. I am grateful for the relationships I have with friends & family. I am not alone on my journey. I have not walked a day on this journey that someone hasn't taken time to love me. In spite of this journey, I am still the most blessed person I know.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Voice of Truth...

Sometimes it's hard to discern the voice of truth. Sometimes it's hard to hear the voice of truth. Sometimes we don't want to hear the voice of truth. Just what is the voice of truth? I believe the voice of truth is just that, TRUTH. Sometimes we live lies that we feed ourselves or perhaps the lies come from people we love (or at least have an impact on our life). I've always been told... "The truth will set you free." What if the truth is bad news? Will it still set you free?

I have found that the TRUTH, whatever it is, does set you free. I think it is important that we seek the truth, hold on to it, & live accordingly. The truth can hurt. It's a reality check. If we don't know the truth, we cannot deal with reality.

How do I find the truth? I seek God, & I pray & pray until I find a sense of peace. If the truth is sad, the truth is... I am not alone in my trial. Last night as I was fretting over the outcome of a medical test of one of my loved ones, the revelation came... "You are not alone. I am here for you, & I will not leave your side." Wow! My fears settled as I began to grasp that truth. I have a God who doesn't promise me an easy answer, but He does promise He will not leave my side. In fact, He goes before me, in me, with me, & all around me. He will give me the strength to get through each trial. That's peace. It's peace that surpasses my understanding.

We all face uncertainties. It could be a decision we are trying to make, a relationship, a job, a test, a health issue, how to help a loved one, ... I have found that if I seek God's guidance, & persevere, my answer, my peace will come. How will it come? Maybe through a another person, possibly through a song,  through someone's written word, or even through a quiet voice in my head that I know as conviction. When the truth finally seeps in, I get it, & I become unwavering in my decision. I thank God for I know, once again, He has delivered. He has kept His promise, & my peace returns.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The day my life changed...

It was a Sunday night in August, the 14th, the day my husband kissed me goodnight. With his hand on my heart, he said,"What is this?" Immediately hot flashes surged through my body. I figured it was a pocket on my pajamas, a seam. Problem was, my pajamas had no pocket. Next, I reasoned it must be a cyst. By Thursday, I knew it was a tumor, fast growing, in at least one lymph node, ... I would be starting chemo soon, then surgery, & possibly radiation. My head was spinning. I was so overwhelmed, I couldn't even converse with my friends. I was in shock & truthfully, I remain in shock.

Others may wonder why I have decided to blog about my journey that I am quite sure no one would choose. I believe in living my life as an open book. I hope that others will sense that I have a peace which only comes from having a relationship with Christ. If it weren't for Him, I don't believe I could walk this walk. If it weren't for my family, I don't know if I could walk this walk. My husband & my 3 daughters & 2 son-in-laws have loved me each day of this journey. It is heartbreaking to watch your family suffer with you (because of you), but it is healing to feel loved beyond expectations. Lastly, I am grateful for the many people praying on my behalf. I attribute the peace that carries me through each day to my faithful prayer team.

I have successfully completed all 6 chemo treatments. I have lost my hair, & my nails aren't looking too good. My muscles are very weak, & my hands don't work so good. Going up steps is difficult for me. On Feb 6, I am having a double mastectomy & likely a complete lymph node dissection. If the cancer is found in more lymph nodes (highly possible), it could make my prognosis worse. My biggest fear right now is waking up from surgery & finding out the lymph node count. I have always wondered how people  bear such news.

I don't ask "why" because "why not?" No one is exempt from suffering, tragedy, ...  Many people I know & have heard about, experience so much worse in life. This is definitely not the worst thing that could happen in life. Sometimes I ask, "How did this happen?" My mammogram just 7 months earlier was clear. Sometimes, I still feel shocked & horrified. But then... I come to my senses. I find my peace again, & I remind myself that God has the whole picture. I don't. I know He holds me in the palm of His hand & that is where I rest...