When You Have to Be Brave – Be Patient with Yourself

I am not a very patient person. I think that’s one of the reasons that I don’t like to exercise. I don’t want to put the time in to getting into shape. I would love for someone to invent the self-cleaning house. I love to travel, I hate travelling. Get the picture?

So this idea of six months to a year before I feel like myself again? I am not a fan. But here it is. Chemo/radiation tired is not the kind of tired you can just push through. I relate so much better to my friends who have invisible illnesses. After a big push, a busy day or two or maybe a trip out-of-town, I need a day to rest.

My brain doesn’t work the way it once did. I have trouble multi-tasking. Finding myself too busy causes real anxiety and panic. I no longer do well in a crisis. I need a plan for each day in order to actually accomplish something, and to make sure I accomplish the right things.

I am learning to be patient with myself.

I am learning to show grace to myself when things don’t go as planned. When I can’t cross off every item on my to-do list. When I need a nap after lunch. When I get anxious and frazzled.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

My true rest, true grace, true patience is found in Jesus. When my burden is too great, Jesus carries it for me. He is gentle, He is humble, He gives rest for my soul. When I am not able, He is. When I cannot overcome, He can.

This season of “after treatment” is teaching me as much as the “treatment” season. I still need grace for my days. I am learning to adjust my expectations, to focus on what is really important, to pare down, to let things go.

No, I do not always succeed. Those of you who know me in real life know that I thrive when I am busiest – at least, that used to be true. It’s not in this season. Will that change? I have no idea.

But I do know this. Jesus’ burden is light. He cares for me, not for my to-do list. He is not asking me to be superwoman. He is asking me to be His child, to sit at His feet and learn from Him.

And that is better.

Wedding Weekend!

12074753_10156080525845244_3782289933565650817_n[1]This weekend, my middle nephew and his wife renewed their vows at a state park in Lebanon, Tennessee. They both serve in the Air Force, so when they got married a year and a half ago, none of their family was present. This weekend was about celebrating their marriage with family and friends.

I love this little picture because the groom, who is now well over 6 feet tall and not four years old anymore, was the ring bearer for me and Chris nineteen years ago. On Saturday, Henry was his ring bearer. Could someone please make time stand still?

The most unfortunate aspect of the wedding day was the weather. Middle Tennessee in October is a toss-up – it might be sunny and warm, and it might not be. Saturday was definitely in the “not” category. It was in the 50s, windy, and rainy all day long. Regardless, the decorations and the bride were beautiful. Henry got to dance his little heart out, and we enjoyed being with our family for the day.

We have one more week until fall break, and I have four days until my friend Amy and I head for what we call “grown-up camp,” which is actually a Christianity and the arts conference in Nashville known as Hutchmoot. To say we are terribly excited is an understatement. We’re looking forward to lots of inspiration, lots of good food, and lots of fun in the hotel room catching up since we last saw one another this time last year.

I can promise that the coffee and words will flow freely.

When You Have to Be Brave – Graciously Accepting Help

Please don’t turn away from this post because you think it doesn’t apply to you.

I guarantee that a year ago I wouldn’t have taken the time to read this. I would have considered myself an independent person who didn’t need to rely on the help of others under most circumstances.

And then I had my first round of chemo.

My husband and I very quickly learned that we were going to need lots and lots of help. There were days when I could not get out of bed to take a shower, much less carry on with necessary household duties, or grocery shopping, or even walking to the mailbox. And he couldn’t take four months off from work.

We had to learn to ask for help, and we had to learn to graciously accept help when it was offered.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! 1 John 4:11-12, The Message

Until recently, I had never really considered what is implied in God’s command for us to love one another (which is really a call to unselfish service) – there has to be someone there to love, and to serve! Just as God expects ME to love and serve others out of His great love and sacrifice for me, He expects that I will receive love and service from others.

Our modern mindsets encourage us to think that we have to be brave enough to do it on our own, that life is best lived in isolation, when all along God is telling us that we are designed to live in community. We are designed to love and serve, and then to receive love and service.

So I would argue that sometimes the brave thing to do is to openly admit that we need help. We need one another. We need love and support from our friends. This isn’t weakness, it is real life. We come alongside our friends in their time of need to build them up, and in turn, they should do the same for us. It is a mutual give and take.

