When You Have to Be Brave – Moving On

Thank you for bearing with me for the last ten weeks as I have tried to write down some of my thoughts from the past year. Revisiting all that God is teaching me has been very helpful, and I hope that it has given you the courage on whatever journey you find yourself.

But, it’s time to move on, to begin looking toward 2016 and the promise of a new year. I am still unpacking what it means to live a brave life, and probably will be doing so for the rest of my life. Learning to be brave is not something that you can do in three months, or even in a year, albeit a year filled with challenges.

So, in the spirit of moving on, I am going to take the next couple of weeks off, and then begin a Christmas series the first week of December. There are lots of really good Bible reading plans for the month of December, and I hope you will take time to find one that suits your schedule and needs. This series will not be one of those.

You can think of my series not as an advent plan, but as a coffee break in the middle of the day to focus on the good things of the season. I’m planning to share some of my favorite Christmas music, some scriptures, and hopefully some of the other things that I love most about Christmas. I hope you will join me on December 2 as we find inspiration in the Christmas season.

Until then, I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with a juicy turkey, the good kind of cranberry sauce, and lots of pumpkin pie!

When You Have to Be Brave – All for His Glory

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36

This is an amazing truth – we do not know the mind of God, we cannot understand His ways, but we trust that His word is true, that He is in and through and over all things, and through everything, we can give glory to Him.

Through cancer.

Through heartache.

Through despair.

Through rebellion.

Through evil and suffering.

Through whatever we face today, tomorrow, and next year. God has given us enough grace in Jesus to give Him glory whatever comes our way. I think that this is really what it means to be brave – to be able to say, “Lord, whatever You give is good. Your wisdom and judgment are beyond what I can understand or fathom, and yet I trust You.”

We may not always feel like giving the Lord glory in the middle of our suffering. There will be days when we want to kick and scream (and maybe we actually do!). We will have moments when we are tempted to despair. We will feel like giving in.

We have a choice. We can choose to give in to those feelings, or we can choose each moment to give God praise for all He has done and all He will do.

My cancer, although not good, has brought glory to God. Whatever you are facing can also bring glory to God. Choose today to praise Him in the middle of the trial. Let others see your hard praise. Step out in faith that He will provide your strength for the next step, whatever that may be.

Choose today to live brave.

When You Have to Be Brave – Refusing to Live Overwhelmed

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine … Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine…

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Now that I am living “after cancer,” I am learning that I still need to rely and depend on God every single day. During treatment, I was very aware of my dependence. I was aware of God’s strength and grace in every breath, every step, every good day, and every bad day.

I see clearly how Satan wants me to live overwhelmed – overwhelmed with worry about the cancer returning, regrets from the things I missed while in treatment, worry for the “what-ifs” of the future. He certainly doesn’t want me to live a brave life! And too often I find myself caught up in his subtle games. I succumb to the worries, the regrets, the what-ifs, especially on days when I struggle physically (yes, the physical struggles of cancer treatments continue even after the treatments end). Have you noticed how it’s the days that you are already feeling a little off that Satan seems to launch his greatest attacks? That’s because he’s always watching, waiting until we are most vulnerable.

But through God’s grace, we don’t have to live in a place of defeat! Praise the Lord, He has given us all we need in the life to come, but also in this life! We don’t have to live overwhelmed by the Enemy’s lies. We can live victorious lives, all for the glory of God.

If you are God’s child, He has given you a light to shine in this dark world. Like the verses above, God is painting this world with our lights, each individual light working together to make a grand masterpiece. If you are living overwhelmed by the lies and accusations of Satan today, can I send you a little piece of encouragement? Living overwhelmed is not the life you were created for! You were created, specially designed, to be brave!

Father, I pray for myself and for those who are reading this. Give us a tangible awareness today of how we are created to shine our lights for You. If we are overwhelmed, lift us up. Give us the strength and courage to shine our lights bravely for You.

When You Have to Be Brave – When We are Carried By Others

Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. Ecclesiastes 4:11-12

I have said it many times, but it bears repeating – we could not have walked through the last year without people supporting us, encouraging us, and taking care of us each step of the way.

From our church family who provided for us by cleaning our house and cooking our meals for four months, to school families who took care of Henry after school on days that I had chemo, to friends who watched Henry on the long day of my surgery. Cards, texts, emails, and little gifts piled up.

Part of being brave is learning to let others care for you.

Our culture values independence. We pride ourselves on not needing others. The self-made woman, the DIYer, the loner, call it what you will, but living in community, while we give a verbal nod to it, is easier said than done – especially when you find yourself the one in need of help. Sometimes it seems like it is easier for me to give help than to receive it!

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon reminds us that we can’t survive hard times alone. He says we are unprotected when we are alone, and I love the way The Message reads – “with a friend you can face the worst.”

This last year felt like the worst, but we learned how many friends we do have, and that together we can face difficult days.

The lesson here is two-fold. First, when we are in trouble, we need to find a friend to confide in, to lean on. That only happens when we make our needs known. If we choose to pretend that everything is fine and we don’t need help, we should not be surprised when we don’t receive it.

Second, we need to be actively looking for people who need our help. Our friends may be just as reluctant as we are to ask for help. We would never have asked for help for ourselves with meals, but a good friend stepped up and said she wanted to arrange meals for us, and did so for the entire four months that I took chemo. That was so over and above what we could have imagined, and what a blessing it was to us!

