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

Loving Your Friends Through Difficult Times

A friend loves at all times, a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

On Monday, I took my sixth chemo out of a total of eight. Chemo doesn’t get any easier, even though I know more about what to expect and how to manage the side effects. Although fear of the unknown is not as great, there is also the fear of the known. I now know what the next week or 10 days will hold – all-over body pain and bone pain, nausea, mouth sores, and other unpleasant side effects that combine to make some hard days.

That’s why I really appreciate friends who have walked closely with me on this journey. We all have different pain limits when it comes to physical pain, and I think the same is true of emotional pain when we have a friend who is in a season of suffering. But walking with others through pain is exactly what God calls us to do in our relationships.

If you have a friend who is dealing with a chronic or serious illness, who is in a difficult marriage or a messy divorce, who has a prodigal child, or who is struggling in some area of life, the truth is that they will most likely struggle in this area for a while. Issues like this don’t usually go away in a week, they will last for a season – months, maybe years.

And they, like me, need people who will walk with them for the duration.

So even if watching suffering scares you, lean in for your friend. The first few weeks after a crisis begins are often filled with people calling, texting, bringing food, and sharing love. But as time passes, people forget. I am extremely fortunate to have friends and family who have not forgotten us. Our church family has continued to care for our physical needs throughout chemo. I have friends who text me weekly.

But I do know that everyone does not have this kind of support group. My journey will likely last into the summer. Others often face years of cancer treatments. If you have a friend in a long and difficult season, don’t forget her after a few weeks. Continue to call, continue to text, continue to take food, continue to offer help.

Just because the season of suffering is long doesn’t mean it gets easier. Brothers and sisters in Christ are given to us to walk with us through adversity. Be that kind of friend.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My friend Rachel Lundy has written a free 30-day devotional called Hope for the Hard Days. Rachel asked me to write an endorsement for her, which I was thrilled to do. This is a great resource for anyone in a difficult season. You can read more about the book and download your free copy here.

I have an article over at The Kingdom Life Now about how the message of Easter impacts our lives in 2015. You can find it here.

A 39th Birthday

Drink your wine. Laugh from your gut. Burden your moments with thankfulness. Be as empty as you can be when that clock winds down. Spend your life. And if time is a river, may you leave a wake.― N.D. Wilson

Today is my 39th birthday. The truth is, I really don’t mind getting older. In fact, while I don’t think I’ve “found myself” (What does that mean, anyway?), I definitely feel more settled than I did in my younger adult years.

Don’t get me wrong – I have a lot of growing left to do. I still have days when I feel quite sorry for myself (thanks, cancer), not feeling well most of the time causes me to struggle with patience, and there are a whole host of other areas where I need to give some serious prayer and attention.

I often think about life after chemo, and believe me, I am very thankful that such a thought is a real possibility. I have plans, and I am ready to get about them. And that’s why I loved the N.D. Wilson quote when I came across it last week.

God has given me one life to spend for Him – just one life. And I believe that He calls me to live it with abandon. Life is not safe, so why should I live as if I can protect myself from everything that might harm me? I want to live for Him, and to spend my life in such a way that I can serve God with all I am, leave my mark, and enjoy this amazingly complex world that He has graciously created.

Hug your people, call your friends, laugh hard, and sing loudly. Spend your life today for Him, and give thanks for all His good gifts.

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