God’s Kindness

Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered. 1 Chronicles 16:9-12

God has done so much for me, and throughout my cancer journey I have wanted to give Him the glory He rightly deserves. I didn’t do anything to get well on my own. Yes, I submitted myself to the treatment prescribed by my doctor. Yes, I endured a lot of terrible side effects. But it was God who chose to heal me, just as He chooses “ultimate healing” for other cancer patients – to wake up face to face with Him in glory and never deal with pain or sickness again.

But God has been kind to allow me more time to live life on earth – to spend time with my family, to enjoy His marvelous creation, to develop friendships, and to follow His will in obedience.

All of that comes from His kindness to me, and I want to make sure that He receives all the glory, not me – none of it is because of my effort but because of His grace!

Cancer has taught me to put the most important things first – to first focus on my relationship with the Lord, to love on my husband and son, to really listen to others, and to pursue those things that He is asking of me. I don’t want to settle for second best in any of those areas. I want to make sure that God’s kindness to extend my time on earth is not wasted, but that I make the best use of whatever years He may grant.

I will begin radiation next Monday, and I want to use those weeks to pray and consider how this might practically work out for me. How does God want me to give Him glory in these areas? How can I make changes so that I keep the first things first? How can I keep myself from being distracted by things that either don’t matter or are for someone else to pursue?

These are big questions, and I don’t know all of the answers. I do know this – I need to publicly praise God today and thank Him for His kindness. What about you? What has God, out of His kindness, done for you recently?

Surgery Today!

I know … a post from me during the summer, AND on Thursday! All very out of character, but this is going to be an “out of character” kind of day.

This morning, I will head to the hospital for the first major surgery I have ever had, a lumpectomy of the area where we found the tumor last November, and a sentinel lymph node dissection to see if the cancer had spread that far.

I have prayed, done the research, read up on the options available in my situation, talked with all of the doctors on my team, prayed some more, and really believe that this is the best option for me with the information we have right now.

I will have to be at the hospital at 9:00 am for a lot of pre-op stuff that I’m not going to think about right now, and surgery is scheduled for 1:30 pm. If everything goes according to plan, it will be outpatient and I will be home this evening.

It really is taking a village to care for Henry today, and we are very thankful for our friends Valarie, Kelsey, and Linda for each taking a few hours with him. We are grateful for all of the people who love him, and we have never worried through this entire process about what he would do or how we would care for him.

I have appreciated your support and prayers since we first shared the news of my diagnosis, and if you are reading this and would pray for us today, here are some specific requests that we have:

  1. Safety for my dad and sister who will be traveling to be with us.
  2. Peace as the day unfolds. I had a strange sense of peace the day we met with the surgeon, but as the days have passed, Satan is working on my mind and the “what ifs” have started to creep in. Please pray that God will overwhelm me with His peace today.
  3. That the surgery will run on time. My surgeon is good and takes his time with his patients, but he almost always runs very late. It will certainly be the working of God if we are even close to on time today!
  4. That everything will go “by the book,” that recovery following surgery will be easy, and that we can get home at a reasonable time.
  5. That the surgeon will be able to remove ALL of the remaining cancer cells (the medical term is “clear margins”), and that the lymph node will show no signs of cancer at all.
  6. Understanding from Henry as I recover at home. He’s had to deal with a lot of uncertainties since January, and we have just started to feel a return to normal living. The week or so following surgery will be difficult for him.
  7. Strength for Chris as he is my support in all of this. He has taken care of me and of Henry so well over the past few months. We love him so much.
  8. Grace to adjust to any unexpected challenges.

Thanks for praying, friends. We believe in a God who hears and heals.

The Summer Between Preschool and Kindergarten

Many of you will be reading this on Wednesday morning, at which time I will be at a local park with Henry’s preschool class celebrating the end of preschool. God was so good to direct us to a local Christian school where Henry has had the most wonderful teachers who are already directing his young mind to the ways that God is working in the world and is seeking to save the lost. They have loved on him and cared for him so well during these difficult few months of my chemo.

Henry (and his parents) have made some good friends with the families of his classmates, and although I am a little sad at how fast he is growing up, I am even more excited about following these kids through the next few years, and seeing them discover who it is that God has made them to be.

But because time does march on and there will only be one summer between preschool and kindergarten, I am going to take my usual summer blogging break. We have adventures to fit in around my surgery and radiation treatments. We have books to read on rainy days, parks to explore on sunny days, and a garden to tend regardless of the weather.

I have my own goals for the summer, including getting back into shape after four months basically in bed, books to read, and other writing to do.

I want to thank you for all of your kind words over the last four months. Writing and playing the piano are two of the things that kept my brain moving when it felt like sludge, and so many of you have been encouraging with your words and with your prayers. Even on the weeks when I made myself write something, anything, just so I could say that I posted, you showed up and cheered me along. For all of that, I am extremely grateful.

If you want to keep up with us this summer, I may occasionally post on Twitter, and you can follow our gardening (mis)adventures on Instagram.

If you don’t already follow this blog, I’d love for you to sign up using the link in the left column on this page.

I’ll see you in August!