Are you facing trouble today? Allow yourself to lean on your friends. Do you have a friend facing tough times? Ask to help. Pick something specific and offer it. General offers are nice, but are less likely to be taken. Specific offers are much more helpful, and are more likely to be accepted.

Not sure what you can do? You can pray without ceasing for your friend. During chemo, I had days when I literally could not pray for myself. Chemo does many things, including reducing mental capacity. I knew I needed to pray, but I could not form the words. On those days, I had a real, almost physical sense that others around the country were praying for me. Do not underestimate the power and comfort in your prayers for others.

How have you learned to rely on your community of friends during difficult days? Are you reaching out to others around you who may need encouragement? How can you offer physical help to someone? Who are you actively praying for today?

(PS – I added a new tab at the top of my page where you can find all of my “brave” posts and other posts connected to my cancer journey. I hope this will make it easier for you to find a particular post for yourself or to share with a friend.)

Favorite Things – Fall 2015

Last week was fall break in our parts, so I have taken a little break from my “brave” posts, but they will be back next week! Relax with me this week and think about the best parts of this season.

I love fall. I think it has become my very favorite time of the year. As a kid, I preferred the care-free feeling of summer, but I think fall is the grown-up version.

My favorite things list this season is pretty simple, but I hope it will prompt you to consider what makes fall special for you. Take time to enjoy each pumpkin-spice filled minute!

  1. Hutchmoot – This is my third year to attend Hutchmoot, a 3-day Christianity and the arts conference. It is also the second year I have gone with my friend Amy. I like to think of it as “grown-up camp.”
  2. Pulling out my cowboy boots. Nothing says fall like boots, and nothing says fall with a little southern attitude like cowboy boots.
  3. Cooler weather. An unexpected side effect from chemo is a persistent itching whenever I get hot, whether it is from temperature or exertion. Regardless, I am thrilled for cooler temperatures and less itching!
  4. Kids playing outside. Cooler weather also means that the neighborhood kids are showing up in the street again to ride bikes and play. It’s the stuff childhood is made for.
  5. Baseball caps. My hair is growing out (after losing it all during chemo), but it is at a very awkward stage. I wear baseball caps everywhere it is acceptable to do so, particularly my favorite Vanderbilt cap.
  6. Crockpot meals. I love using the slow cooker. I would cook everything in it if I could. This slow cooker salsa chicken and this slow cooker pot roast are two of my favorites.
  7. Chocolate digestives. We are anglophiles, and I was completely delighted to discover McVitie’s chocolate digestives at my local Walmart, of all places. Perfect with a cup of green tea in the evenings.

What are some of your favorite things this fall?

“Lord, Show Me Something Cool” – Hutchmoot 2015 Recap

This week is fall break in our parts, and my little family has been out of pocket a bit lately, so I’m taking a two-week break from my “brave” series. I hope you still join me on Wednesdays to read about some of the other things we have been enjoying and seeing God do in our lives!

So, for the past three years, I have plopped down quite a few dollars and travelled to Nashville for Hutchmoot, a gathering of Christian artists and those who love and appreciate such art. I consider this a brave thing to do, first because I can be fairly socially awkward and unsure of exactly what to do when faced with 150 people I don’t know. The trip is also a definite sacrifice of time and money. And, while I play the piano and I write, I consider myself one of the lesser artists and creators in the room.

But I still go. Each year right before Hutchmoot begins, I have a certain amount of doubt. Am I wasting several hundred dollars on this? Will I be able to glean anything from this experience? Will I feel like I am in middle school again with no one to talk to in the cafeteria? Maybe next year I won’t go.

And then I got to the hotel room I shared with my friend Amy, whom I had not seen in a year. My excitement grew. We went to the opening session, and I was inspired. We went to supper, and I was fed physically. We went to the opening concert, and I was encouraged.

Coming into Hutchmoot this year, I have really been wrestling with the question of the value of art in Christian community. I don’t come from a faith tradition that has embraced art as a part of Christian expression. I have struggled with whether or not art is too impractical. Should I be giving myself to other ministries that are more concrete, more quantifiable? Can God use what little talents I have to offer, or should I just abandon the idea of writing altogether and move on to something else?

And here is what I have learned this weekend – There is value in beauty and art from a Christian standpoint.

Jesus used story and imagination to train his followers. He called upon their imaginations to picture the Kingdom of Heaven. He taught in parables. He embraced creation. He expressed joy and wonder and amazement.

We are called to create right where we are, even if that place doesn’t seem ideal. God has placed us where we are for a season and a purpose. We can’t wait to live out our calling, we have to follow His leading now. We begin with our home and our roots.

Creating beauty takes discipline, time, and hard work. We need to give ourselves the tools necessary to succeed. We create environments in our home that inspire our family to embrace beauty. Creativity can be cultivated. When we consume excellent art, we will produce excellent art.

So, what do I do with all of these thoughts?

I need to become more intentional about creating the kind of environment that encourages imagination and inspiration.

I need to make my home a place that embraces art and creativity.

I want to be more brave in my own walk with the Lord, and I want to inspire others to do the same.

I went to Hutchmoot this year with no internal agenda. I didn’t have a list of things I hoped would come from the weekend. I simply waited and watched to see what God would have me learn. I wanted to be amazed by God.

Andrew Peterson said it best when he prayed, “Lord, show us something cool.” As I have driven around Brentwood the last few days, I have prayed the same – “Show me something cool.” As I write this on the last day of the conference, I am praying the same for my journey home and in the days to come.

Lord, show me something cool.

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?


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