Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pulling over at the rest stop- A 6 month pause

In this household, June 16th is a mighty important day.  Todd and I entered the world of parenthood with the birth of our firstborn, Ethan Porter Miller, 10 years ago.  Our son is 10! And Mama thinks that's just crazy!  He's the age of the kids she loved teaching before he was born.  Again, that's just crazy!

I suppose a lot of moms reflect a bit on their kids' birthdays.  As I decorated his cake, my thoughts also traveled to the cake I decorated for Lydia this year.  Her birthday is January 16th.  Wasn't that convenient?  I thought about her birthday and how it was that week that things took a turn in our lives.  That was the beginning of the bend of the road.  And now it is six months later.

I would like to pull into the rest stop so to speak and take a few minutes to share where we are in the journey.  Since we've already mentioned crazy things, the fact that life can be so normal again is a bit crazy when I pause now and think about it.  We have just kind of kept moving through life.  I suppose that's what one does, because there really isn't a choice.  It's funny though because what was so big back in January, now seems deceptively small.  I say deceptively, because I know that cancer is different than the flu, but really for the most part we've just accepted that this is life for now and we will live it in gratitude to God and with joy in Christ and as much normalcy as possible.

So our weeks have taken on a strange rhythm.  Sunday is filled with service and opportunities to give and share with our church family.  We take a breath at some point on Sunday too!  Monday I clean up the clutter of the weekend and regroup for the week ahead.  I like Mondays a LOT!  Tuesday Todd watches the kids, and I head for chemo.  I drink my coffee, listen to music, and try to prepare Sunday School lessons while Benadryl scrambles my thoughts.  We regather later in the day, and it's usually a good day.  For many of our Wednesdays I would head with Lydia to her school and listen to kids practice their reading.  This week, however, Ethan finishes up school and summer vacation begins.  We'll see what fun we can have on Wednesdays before Todd heads into work for the evening.  Thursday and Fridays I am "Parent on Duty".  I might be a little tired, but we pull through.  Saturdays are the hardest days I am finding.  Something seems to mess up my spirit, and it's all just a bit harder that day.  But Todd comes home from work and Sunday comes again.  Somehow or other, by God's grace, most of life gets taken care of.

I can hardly believe this is number 12 out of 16 treatments.  Many of you know how I love change, so you may not find it hard to believe that I was already thinking ahead to changes.  I think I will be happy to be done with chemo.  But you know what, I have been asking God to use me in the lives of those I meet while I get chemo, and I'm not sure I'm ready to see that window of time come to a close.  I sure would appreciate you all praying that God speaks through me some way so that He is made known in that little room.  I so want to share the reason for my joy and hope. I want them to know that God is great, awesome, and worthy of all praise and worship.  I want them to know that God loves them with a crazy love: a love that gave His perfect Son to die on a cross so that we could be made holy and blameless in His sight and adopted into His family.  I want them to know that He has the cure for their eternal sin sickness.  So, will you pray right now that God's Spirit would work in their hearts and mine?  He's already given me a love for them, but would you ask that He would guide my words and give me boldness? I would love to see God do something crazy in the four remaining weeks.  Guess I better put the rest stop behind me and get traveling!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Do you trust me?

April 22nd was a dreary, cold, spring day in Maine.  EXACTLY not the kind that I was hoping for since it was also my birthday.  It was the weekend after a chemo treatment so I wasn't sure how much celebrating I would feel up to.  My thoughtful husband kept my wishes, and so it was quiet.  Truthfully, most of it was miserable due to my own making.  The weather and my mood matched.  Here's a picture of the day:

In the morning we had a special breakfast with a friend.  Everyone sang, and I received sweet gifts of chocolate and tea from the kids, thanks to that special friend.  (I also had gone out the night before with my husband and had a great dinner together without the kids!  We crashed a jam session with some of the Alabama Singing Men who were on a mission trip to our area.  Before we had to leave to be back by curfew, we were able to worship with them and enjoy some good music.)  So why did I say it was miserable?  After reading all that it sounds pretty great!  I think it was just that after I did a craft with Lydia and spent some time with Ethan and his Legos, I was restless and wondering how we were going to fill the long day ahead of us.  I resented the cold, the gray, the not feeling 100% well, and the nagging in my heart that wanted me to reflect on past birthdays and question future ones.  Somehow we muddled through.  Ethan headed off to a friend's birthday party and so Todd, Lydia and I broke out a movie and watched Aladdin.

That's when again I was confronted by THE QUESTION.  Back when this movie came out I was a senior in high school.  I had lots of questions about the future at that time. THE QUESTION caught me off guard then, and it caught me off guard again.  I bet you will recognize THE QUESTION.  It is, "Do you trust me?"

 To my ears it wasn't Aladdin asking Jasmine to grab his hand and jump to their escape or leap onto a magic carpet.  To my ears it was God asking me, "Do you trust me to be who I say I am and to do what I say I can do?  Do you trust that my plans for you are good and that I will faithfully carry out all I have promised?"

