When You Have to Be Brave – Finding Strength

One of the first things I quickly learned in chemo is that my own strength was not nearly enough to get me through the day.

I wanted to be a “great patient” – you know, the one that either didn’t have side effects or was strong enough to muscle through without giving in to the side effects.

That was a nice idea.

The truth about chemo (that your doctor doesn’t tell you) is that you do not have enough will-power to overcome its side effects. You can do everything you can to prevent them – take your medication regularly, drink lots of water, try not to lose weight – but you can’t completely overcome them. At some point, you will just have to give in and realize that life will not go on as normal, at least for a little while.

You will be tired. You will be sick. You will be in pain. You will lose your hair. You will have mouth sores. You will have all sorts of weird things happen to your body that you weren’t expecting.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 16:1-3

But even through all of those things – awful enough on their own, terrible when all mixed together – I learned that God really was my strength. I prayed for encouragement, and He gave it time and time again, through His grace and peace, and through the helping hands of His people.

Whatever our trials, God gives us strength for today, and that is enough.

Are you facing something that seems too big, something that is asking you to be brave? God will give you strength. Ask Him. He is your strength, and He is your provider.

Do you have a friend who needs strength today? Reach out to her. Send a text, make a call, mail a card. Find out what she loves and buy it for her. On a day that I was feeling particularly discouraged and could not leave my house, a sweet friend brought me a goodie box filled with all sorts of pretty things, but the one thing I will remember most is that she had learned that I was craving glazed doughnuts, so she went to the best doughnut shop in our city and bought me a bag full of those sweet treasures.

Those doughnuts let me know I was loved, cared for, thought of, especially on a day when I felt particularly lonely. Ministry can be as simple as a glazed doughnut, a bunch of daisies, or a pretty card.

When God asks us to be brave, He is our refuge and strength. He provides all we need, even on the hard days.

Weekend Recap – Back to Living Again

11939232_10155954370210244_1901119505_o[1]I have a goal to begin writing here more than once a week this fall. On Wednesdays. I will still share my new series, “When You Have to Be Brave,” but I am so excited to be getting back to some sort of normal life that I want to be able to share those things too.

We had a fun weekend, and for that I am extremely thankful. I am SLOWLY getting life back to normal (radiation is not as difficult as chemo, but it does take some of your energy and endurance, two important aspects of parenting a five-year-old boy). Friday night, we introduced our worship choir Christmas music at church. It’s always fun to look at new music, especially over a potluck dessert fellowship.

Saturday, Henry and I were able to spend the morning with friends, playing at our downtown park and trying out a new food truck. Understand, Owensboro is not quite (yet) cutting edge in a lot of ways. Food trucks are not found on every corner here, so it is very exciting that a local truck is showing up around town. We ate some yummy Mexican food out of the truck, played some with our friends, and came home to take a good, solid afternoon nap. Strangely, even though we ate outside in the fresh air, my clothes still smelled like I’d been inside a Mexican restaurant (come on, you know what I’m talking about).

For a cancer patient, being able to do some normal things is huge. Having the energy to go out with friends, playing at the park, walking down the street are things that most of us take for granted most days. But for someone who could not do any of this just four months ago (yes, really), I am so very thankful for weekends like this.

Did you do anything exciting this weekend?

When You Have to Be Brave

Last fall was a really great season. I was beginning to find ways to be more involved in Henry’s school, something I had dreamed about during the years that we waited for a baby. It only took four years, but I finally felt like I was getting in shape again, I was active in a lots of things at church, in the community, and with my friends. We were enjoying life.

And then God changed everything about my life and asked me to be brave.

After December 15, 2014,  God completely upended all of my expectations, my abilities, and my strength, and asked me to rely totally and completely on His.

When He changes our plans, we can choose to retreat and give up, or we can lean in and learn what He is trying to teach us.

I have tried my best to make the second choice. In no way do I want to squander whatever lessons God has taught me through my cancer.

And I want to use what He has taught me to encourage others. Whether you are facing a cancer diagnosis, or some other life-altering event, God has a message of hope. You can persevere through whatever He puts in front of you because of His amazing grace. He gives grace for this moment, and for all the moments to come.