Where do you find yourself today? Do you need to offer help to a friend, or do you need to graciously ask for and receive help for yourself? Loving and serving others is part of God’s design for our lives.

When You Have to Be Brave – Opportunities to Trust God

When God asks us to be brave, He is giving us an opportunity to trust Him.

We sing hymns like “Only Trust Him,” “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and “Trust and Obey,” but only in times of real trials do we understand what those songs mean. We can talk about trusting God when we are on the mountain, but when we are in a valley (or the deep part of the ocean), God is giving us an opportunity to prove His faithfulness to us.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you. Psalm 143:8

Life before whatever crisis you face is God preparing you for this moment – the moment when you have to decide whether trusting God is worth it. Plenty of people walk through dark times without the light of Christ. Even some who once claimed the name of Christ have turned away from Him during hard times, believing that God must not be good and that He cannot or will not provide.

It is in that moment of crisis that God reaches out and asks us to trust Him regardless. Regardless of the outcome, regardless of the future, regardless of the pain of the present moment. All the years of singing the songs, studying Scripture, being faithful are tested in that moment when God says, “Trust Me.”

These moments exercise our faith. When we exercise our bodies, we make them stronger. When we exercise our faith, it also grows stronger. We walk closer with the Lord than ever before. We find that He does indeed strengthen us for this moment, and also for the moments that come.

Is God asking you to trust Him today in your season of crisis? Hold onto Him, He is giving you strength, not just for the battle of today, but for the war. If you are not in a season of crisis, keep singing, hide the Word in your heart, preparing for the day that God asks for your trust.

How can I pray for you today?

Time for Rest

One of the things I am learning is how much time it takes to recover from breast cancer treatment. I had four months of some pretty strong chemo, surgery 6 1/2 weeks later, and six weeks of daily radiation treatments after healing from the surgery.

My last radiation treatment was almost a month ago. And you know what?

I am still tired.

Not constantly, no. But I still struggle with keeping up the same pace of life that I did a year ago. I feel this expectation that I should return to “life as usual.” And yes, a lot of that is wanting to please people and not let anyone (including myself) down and the fear of missing out.

But when my body and my mind have had enough, I have no choice but to stop. When I have an exceptionally busy day or two, I will hit the proverbial wall and crash on the couch for a day or so. Those days remind me of all we have been through this last year, and that this recovery is not over. It can take months, sometimes over a year, to fully recover from these treatments.

On those hard days, I need grace from myself and from my friends. I need understanding when I can’t keep up with the calendar and need to take a day off. I’m trying to limit myself, but it’s hard, and I need to know it’s okay when I have to turn down an invitation or back out of an event.

But even in this, I am reminded that God’s grace is sufficient.

Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

When You Have to Be Brave – But Sometimes I’m Not

Today I was not so brave. I was at a school picnic, chatting with other moms, when a mom who I don’t know very well and who I’ve only met a handful of times, asked me, “So, did you have a good summer?”

I paused for a second, and said, “Yeah, it was good.”


I lied. I flat-out chose to lie to this woman who didn’t mean any harm by her question. She was being nice, making conversation. She doesn’t know that the last nine months have been anything but good.

I stewed over my response the rest of the day. Why did I lie to her? Basically, I knew I would have to give the quick version of my story, I would have to talk cancer, she would feel badly that she asked, and we would part in awkward silence. I’ve had that conversation before, and I really wanted just to be a normal mom today.

But I should have trusted her with the truth. The truth is, no, I didn’t have a particularly good summer. In fact, I feel like I have been cheated out of most of 2015. I was a little bitter when school started this year, because I won’t ever be able to get back the things we didn’t do – no visit to the spray park or Holiday World, little time spent outdoors because I don’t tolerate heat very well, and no family vacation because of daily radiation treatments.

So, no, I wasn’t brave today. I took the easy way out, and then felt grief about my choice.

But as I was praying over what happened and the condition of my heart, God reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:9 – My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…

God’s grace IS sufficient. Even, and especially, when I am not brave enough, He gives grace. It is His power that is made perfect in my weakness, not my own.

If I have any encouragement for you today, it is this – when we are not brave enough, God is. His grace is bigger than our fears and failures. Trust Him. He is enough.

Life Lesson from the Soccer Field

11222889_10156008547160244_6788821939794395825_n[2]So, this weekend, the brave new thing wasn’t for me, but was for Henry – his first soccer game!