Have you heard THE QUESTION?  What has your response been?  Saturday I ended up going to bed with THE QUESTION rattling in my heart.  Do I trust God?  Do I trust Him today when life is cloudy, cold, and life seems more like the dead of winter than the lush green of summer?  I wanted to say, "Yes, even now I trust you," but I wasn't joyful about it.  So many days I had hopefully kept my eyes on Him as we started this journey on the bend in the road.  But today it all seemed different.  I didn't like it.  I wanted it to be different.  I was full of grumbles.

The next day dawned and the sun broke through the clouds.  It warmed, and I got outside.  The weather had changed.  I still didn't feel 100%, but it was better to handle with nicer weather.  Although the clouds were out of the sky, they were still not out of my heart.  Do I trust you, God, even when the skies are NOT what I desire?  Even when I had determined to go listing gifts and looking for your good in the hard things?  Where had all that determination gone?  And even though I wanted to grit my teeth and say I trusted Him, did I really?  I continued to ponder and roll that question around in my heart.

The next day also dawned bright.  As I sat on the porch in the sun reading from the Word, God challenged me with a story of His people in Deuteronomy 1.  Moses is retelling the people their history.  He is reminding them that when they came to their Promised Land they let their eyes focus on the size of the inhabitants instead of the size of their God.

In vs 29 Moses says, "Don't be shocked or afraid of them! The Lord your God is going ahead of you.  He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.  And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child.  Now He has bought you to this place.

But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God, who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.

When the Lord heard your complaining, he became very angry.  So he solemnly swore, 'Not one of you from this wicked generation will live to see the good land I swore to give to your ancestors except Caleb son of Jephunneh.  He will live to see this land because he has followed the Lord completely...'"

My attention was grabbed by the words, "But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God, who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day." This should be a comforting verse, and it is.  But I scratched my head a bit and turned back in my Bible to a few places.  When God lead them to the Red Sea he delivered them in a mighty way, but if my recollection was right, He then took them into the desert and they traveled for three days without water.  When they did find water, it was bitter water.  Uh-huh. There is the story in Exodus 15.  And I seemed to remember another story in which they were thirsty once again, a rock was struck, and water came out of it.  Yup.  Exodus 17.  But this verse says that God went before them looking for the best places to camp.  So were these the best places?  They didn't look like the best places from my observation.  How could all those Israelites survive without good drinking water?  But what if the best place was a thirsty place that gave them an opportunity to call out for God in faith?  What if they would have come before God and said, "We know who you are God.  We've seen you work.  You've turned water to blood.  You've parted water so we could walk on dry land.  You've overcome our enemies by waves of water.  Surely you will faithfully care for us and provide water for us to drink.  We are thirsty.  Help us by your loving, faithful, mighty hand."  I wonder what might happened if they grateful remembered and asked instead of grumbled and mumbled?

And what would happen in my life if I did the same?  When THE QUESTION looms before me because circumstances seem to speak contrary to God's nature, what will I do?  Will I keep my eye on the circumstances and grumble?  Or will I remember who God is and what He says He will do and then ask for the help I need.  God is my Father.  He gave His Son so that my life could be redeemed.  He has promised that He will be with me at all times.  He has promised that He will transform me into His image.  He has promised that He will receive glory from my life.

As the gray days of life press in I am challenged to look at them differently and ask God for help even as I trust Him.  I hope you will do the same.  I am so grateful though that He gives us bright, sunshine days as well.  Guess I need to trust Him to be the keeper of all my days, both rainy and sunny!

P.S.  Thanks to the many who wished me a happy birthday.  I really am blessed and looking back now it really wasn't a miserable day- I just felt the circumstances that day.  I am looking forward to my NEXT birthday!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Good gifts

For a while I've been pondering God's good gifts.  Daily we receive so many good gifts from God.  If you aren't in the practice, I challenge you to take time to list some of those gifts everyday.  They may be great or small- from God providing a new job or the birth of a long awaited child to the tip of bulbs popping out of the brown earth or a bed with fresh smelling sheets. If we take the time to count them we will be amazed and our hearts will overflow with praise to the Giver of those gifts.  (I can say that is a soul adjusting practice.  This round of chemo, I slipped in counting gifts. As I've picked up the pen and notebook it has been so good for my soul!)

But what happens when something happens in life, and it doesn't look like a good gift?  I mean what happens when you are handed a dented up box?  The wrapping paper is a strange color.  It looks a bit worn. You open the gift and inside is something that you weren't expecting.  It's not bright and cheery.  It's not comforting or something that brings a smile to your face.  What are your thoughts about God then?

God has been working on my heart for a number of years to challenge me to trust Him as a giver of good gifts even when the gift doesn't look so good at first.  I find that a great gift in itself!  So when we began this unexpected adventure into the realm of cancer, I knew God was going to also be teaching me more about His gift giving abilities.

And I can say He is the giver of good gifts.  Even with the brokenness of our sin cursed world, He gives us good gifts.

Here are some of the gifts I have received in the past few months:

1.  Bible passages that speak truth to my heart and call out faith deep inside.  They whisper to me who He is and His work for me.

2.  Songs which settle into deep places to fill my heart and mind with words that carry me and strengthen Biblical truths.

3. Relationships that are treasured to a new degree. I have shared words with people that are more clear and reveal more of the heart.

4.  I have met some amazing ladies in the oncology department where I go for treatment.  These nurses daily pour into people who are experiencing some pretty tough things.  They give and serve faithfully.