Over the next few months, I want to share with you some of what I have learned. If you are facing your own mountain, or if you are helping someone else, I hope you will find something here to encourage you.

I’m calling this series “When You Have to Be Brave” because there are lots of ways that God calls us to be brave. Whether you are bravely facing a diagnosis, bravely sharing the gospel with your neighbor, or bravely raising children in an increasingly secular society, this is for you. I hope you will join the conversation, and help me share this series with others who need encouragement.

Are you facing a mountain today? If so, leave a comment so I may pray for you.

Lots of Updating

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Henry in the middle of ten rows of potatoes

So, for the handful of you who care about what happened with our garden, here’s the short version:

We had a lot of potatoes, very little of anything else, and we said our benediction and closed the gate early this year.

We had some “helpers” plant the potatoes for us, and they went a bit overboard – ten rows overboard, to be exact. And then it rained A LOT for our area earlier this summer, and some of our plants rotted while the weeds flourished.

And my sweet gardening friend did the bulk of the work while her half-lame partner (me) wandered around the garden complaining.

All in all, it was not the sweetest of times. But as we sped hastily out of the gate for the final time, we said what we always say – there’s always next year.

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By the time you read this, I will only have three more radiation treatments to go. I would get excited, but that takes energy, and energy is the one thing I really lack at this point in my treatments. I haven’t (yet) had any kind of horrible skin reaction, but I am more tired than is normal, and I try to conserve my energy for the things that really matter.

Next Monday will be the end, and I am already turning my mind toward the fall. I intend to enjoy every ounce of fallishness I can squeeze out of the season. I completely missed out on winter and spring 2015, and I missed some of the best parts of summer 2015, so I don’t plan on missing fall. I have already changed the wreath on the door, I have fall candles ready to burn, and I am dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes. Who’s with me?

I also have some plans for this space for the fall. In the next few weeks, I plan to start a series of posts about some of the things that God has taught me (and is still teaching me) this year. I am hesitant to call it “lessons from cancer,” because I want anyone who is walking through a difficult season to feel like it applies to them, as well as to people who may be caring for someone in crisis.

I’ll keep working on the title, but when I do begin (probably after some of this fatigue dies down), I would love to have help getting the word out. So please share this blog with your friends who might be interested, and subscribe through email if you haven’t already to stay up-to-date.

Until then, I’ll be dreaming of newly sharpened pencils (Name that movie, and HT to my friend Liz who put that in my head.)

For the Beginning of Kindergarten

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Two years ago, I wrote this post for Henry’s first day of preschool. Today he heads off to Kindergarten, and we start another chapter.

Two years of preschool are under your belt. You can count, know ALL the colors (thanks to the set of 72 colored pencils), can write your first and last names, and know most of the letters (math, rather than English, may be your thing). You are great at making friends. You have an introvert for a mother, and you stretch me in so many ways because you make friends wherever you go. You love to go to restaurants (especially Ritzy’s), play with your friends, and draw. You “play pretend” better than anyone I know because your imagination knows no boundaries. You love your Bible story app, choosing to interact with powerful stories like David and Goliath and Jesus’ resurrection. You want to see the good guys win. They are teaching you how to be a mighty warrior for Christ, my greatest prayer for you. You sing, and dance, and play with a freedom I wish I had. You reach out to others, you show compassion and care. I love the boy you have become, and am beginning to glimpse the man you will be someday.

We have had some tough times this year. My cancer has kept us from a lot of things we would normally have done, but you have thrived anyway. God has indeed blessed Mom and Dad with the perfect boy for us. As I always tell you, “I prayed for a Henry, and God gave me just what I needed.”

As you leave this morning, I know that you are going back to one of your favorite places. You love school, and you love your friends. We are so thankful that God led us to the perfect school for you, and for us. Your school and your teachers are some of God’s good gifts. I am so proud of you, and I am so excited to be a part of all that you are going to learn and experience this year. As sad as we were to see preschool come to an end, I have made it my mission to cherish every single season of your life, and to look forward to each new thing. I can’t wait to hear all about your first day of Kindergarten. You are so ready for this.

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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”

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