Thankful in the Normal, Everday Parts of Life

The past couple of weeks, I have worked hard to live “normal.” We’ve planted vegetables in our garden, I’ve done the preschool pick-ups, I’ve cooked and cleaned, and I’ve even EXERCISED. And let me tell you, after four months of laying around, I am out of shape!

I’m still tired, but it’s a good tired when I fall asleep at night without sleep aids and with the joy of a day well-lived. I’m thankful, so very thankful, for everything that I am able to do, for all the ways that God has sustained us and blessed us.

I love the way that Henry is learning about things of faith and trying to apply them to his own life. He knows that God blesses us, and yesterday we were talking about “sharing our blessings.” He said, “But mom, I don’t want to give my blessings away. I might miss them.” So sweet, and what a good opportunity to teach him and remind myself that the more we “share our blessings,” the more God blesses us with.

Through this season, we have been so very blessed by God who has carried us, and who has given us blessings in action through our church family and many other friends. We have been given so many blessings that our cup overflows. We are looking forward to sharing with others as God allows.

I am scheduled for a lumpectomy on June 4. We would love to have you pray with us that the doctor is able to remove any cancer that may remain following the chemo.

I have a great worship song running through my head on constant repeat this week, and I want to share it because our great God who keeps all His promises has given me a peace that is beyond description.

The Lord is good to those who wait and depend on Him,

His lovingkindness never changes,

His compassions never fail, never fail.

You have kept all your promises, all your promises,

You are faithful.

You have kept all your promises, all your promises,

So we trust in you,

So we trust in you.

Your word is light unto my path when I cannot see it;

Your name, the rock on which I stand, will not be shaken,

Ever strong, ever true.

You have kept all your promises, all your promises,

You are faithful.

You have kept all your promises, all your promises,

So we trust in you,

So we trust in you.

Encouragement While We Are Waiting

I’ve written before about waiting and the Christian life, and this week I read back through some of those posts, thinking about the days between now and my next doctor’s appointment. Because now, we wait.

We wait to see what tests and scans will need to be run.

We wait to see if the chemo has worked.

We wait to see what kind of surgery I will have and when it will need to be performed.

We wait to see when radiation will start and how long it will last following surgery.

These are some great big unknowns in our family life right now. We can’t make many plans for the summer, because we can’t know about my health and treatment. And for someone who treats planning like a recreational hobby, this is a pretty challenging time.

So I find that I need to speak Truth to myself right now. If you are in a place of waiting, I offer this as encouragement to you as well.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3

And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Hebrews 6:15

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

The best way to begin is by being faithful to what He has set before you right now.  Sense the stirring in your soul as God’s Spirit quickens you to see what He’s called you to do today.  Then pursue it at the expense of all else.  Unashamedly.  Diligently.  Faithfully. – Priscilla Shirer, “The Resolution for Women”

When the Headlines are Overwhelming

I woke up this morning (Tuesday) and did what I usually do first thing – I check the headlines.

Rioting and violence in Baltimore… Death and unimaginable destruction in Nepal as death toll exceeds 4,000, aftershocks continue… The Supreme Court is set to take up the issue of marriage today… Bruce Jenner is becoming a woman… Murder trial updates for the man who killed 12 in a Colorado movie theater…

I was overwhelmed. Actually, I was beyond overwhelmed, but I don’t know the word for that.

What I am supposed to do about all of this evil? “Lord, I have cancer. I just finished chemo, and all I want is to live a couple of normal weeks until I go back to the doctor. How am I supposed to carry on with laundry, preschool pick-up, playing the piano, leading children, cooking supper, and the rest of my little life with all of this going on around us?”

And as I prayed about it all, I realized something important – Overwhelmed to the point of inaction is exactly how our enemy, Satan, wants us to live.

He wants to keep us from being brave. He wants us to believe that evil will win. He wants to keep us from shining the light of Christ in a very dark world, one that seems to become darker by the minute.

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:13-17, The Message

I can make a difference in this world, regardless of cancer or anything else about my present situation. I can choose to live wisely, I can make the most of the opportunities in front of me, I can continue to live in a way that honors Christ. And God has called me to do all of that with the life that I have been given, in the city He has placed me, with the friends and church that He has given me.

Living the life that I have been given, as small as it may seem, claiming God’s promises and following His principles, is the way to defeat the enemy. Walk in faith today. Be brave.

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Thank You, Outpatient Oncology

On January 12, I walked into the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center, took the elevator to the second floor, and followed the signs around the hallway to the infusion area. I was anxious about starting chemo, but also ready to get going so I could get it over and done with. I have worn my trademark cowboy boots to every appointment (we’re kicking cancer to the curb, y’all). I learned to wear a button-up shirt so that my port could be easily accessed. I have learned how to apply lidocaine properly (three times as much as I did that first week, an hour and a half before my appointment time, with plastic wrap to cover it), so that the giant needle in my chest doesn’t hurt quite as badly.

I’ve lost my hair, and some of my fingernails are starting to come off. I’ve learned to manage various physical side effects from leg pain to nausea to going off coffee for the first eight weeks. (Can you even imagine? Coffee smelled exactly like a skunk. Thank goodness that passed!) I use a pill box to keep my medicines straight on the days when I have chemo fog. I’ve gained several pounds from inactivity and all the goodies people have brought us.