5.  Kindness and love flow in the form of words, gifts, helping hands to remind me that we are made in the image of one who loves and gives good gifts.  Since beginning the draft of this post I have been overwhelmed by the physical gifts sent my way.  A basket of thoughtful treats for the entire family from Todd's kind co-workers.  An early birthday gift that brought Spring's colors and scents to a soul that was starving for spring.  A bag of scarves given in loving memory of a dear friend who wore them during her battle with cancer.  Two books, one of which I have just begun, that is already speaking to parts of my soul I didn't know needed to hear these words. The thoughtfulness is overwhelming!

These are just a few of the gifts I can count.  They are also the easy to recognize gifts of this experience.  But this week, as I was already thinking along the lines of this post, God was asking me to open my thinking to include some harder to recognize gifts.  Dare I even count the brokenness as a gift?

This week I struggled a bit more with the physical side affects of the chemo.  Several times I told God that I wish this didn't have to be part of my life.  It was harder to see the good.  I disliked that I didn't feel like myself as quickly as I wanted.  I struggled with a smell that turned my stomach.  I had heartburn and a taste in my mouth that wasn't awful, but wasn't right.  They were little things compared to what some face when doing chemo, but I didn't like them and wanted them gone.  And so I have had to turn to my Father and ask Him for help.  I have asked Him to change my attitude and to give me hope that will look past these physical things so that I can endure them.  And I can tell you that He is faithful and He is at work changing me.

One of the hardest parts the past few weeks has been each week when I get chemo my mind kind of loses focus for a while.  I can read the words on a page, but they slip off my heart like it is coated with Teflon.  This affects my quiet time with God in particular, and the distance seems greater between us.  I find that my quiet time is also impacted because when the kids are occupied instead of having time to think and process I am needing to rest.  The end result leaves my soul feeling a mess.

So what is the gift in the mess?  First, I have deeper compassion for those who regularly live in the mess and don't know the God who gives true life.  I want to reach out to get to know people and to share how much God loves them and wants to give them His good gifts.   Second, I am once again more aware that although I must make choices and obey Him, His grace provides for me.  Just as I needed Him to open the way for a relationship with Him, I also need Him just as much to live each day.  I am more aware that I am not as strong as I think I am.  I am reminded that I rely on Him for everything.  And with these thoughts comes thanks and praise to Him.  And He receives glory.

I am suspicious that God has more gifts for me along the way.  And so like a child on a scavenger hunt, I am on the lookout.  I have my pen and my notebook, and I am counting away.  And as I head into a week that in some ways I was dreading, my heart takes courage because He has been so good and given me so many good gifts.  Why don't you find your own pen and notebook?

P.S.  This thinking in this post has been influenced by Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare  to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  If you are looking for something to read, I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pondering Prayer

I am so thankful for the many people who are praying for my family and me.  It's a little overwhelming to think that people would lift up little ol' me before our Mighty God and ask Him to use His power to accomplish His will in our lives.  The other day Ethan saw something new in our house and asked where it came from.  I told him that it was from someone who heard about us from a friend who lives far away and that they and their church are praying for us.  Ethan asked me if someone in California is praying for us.  I shared some of the places from which I did know people were praying and I said that it was quite possible.  He was amazed, and I was thankful that he was having an opportunity to experience the bigger church body at work.

But all this has also opened the door for me to do some pondering about prayer.  I mean as I talk with the kids about prayer the first question that comes up is, "Doesn't God already know what we need?  Why do we pray?"  Followed by, "He loves us, so he's going to take care of us, right?  Why do we have to ask Him to take care of us?"  Have you pondered these questions recently?

My pondering and sharing with the kids has filled me with gratitude that God invites us to intimately share and be in relationship with Him.  Yes, He does know what we need.  But it is in the asking that the relationship becomes two sided.  I already know that my kids "need" a snack each afternoon.  But it is in the asking that we share.  I hear their preferences and sometimes they hear my heart that they pick foods that are better for their bodies.  In time this Mama hopes that they will also independently pick healthy snacks throughout their life.  I think this might be a shadow of what God desires in prayer.  I come to Him asking for healing.  He says to me, "Uh huh.  I know you need healing.  But you know it may not just be cancer you need healing from.  Maybe you need healing of idolatry of self and worshipping of independence.  How about we try this and I will take care of you."

Another aspect of prayer I have been pondering is the type of things we pray about when we gather to share requests in a group.  When I look at our Sunday School classes prayer list, I see LOTS of health issues each week.  There will also be job issues, moving/housing issues, and things connected to physical needs.  I'm glad those things are on our list.  We should be praying about them.  But I've been wondering why we so easily request and volunteer to pray about things in those realms, but so infrequently we really apply all the words of James 5:16 and pray about sins we confess.  What would happen if I confessed my sin of not loving my neighbor and asked you to pray that I would have a heart moved for them with God's love?  What if I confessed my self-centeredness in my marriage and asked you to pray that I would put my husband before myself?  What if I confessed that I struggle to pray in the way I think God would have me, and that I would like to learn the self-discipline it takes to make the same requests known every day to God?   If you prayed for these things like you prayed for my health needs, what might the impact be?  How might our relationship change?  How might my life change?