When we were talking about the game later, we talked about the things he did well and the things the other players did well. I tried to explain to him that you put all their “things” together, and that’s what makes a good team.

That’s kind of like the Christian life. We all have talents that we bring to the table. It’s when we put them all together that great things happen.

A little life lesson from the soccer field!

When You Have to Be Brave – Perspectives & Priorities

Priorities change when you are in the middle of a difficult diagnosis, like cancer, and during the treatment period that follows. While I was on chemo, a good day meant doing one thing – I could go to church, or I could clean the bathrooms, or I could sit for a while at the piano. (On one particular day, my “one thing” had to be to renew my driver’s license. I would much rather have rather used my limited energy for something else!)

On the bad days, I might take a shower. But, then again, I might not. I might just watch TV all day without moving.

But after the treatment ends, and you begin to regain strength, I discovered something interesting happens (or at least, it happened to me). My perspective and my priorities are different, and I think the change just might be permanent.

Petty bickering and mindless complaining? Don’t ask me to get involved. Holding a grudge or having a pity party? I don’t want to be invited.

Life is too short to nurse grievances, real or imagined. My situation or yours might change tomorrow, and if it does, we won’t have time or room for the small things.

Don’t misunderstand me – feelings are important. They move us to accomplish more, empathize with others, and give compassion when it is needed. But wearing our feelings on our sleeves, as the saying goes, is just not productive, nor is it healthy.

I want to be able to embrace the life that God has given me without worrying that doing so will upset someone else. I want the opportunity to use my gifts and talents, and I want you to use yours, too. I want to look for the good around me – for the beautiful, the lovely, the inspiring. I don’t have time for anything else.

My priorities have changed. I have always struggled with worrying what others think. I shudder to consider how much time and energy I have wasted trying to figure out what so-and-so is thinking about me, why she hasn’t returned my message, why he doesn’t notice my hard work, and on and on.

The past year has made me refine my priorities. In whatever I do, I want to bring glory to God. And I believe that He created me for specific tasks that He has designed just for me. He created me to be a wife to Chris and a mom to Henry. He created me to be a part of our extended family. He has given me certain experiences and abilities, which enable me to write and to make music.

In the past, I felt guilty because I couldn’t do it all (and, frankly, didn’t want to do it all). I couldn’t do the things that I really believe that God is calling me to do, as well attend all the Bible studies, prayer meetings, teach Sunday School, go on all the mission trips, and on and on.

I couldn’t do it all before, and I certainly can’t do it all now. My old friend chemo brain is still hanging around, keeping me from multitasking, dealing with stress, and problem-solving. But now I understand more clearly that God isn’t calling me to do it all. He’s only calling me to do the things He’s calling me to do!

Life is short. Do everything that God is calling you to do. Don’t get involved in pettiness. Embrace who God made you to be. Live fully and deeply. Let His priorities be yours.

How is God asking you to change your priorities today? How has He altered your perspective about what really matters in life?

Celebrations and Moving Forward

11998657_10155977383835244_1748152904_n[1]A lot of people helped us during chemo and surgery. We had friends who cooked meals, watched Henry, cleaned our house, sent cards and texts, brought gifts, and the list goes on and on. People prayed, and they asked others to pray.

So last week, a handful of those friends called and said, “Let’s go celebrate!” So we did.

We ate dinner together at a wonderful local restaurant called Colby’s, and then we made our way to Studio Slant to do something I had never, ever done before.

I painted a picture! And while it is not a masterpiece, it helped me mark a turning point in my “brave” journey. This year has been about facing some great fears, about looking the possibility of death in the face, about giving up any sense of being in control of my life, about putting one foot in front of the other day by day.

But as I think about what I have learned this year, I could stand to be a little braver in my day-to-day life. I have never painted a picture before because I know I’m not very good at it, so I don’t try.

In fact, there are a lot of things that I don’t try because of the fear of failure.

So, moving forward, I want to be braver. I want to try new things. I want to show my son that it’s okay to try something new, even when it’s scary. I want to demonstrate my trust in God, in the big things like cancer, but also in the little things.

And to all my friends, near and far, who have walked with us through this year – THANK YOU. Each and every act was treasured.

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. Psalm 16:3

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.


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