But this week, on April 20, I walked out of my last chemo treatment. The particular chemo drugs that I have taken kept me there for about five hours every two weeks. And let me tell you, if it weren’t for the absolutely exceptional nursing staff at our cancer center, it would have been a miserable four months.

Every single person who works in the infusion area has been kind, encouraging, cheerful, helpful, and just generally fun to be around. We talk a little about our kids, our church, and mostly food. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a bunch that enjoys food just as much as I do!

They move quickly, they deal with people who are angry about their illness and lash out, they keep track of multiple patients with various drug regimens, and they do it all with a smile. They don’t have an easy job – they stare in the face of cancer every day, all day long. But they keep fighting because they love what they do and they care about their patients.

So, thanks ladies. Thanks for being good at what you do, thanks for always being cheerful, thanks for making this a little more bearable. And I hope that they only place I ever see you in the future is Walmart.

Praying with Boldness

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. Psalm 144:1

Why are those of us who know Christ too often afraid to approach the throne of grace with boldness in our prayers?

I have asked myself this question several times over the past four months. I listen to myself pray, and I listen to the prayers of others, and I have been convicted that, too often, we talk to God as if we believe we are inconveniencing Him, as if we don’t believe our request is really all that important.

And yet, Psalm 144 would teach us a different way. David comes to God with boldness, knowing the mighty power that God has to change his circumstances for the better.

Part your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, so that they smoke. Psalm 144:5

I want to learn to pray like David, with power and authority! Knowing that God owes me nothing, but graciously has given me all I need for life in Christ. Knowing that He is capable of anything and everything, and while I may not know His mind and His intentions, I can know His heart – a heart that gives good gifts to His children.

I will sing a new song to you, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you, to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David from the deadly sword. Psalm 144:9-10

When Henry, who is four years old, asks me for something, he doesn’t begin with excuses – “if it’s convenient,” “if you aren’t doing something else,” “if you can spare it” – he just asks for what he wants. How much more does God want His children to ask Him boldly for what they need! He is our good and kind Father.

We need to pray knowing, expecting that God will act. He keeps His promises, and He promises to always hear us when we call on Him. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” He may act today, and it may be sometime down the road, but He will always answer. We can come to Him on that authority, and we can boldly ask for all that we need.

Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the Lord. Psalm 144:15

Psalm 16

ps 16

I have continued to return to Psalm 16 on my cancer journey, both for encouragement and instruction. On most days, I need to be reminded that I serve a good God who has a bigger plan than just my present circumstances. Because he is always beside me, as the psalmist says, I will not be shaken.

I have one more chemo treatment on April 20, after which time I will be referred back to the surgeon to reassess what we need to do next. Please pray that the next few weeks will pass quickly, that we will find that the chemo did exactly what it was supposed to do, and that we can return to some sort of normal family life soon.

The Gospel, Easter, and Cancer

Because I firmly believe that God uses all my circumstances for my good and His glory, I am on the lookout for what He is teaching me through this cancer journey. Believe me, I don’t want to have to repeat this class!

So, with Easter approaching, I’ve been thinking about what the gospel has to say in the face of cancer. We know that Jesus has conquered the grave, that we who know Him will one day reign with Him, and that we no longer need to fear physical death. But is there more? What about the reality of living with cancer, its treatments and side effects, and the fear of the future?

Henry loves The Jesus Storybook Bible, and especially the videos that go with it. Who am I kidding – I love them just as much as he does! He’s been asking to watch the story “where Jesus dies on the cross” a lot this year, and a particular phrase in this story stuck out to me:

Jesus is making all sad things come untrue.

Let that sink in for a few minutes. Because we live in a sinful, fallen world, we are surrounded by sadness. We live with the reality of death, cancer, broken families, hatred, racism, and so many more terrible things.

But because of God’s wonderful “rescue plan” found in the person of Jesus, ALL of these “sad things” will someday be a thing of the past! Because of the events of the first Easter weekend, we have hope for the future, but we also have hope for today! God is working in my present reality – the cancer itself, and the side effects from the chemo.

Illnesses like cancer can cause us to lose hope. It’s a disease that is difficult to beat, eventually taking over every part of the human body if left untreated. We have no natural defenses against it. Chemo can often be worse than the actual diagnosis, killing healthy cells as it tries to kill the cancer cells. Living in that ever-present reality is more than hard.

But God had a plan from the beginning of the world. He knew about cancer when he first formed the earth and placed Adam and Eve in the garden. He knew about all of the other diseases we would fight, about all the evil that would fill the earth. And from that very beginning, Jesus was His perfect plan to give us hope.

So, this Easter, let’s be encouraged with this: God knows all the hurts in the world. He knows about my cancer, and He knows about whatever evil you are facing. And He is weaving the Story together and making all the sad things come untrue.

All of them.

And the King says, ‘Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away. Or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue.’ ~ Paraphrase from Revelation 21, Sally Lloyd-Jones in The Jesus Storybook Bible

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