At the same time,  I think our Father delights in our dependency and when we come to Him with these big issues on behalf of another we are crying out that this is too big and we need Him.  I can't help but be reminded of the story in Mark 2:1-12 of the paralytic who was brought to Jesus by his four friends.  Jesus is in a house that is jam packed with people wanting to hear him, as well as those wanting to test him.  Four men have loaded a friend onto a pallet and brought him to the house in the hopes that Jesus will heal their friend's lame legs.  There is no way for them to get near Jesus. In their desperation they have an idea.  They climb up onto the roof, locate where they think Jesus is standing, and start tearing apart the roof.  When the hole is big enough, they lower their friend down so he is in Jesus' presence.  I think prayer might be a little like four friends carrying a pallet for a paralyzed friend.  It brings the needy into God's very presence.  What a privilege!

Jesus sees their faith in action and then gives them what they didn't come for.  He tells the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven.  Isn't that Jesus?  He sees the real problem and give us beyond what we ask for!  Of course this riles up the Pharisees and Jesus uses the opportunity to speak to the objections in their heart.  He reminds them that this man's physical and spiritual states are both hopeless.  He can not walk on his legs.  He can not walk in purity of heart.  But for Jesus, God's Son, the one bearing all authority, nothing is impossible.  And so he heals the man's physical body to give outward testimony of the healing that He can do for the man's inner spirit.  The man, carried by the faith of friends, must now also show faith.  He stretches legs, gets up, takes up the mat, and goes home.  I imagine there are four friends walking down the road with him laughing and retelling the story all the way home.

So my friends, I thank you.  I thank you for praying, for carrying me on a mat to God.  And I thank Him for giving healing- both physical and spiritual.  May we go forth praising Him, continuing to bring our needs- both big and small, physical and spiritual to Him, and may we trust that He will give us what we need most to the glory of His name.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A lesson in Psalm 23

I am hesitant to share this post because I don't want you to think that I am not in a good place.  I am. God is faithful to walk with us through the valley and to set our feet on high places.  As I look back on the first round of chemo I would say I did well.  Yes, I had a time of not feeling well, but in comparison to my fears, it wasn't too bad.  Yes, I was anxious because of the unknown.  But I have been very well this past week.  I have done my normal activities and handled a foot a snow and as I write this I wear a smile and sparkle in my eye.  So as you read, remember I am well.  But I share, because I want to be honest about hard moments in the hope that God may use the words to speak encouragement to other hearts. 

In case you didn't know,  I can be proud at times.  (Shocker, right?)   The other week this not so pretty trait came out, and the Lord dealt with it in a tender and gracious way.  I'd like to share if you have time for a story.

The story begins with the children in our church.  God has been prompting one of the ladies teaching children's church to lead our kids in learning a passage of Scripture.  Psalm 23 was chosen.  So I found myself spending a lot of time the last few weeks thinking about how best to help kids understand Psalm 23 and also how to tuck those precious words in their hearts.

But I must make a confession.  When I think of Psalm 23 my mind calls it by an alternative title I've made up, "The Death Psalm".  My early experiences with relatives passing away always had this Psalm connected to it.  Either it was read in a service.  Or it was printed on the back of a card.  I am sure you know what I am talking about.  And so the Death Psalm rattled in my head, even as the uncertainties of what that first round of chemo would bring rattled in my stomach.  I chuckled to the Lord and thought, "Great.  You sure do have a sense of humor, Lord.  I am facing this and you want me to think about death.  Couldn't you have prompted a different Psalm?  I mean even if you wanted to talk to them about sheep could we have used Psalm 100?  It's happier."  Then the pride became even bolder.  "You aren't going to use this Psalm to speak to me.  Are you?"

Thankfully, God didn't just slap me there or say, "Nope.  I'm not going to talk with you.  Not now.  Not ever."  Instead he helped me organize a disastrous lesson.  I say disastrous only because as I studied the Psalm and facts about sheep and their shepherds there was so much to share with the kids.  So much that spoke to my heart about how needy we as people are for God to care for us, provide for us, and guide us.  And of course when I say we, God was speaking to ME about MY NEED for Him and His promise to provide.  The lesson was a little heavy on facts and less on the movement needed for young bodies.  We took a long time searching for lost sheep that were bearing our facts, so we never got to the cool game that came after sharing our facts and talking about how they might help us understand Psalm 23 better.  But again, God is kind, because the next week their wonderful teacher took another look at the Psalm and started planting the seeds of it in their hearts and minds.  And then I had the opportunity this week for a take two and was able to play the cool game and witness them learning these words and thinking about how they might apply to them.  He is speaking and we are listening.

But I want to take you one more layer into the story to where this really applies to me.  See Wednesday night after my chemo, I woke in the middle of the night and I didn't feel well. Fear gripped me.  It gripped me in a way I hadn't experienced before.  I wouldn't go so far to say it was a shadow of death fear, but it was a dark valley fear.  And I cried.  I wish I could say I cried out to the Shepherd and immediately had my fears turned to faith.  I cried feeling my weakness and my need.  I cried feeling the thinness of health.  I cried to my husband for help in managing the physical unwellness and for reassurance that I was not alone and for encouragement that I could handle this.  There's nothing wrong in crying to my husband, but I must confess I wish my first reaction would have been to cry to my Shepherd and to focus on these words and to walk in confidence.  I wish I could have felt as confident about how God was using this to bring glory to His name, to mold me in His image, and for good.  I doubted.  I feared.

With the turning of the night's darkness into light also came the turning of my focus back to the Shepherd.  And in a few days I found myself looking at the words of Psalm 23 with new understanding and a humbled heart.  I resolved to turn to these words next time and to let them carry me to the arms of the Shepherd.  I began to think of them not so much as the Death Psalm, but as the Abundant Life Psalm that goes along with the Good Shepherd of John 10.  And I spent some time worshipping the Good Shepherd who has authority over all things, including this little lamb's life.

If you haven't read Psalm 23 recently, take a moment to do so.  Maybe there is something there that He wants to speak to you about.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Checking In

I am longing to spend some time writing in this little corner of the world.  So many thoughts I want to share and work out as I write.  But I wanted to check in to assure you that I am well.  God is good and life is full!  This week brought another big snow storm.  Oh, the lessons in snowflakes!  So free time has been sparse.  There are posts brewing, so when I get a chance I'll spend some time putting them into words to share.  Again, thank you for the encouragement so many of you have shared, particularly in encouraging me to write here.  I truly believe that God is working and using this bend in the road for things far beyond my imagination!  I leave you with a thought that a friend shared with me.

And because of another friend's experience, I add, "So bloom where you are planted!"

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Some thoughts for when we hear what we didn't really want to hear.

Yesterday I got a phone call with the results to my last biopsy.  It was decided to check out my lymph nodes on the other side to see if any thing was going on over there.  The expectation was that the biopsy was overkill and would be negative.  But I wasn't surprised when the results came back that cancer was also found in this area.  The good news to remember is that the CT Scan did not show cancer anywhere else.  The bad news is that I have cancer affecting both sides of my body in different ways.  The good news is that we have begun an aggressive treatment that will do its best to take out any little cancer cells trying to grow in other places.  It also means that treatment down the road may need to include a bit more, but it's better to know now.

Part of me was calm when hearing the news.  Part of me was sad.  Part of me began to dread what could be waiting down the road for us in a few years.  Part of was at peace.

So, all that being said this morning I asked if God would spend time some time with me and make His words heard in my heart.  It was so kind of him to do so!  I would like to share with you the words that I read when I opened my devotional.  "Yes, your life is messy and hard, but that's not a failure of the plan;  it is the plan.  It's God working to complete what he's begun in you."  (Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies).

There is such comfort in knowing that this isn't a surprise to Him, but rather a method that He has seen fit to allow to bring me into His image and to draw others to Him.  There are things in your life today that are messy and hard.  There are strained relationships.  There are kids that are literally messy and the mess is overwhelming you.  There are fears.  There are broken dreams.  There are schedules that squeeze and threaten to swallow the joy out of us.  There are silences that are unbearable and answers that don't come.  There is loneliness and loss.  There is pain.  And in those things God is so present.  He is at work.  And there is hope.

My reading in that devotion took me to Psalm 66.  I'll include part of it here, but it's well worth the time to check out the entire Psalm.

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
    and I will tell you what he did for me.
17 For I cried out to him for help,
    praising him as I spoke.
18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened.
19 But God did listen!
    He paid attention to my prayer.
20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
    or withdraw his unfailing love from me.

Psalm 66:16-20

I hope I don't wear you out telling you what He does for me, because I plan on sharing!  I am also thankful for His BEST answers to our prayers and His unfailing love.

I leave you with another song.  Love, love, love this song!  (Can't wait for my birthday when my husband is going to give me the whole CD- HINT, HINT, HINT, TODD!)  May you find Him in the midst of your circumstances and may we praise Him even when we don't see the cure or even when we don't see His face.  He will carry us.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Eve Before Chemo

It's the eve before chemo.  I had chemo 101 today, and judging from the emotional outburst before supper and the fork thrown across the room (no one was hurt in the process), I'd say the reality of all this is finally sinking in.  Hearing all the possible side effects today affected me. There have been tears tonight.  Tears because although cancer is in my body, I feel good, and hearing what the future weeks might entail was not fun.  The list, which includes fatigue, constipation, loss of hair, loss of appetite, and mouth sores, makes me nauseous.  But I will have three drugs at my disposal to fight the nausea I didn't list, so that is nice.

I've now had some quiet time to think and pray, and that's always good for me after those emotional outbursts.  (I just wish sometimes I 'd be quiet and think and pray before the outburst.) One of the things that crossed my mind is the verse that God keeps putting before me: Exodus 14:14.  "The Lord himself will fight for you.  Just stay calm."  (NLT)  or in the NIV "The Lord himself will fight for you.  You need only to be still."

Let me take a moment to share the story around this verse, because it's one that also has been speaking to my heart.  As God would plan it, it is the story I shared in Sunday School the week we started to pray about the possibility of cancer.  It's always been a dear story, but it is becoming even more so.

The story begins on another eve.  The eve before Israel's victory over Egypt at the Red Sea.  On this eve, Israel is in a panic.  They see the Red Sea before them.  They see wilderness beside them.  They see Pharaoh's army chasing them down.  And they have an emotional outburst.  Forks may have flown as they cry out asking Moses if there weren't enough graves in Egypt and if that isn't why he brought them to the wilderness to die.  They wish they had never left Egypt.

But Moses tells them not to be afraid.  He says if they will stand still and watch, the Lord will rescue them.  The will never again see the Egyptians they see today.  And then he shares the words of Exodus 14:14.  He also tells them that His glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops and that He will then be made known.

The rest of the story is this:  God asks Moses why they are still standing there and tells him to get the people going.  He gives Moses instructions and then His presence, in the form of a cloud, comes between the Egyptians and the Israelites.  To the Israelites it is glowing fire.  To the Egyptians it is darkness.  Moses picks up his staff and raises his hand.  God sends a wind and the waters pile up on either side of dry ground where the Israelites can walk through the Red Sea.  The Egyptians chase them.  Around dawn God causes the Egyptian army to panic and when  the Israelites are safely across,  Moses again raises his hand.  The waters stream back into place drowning the Egyptians.  When the Israelites saw God's mighty power unleashed against the Egyptians, they were in awe.  They put their faith in God and in his servant Moses.

So why am I so caught up with this story?  Well, like you have been at some time or another, I am standing between a rock and hard place or like the Israelites between the Red Sea and Egyptian chariots.  The Red Sea of chemotherapy is before me.  It doesn't look safe.  It looks overwhelming.  It doesn't look doable.  Behind me are the slave holders- the Egyptian death chariots; cancer cells.

And so God says, "Stand still and watch.  I will fight for you."  Hmmm.  Could it be that on this eve before chemo God is reminding me that He is the one fighting for me?  And could it be that His glory will be displayed and He will be made known?

Earlier today I found this video.  I really enjoy Mike Donehey's teaching videos.  He is the lead singer for Tenth Avenue North.  When I saw the title, "Fighting for You," I had to check it out.  I include it here, because although Mike gets his thinking from another favorite story, he takes this fighting thing to a different level, but one that I think still applies.

Maybe the story of the Red Sea and God fighting for us is another story to point us to Jesus, the one who came to fight for us and give us freedom from sin and Satan?  One of my favorite lines in the video is, "Imagine you are not fighting for a victory but from a victory that has already been fought for you."

That's a lot of thinking on the eve before chemo.  But I'll share one last thought.  CHEMO:  Christ Has Eradicated My Opponent

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Build your Kingdom Here

A prayer for myself and my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A month ago

It was about a month ago that I first had an inkling of what this bend in the road might include.  So far it's been a slow journey, and I'm feeling a bit like a frog that was thrown in hot water and has now acclimated to the new temperature.

It's kind of strange how you know something big is happening and yet everything seems much like it was.  So it has been a strange month and before too much time passed I wanted to share with you the devotion from New Morning Mercies by Paul Trip that I read a month ago just after the doctor's visit that suggested some of the physical experiences I might have on this journey.

February 1

Sure you'll face difficulty.  God is prying open your fingers so you let go of your dreams, rest in his comforts, and take up his call.

Think about the words penned by Peter near the beginning of his New Testament letter: "Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it it tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:6-7).

As he opens his letter, Peter gives us a past-present-future summary of God's redemptive plan, but his interest is really in what God is doing right here, right now between Christ's first and second comings.  Of all the words that he could use to describe what God is doing now, he selects these three:  grieved, trials, and tested.  These are three words that most of us hope would never describe our lives.  None of us gets up in the morning and prays, "Lord, if you love me, you will send more suffering my way today."  Rather, when we are living in the middle of difficulty, we are tempted to view it as a sign of God's unfaithfulness or inattention.

Peter, however, doesn't see moments of difficulty as objects in the way of God's plan or indication of the failure of God's plan.  No for him, they are an important part of God's plan.  Rather than being signs of his inattention, they are sure signs of the zeal of his redemptive love.  In grace, he leads you where you didn't plan to go in order to produce in you what you couldn't achieve on your own.   In these moments, he works to alter the values of your heart so that you let go of your little kingdom of one and give yourself to his kingdom of glory and grace.  (emphasis mine)

God is working right now, but not so much to give us predictable, comfortable, and pleasurable lives. He isn't so much working to transform our circumstances as he is working through hard circumstances to transform you and me.  Perhaps in hard moments, when we are tempted to wonder where God's grace is, it is grace that we are getting, but not grace in the form of a soft pillow or a cool drink.  Rather, in those moments, we are being blessed with the heart-transforming grace of difficulty because the God who loves us knows that is exactly what grace we need.  

For further study and encouragement:  James 1:2-11

I truly am amazed that at this time God would remind me that the true itinerary of this journey is not things like chemo and surgery, but rather His work to make me like His Son and bring himself praise and glory.  May His will be done and His kingdom come!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hold Me Fast

I must confess a fear of mine in all of this.  There are several fears, but this is the one I am choosing to share with you today.   I fear I will fail Him.  How might I fail Him you ask?  I fear that I will squander the opportunity to know Him and to make Him known to others in this time.  Questions heave in my heart like:  What makes you think you will really reach out to others and share Jesus' love with them?  This hasn't been your strong suite in the past, so what would change now?  You are okay at talking with believers and encouraging them to follow Jesus, but really, you think you are going to listen to people's stories and share the Good News of Jesus with them?  You really think you are going to know Him more through this and it's just going to shine everywhere and open up doors for Him to be made known?  Really?

But when the waves of these questions pound on my heart, I am reminded of HIS.   His is the reminder that it is His effort and His work- not mine.  I am reminded that He is the one who does the work, I simply respond to Him.  He is the one who loves me and fills me with love for Him and others.  He is the one who plants seeds, provides water, gives words, and opens doors.  He holds all of this and He holds me.  I can rest as His.

As I have been working with a friend to learn how to tell Ephesians as a story, (only on chapter 2, so not that impressive folks) I frequently rehearse these truths.  In the beginning of chapter 2 Paul reminds the believers of who they once were.  Like everyone else they followed Satan and by their very nature were under God's wrath.  Paul then writes glorious words, BUT God is so rich in mercy and He loved us so much that while we were still dead in our sins He gave us new life when He raised Christ from the dead.  We are saved by His grace.  He raised us to life with Christ and then because we are united with Christ, He seated us in the heavenly realms along with Him.  How incredible is all that?  This is the message I so want to share.  Our bodies are all dying.  Some have clearer evidences of that than others.  But God has already offered us new life.  I want to extend His invitation to receive that new life.  The cool thing in this passage is that God did all this not really because we are so great, but so that He can point throughout eternity to His incredible kindness that is shown so clearly in all that He has done for us.  It's really for HIS glory.  Paul then goes on to remind us that this awesome life is not a result of our work.  It's a gift.  So we can't take credit for it.  We don't get this incredible life because of good things we did.  We can't boast about it.  Instead He reminds us that God did the work- we are His workmanship.  His Masterpiece. We are created to do the good works that He planned for us long ago.

So, that brings me an incredible thought:  God created me for this time and place and bend in the journey.  I am HIS.  Cancer may not really be a problem.  It may not be fun, but it just may be part of the environment needed for me to be used as His to bring Him glory.  And what if I really rest as His and let Him do all the work of the sharing His invitation; just as He has done all the work when it comes to saving me-  even taking care of the parts that I fear I will fail at?

I leave you with this song.  There are so many songs accumulating on my play list these days.  I hope you will be reminded that you are HIS (for the Savior loves you so) and He holds you securely fast.   

Monday, February 20, 2017

God's Presence

In the last few weeks, God's gracious presence has been so certain.  His Words have whispered peace to my heart.  I am thankful, because it could be different.  He could be silent.  It wouldn't change who He is or His power in the situation, but it would make this thing feel so much more difficult.  The other day I wondered if there would be a time during this journey when His presence would not be so obvious.  With that thought came a reminder of a gift God provided earlier this summer.

This past summer before the start of girl's camp, I was reading in Exodus 33 and 34.  The story is that Israel has again sinned and God says He will take them to the Promised Land, but He will not travel with them.  The people mourn and repent and then Moses and God have an interesting exchange in Exodus 33:12 through chapter 34.  Moses says to God, "You have said I am special to you.  You say I know you by name.  You say you look favorably on me.  If this is the case, then let me understand you more fully and enjoy your favor.  Remember that this nation is your very own people."  

God responds, "Moses, I will personally go with you.  I will give you rest.  Everything will be fine for you."  (Those words could be a whole other post!)

But Moses isn't resting in that yet, he says, "If you don't personally go with us, then don't ask us to leave this place.  How will we be your people if you are not with us?"

God says, "I will do what you have asked, Moses.  I will go with you, for I do look favorably on you, and I know you by name."  (Interesting here it is God who knows us by name, and not that we know God by name!)

So Moses boldly asks, "God show me your glorious presence." 

Now I need to break the Biblical story here, to share that when I was reading this the morning during pre-camp, I was hungry to see God's glorious presence.  I made those words my own heart's cry.

In the Biblical narrative God tells Moses He will make His goodness pass before Moses and He will call out His name, Yahweh before Him.  He warns Moses that he can't look directly on His face, but invites him to stand near Him on a rock.  (That invitation gives me goosebumps!)  God tells Moses that His glorious presence will pass by and God will cover Him with his hand while He is passing by, but that He will remove His hand so that Moses can see Him from behind.

Sure enough, God does this after He gave Moses a second, unbroken copy of Ten Commandments.  The Lord comes down in a cloud, stands with Moses and calls out his own name.  He calls out, "Yahweh!  The Lord!  The God of compassion and mercy!  I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.  I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.  But I do not excuse the guilty.  I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;  the entire family is affected- even children in the third and fourth generation."  

And Moses response is to immediately fall on the ground and worship.  He asks God again to go with them, to forgive their sin, and to claim them as his own special possession.

It's a pretty intense passage that speaks so clearly of the awe of God's presence.  I love that God doesn't just show His back to Moses, but that He reveals His name and character when He passes by.  He is YAHWEH.  The LORD.  He is the God of compassion and mercy.  He is slow to anger.  He is filled with love and faithfulness.  He lavishes unfailing love.  He forgives.  He is just.  What a treasure to know God like this!

That day God had a surprise for me though.  See I asked Him to show me His glorious presence.  I wanted a little taste of what Moses experienced.  My quiet time ended and as I headed out for the day's activities I told God I would be looking to see Him.  Those of us at pre-camp later gathered with a local church to share in Sunday Morning Worship.  As the worship time began, the leader started to read a passage to us.  My eyes filled with tears as I heard the very same words I read that morning in Exodus.  I was undone.  It wasn't just a coincidence to me.  It was such a clear time of God speaking to my heart and letting me know that the God of the universe, the God of gods and Lord of Lords was very aware of me and was inviting me to know Him.  His presence was there with me.

So why do I share all of this?  Because maybe there will be a day when I will not be so sure of His presence, and I want to remember what is true.  Whether I feel His presence or not He is who He says He is.  Maybe you will have a day where you will question, "Where is God's presence?"  The truth we both need to remember is God is who He says He is. 
He is:
YAHWEH.  The LORD.  He is the God of compassion and mercy.  He is slow to anger.  He is filled with love and faithfulness.  He lavishes unfailing love.  He forgives.  He is just.  And if I can add this promise made later through His Son to those who believe in Him:

Friday, February 10, 2017


I love metaphors and symbols.  So when I view life, I often try to frame it through these elements.  I've been doing some thinking about anchors and those things that hold me in place when the world seems a bit turbulent.

I have no real knowledge of anchors, so maybe one day someone will teach me much more, but a quick bit of research tells me that anchors dig into the seabed and serve a safety role.  They keep boats out of the surf or off the rocks.  An anchor works because when the anchor digs into the seabed surface or snags on a protrusion, resistance is created because of suction.  The suction occurs because of the material on top of the anchor.  To set an anchor the boat must be put in reverse and strain must be put on the line.  You don't know if the anchor will hold unless you then pull it hard.

There are a lot of ways I could make a connection between the anchor and life.  But two thoughts rise to the surface.  The first is that the anchor is a means of digging into the seabed.  For me God's Word is a way of digging into His truth and the reality of who He is and what His purposes are.  God's Word is the means that I dig into God's heart and view on the world.

The other thing that caught me was how an anchor was set.  It was set when the boat actually reversed direction, and when strain was added to the line.  So when my life goes back and then there is strain, God's Word can grip hold into who He is.  That's good, because an anchor I wish to share with you, is one I have already written about on this blog.  Psalm 103 keeps coming back to me.  When I started thinking about what portions of God's Word would keep me grounded during this bend in the road, I kept returning to this chapter.

I include the text below, with my own wording of it in purple beneath the passage.  It has helped me to think about the message in my own words, to make it truly my prayer.

Psalm 103New Living Translation (NLT)

A psalm of David.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;                     
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.      
Let all that I am praise the Lord;           
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.         
He forgives all my sins                          
    and heals all my diseases.                                
He redeems me from death                  
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.    
He fills my life with good things.           
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!            
The Lord gives righteousness                 
    and justice to all who are treated unfairly.       
He revealed his character to Moses         
    and his deeds to the people of Israel.   
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,    
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,             
    nor remain angry forever.                  
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;   
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.    
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him        
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.  
12 He has removed our sins as far from us       
    as the east is from the west.                  
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,     
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  
14 For he knows how weak we are;                 
    he remembers we are only dust.                  
15 Our days on earth are like grass;                 
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.       
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—                
    as though we had never been here.              
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever                 
    with those who fear him.                                          
His salvation extends to the children’s children     
18     of those who are faithful to his covenant,            
    of those who obey his commandments!                
19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne;        
    from there he rules over everything.                
20 Praise the Lord, you angels,                               
    you mighty ones who carry out his plans,                   
    listening for each of his commands.               
21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels                 
    who serve him and do his will!
22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created,        
    everything in all his kingdom.                             
Let all that I am praise the Lord.                          

At all times, may I praise Him with everything that is in me.
May all that makes me who I am praise Him.  May I always remember the
good He has done!  He has cared for my soul's death and my sin sickness.
He buys me back from death and makes me royalty by his love and mercy.
He provides all that is good, making me soar in renewed strength.
He gives right standing and fair treatment to those who are treated unfairly.
He showed who He is to Moses and Israel saw him by his work.  His character and work testify that He is full of compassion and mercy.   He is patient and loves faithfully.  He  does not remain angry or hold things  against us.  He does not give us what we deserve for our sin.  Those who fear Him receive towering unfailing love.  Their sins are taken away as far as the east is from the west.  Those fear Him are treated with the tender love a father gives his kidsGod knows our frailty, our history of dust.  We are temporary:  Sprouting, growing, blooming, and dying.   Time passes and it's like we were never here.  For those who fear God,  His love remains forever.  The grandchildren of the faithful  and obedient benefit and are offered salvation.  God has his throne in the heavens.  From there he rules over everything. Mighty angels who do what He says,  Praise the Lord. Armies of angels who serve Him and obey, Praise the Lord. Everything that He has made in all His kingdom, Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord, with all that is me!

I hope by sharing this anchor of mine, something strikes deep in your own heart.  I also hope you will take a little time to think about what anchors your life when the big sea starts to rage.  For in this world, we are pretty much guaranteed at one time or another that a storm will threaten to come our way.