What to Do When Your World Stops

This Sunday I am at home, wishing I could be at church.  It’s been another challenging week, bringing more pieces of my health puzzle together (more on that later).  This morning my mom sent me a link to a very encouraging message, which led me to another.

If you, too, are home sick today … or you are presently facing some other trials, these brief messages (less than 10 minutes each) will help lift your heart and give you direction.  Please feel free to share your comments below, including prayer requests.

Pressure Points – In this message, Pastor Kramer gives uplifting truth and hope to remember when (not if) we face trails.

When Your World Stops – This message is about how to keep going when you feel like your world is ripped out from under you.

God’s Stop Signs – My Allergy Elimination Diet and a Journey to Better Health (body, mind, spirit)

How was your summer?  I hope it was a great one! 

Our summer schedule looked inviting … with just the right amount of busy. But as soon as it started, it was a struggle. By the beginning of June I felt like I. couldn’t. move.  I had been sick for a few weeks and couldn’t snap out of it.   I didn’t know what to do, so I contacted a doctor friend of mine to see what she would suggest.  She lives about 45 minutes away but she said she could help me (has gone through it herself and has helped many women like me). 

Beginning of Diagnosis

After lots of paperwork and a lengthy interview (it is a gift to have a doctor who really cares and listens!), she began treating me according to my symptoms and as the result of many tests which gave clues as to what was going on with me:

Insulin resistance (the step before pre-diabetes), leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, vitamin D and B deficiencies, possibly an auto immune disease (maybe Hashimoto’s or Pernicious Anemia), environmental and food sensitivities.

After pigging out on my last box of Cheez-Its, I immediately began an allergy elimination diet: no dairy, no grains, no fruit (except lime and lemon), no nuts, no vinegar (I was taking Braggs apple cider vinegar daily, but she thought it might cause candida issues), no nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peas, potatoes, peppers, beans (except green), pimentos, paprika – there is a good post to explain this here.), no sweetener (not even stevia).  Doc said that anything that tastes sweet affects insulin, so that includes most fruit and even stevia.

You might ask, “What’s left?!”  The good news is that I could have: grass fed/antibiotic free meat, fish, most veggies, and healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, pure coconut milk/cream, olive oil). 

After a month of eating just the list I mentioned, I was able to begin adding in one food at a time.  Dr. Laura wanted me to introduce a food, wait three days (because there can be a delayed reaction) and reintroduce the food and wait another three days.  Assuming everything goes well, that adds up to one new food each week.  Knowing this wouldn’t be a quick fix, I asked Doc, “So will I be feeling much better in a few months?”  To which she replied, “A year and a half.”  God help me!!

Symptoms

Some friends ask, “What were your symptoms?”  It’s easier to say, “You name it!” because there were so many.  But, I will take time to list many of them right here and now:
  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Foggy brain (can’t think straight and feel like there is something blocking my brain)
  • Itchy rash over most of my body
  • Insatiable cravings for sugar and carbs
  • Sudden and uncharacteristic outbursts of anger (especially after I ate sugar and gluten) – most of the time I would leave the room or suppress it, but sometimes I yelled at my kids
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Dimming eye sight
  • My whole body ached most of the time
  • Nausea
  • Throbbing eyes
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Trouble breathing deeply
  • Irregular cycles
  • Fingernails falling apart
  • Barely able to keep up with basic household duties
  • Insomnia
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Apathy
  • Arthritic pain in my hands
  • Numbness at times in my hands and feet
  • Sharp pains in my chest
  • Headaches
  • Inability to remember things
  • Crying and feelings of hopelessness
  • Stomach pain and trouble digesting food
  • Three miscarriages
  • Inability to be in crowds of people for very long
  • Thinning hair
  • Stuffy nose
  • Dizziness
  • Acne
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Etc.

Over the past few years I had gone to doctors and had only been diagnosed as gluten sensitive.  I knew there was more wrong with me, but nobody could figure it out.  Dr. Laura ordered an extensive blood test, urine test, and stool test (still need to do the saliva test).  The reason she thinks that I may have an auto-immune disease is because my symptoms are common to it and because many of my symptoms fell into opposing categories: for example, I had some strong hypo-thyroid symptoms, as well as definite hyper-thyroid symptoms.

My Menu

The first two months were so hard, as I detoxed from sugar and tried to adjust to eating differently.  To give you an idea of what I eat, here is a list of what a few days of meals looks like for me:

B: bacon, yellow squash

L: Lettuce, leftover chicken, olive oil

S: Coconut chicken: Chicken baked with a can of coconut cream, ginger, cumin, coriander, salt … on top of spaghetti squash

B: Bacon, cauliflower, olive oil

L: Purple cabbage, sausage (I take a lb. of ground pork and add a tsp. of each: nutmeg, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt
)
S: Hamburger wrapped in lettuce with tomato, bacon, sweet potato fries

B: Sausage, canned asparagus, olive oil

L: Kale, bacon

S: Homemade spaghetti sauce (once I could eat tomatoes) over spaghetti squash

B: Spinach/arugula mix, chicken, olive oil

L: Tilapia, salad steamed veggies, o.o.

S: Ham, canned green beans, o.o., basil, oregano

B: X

L: Salmon, yellow summer squash, o.o., coconut oil

S: Chicken, tarragon, brussel sprouts, olive oil

B: Chicken, zucchini, avocado, tarragon

L: Pork chop, lettuce salad, olive oil with lime, tarragon

S: Sausage, acorn squash, coconut oil

I try to cook the same for my family, simply adding a pot of rice, noodles, or biscuits for them to enjoy.

Reintroductions

I’ve been able to add back in: macadamia nuts, blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes.  Blessings!  I’ve had a bad reaction to eggs, almonds, and of course gluten.  I am VERY SAD about the eggs.  We get free-range organic eggs from an Amish farmer, and my body does not like them.  I’m still trying to accept this fact and be grateful for the foods I can eat.

Doc said it can take three months to get dairy out of your system, so on September 19th I will be able to try grass-fed butter.  PRAYING that it works for me.  If so, I will get to try goat cheese and then yogurt.  It would be lovely to be able to enjoy these foods, if God says it’s okay.

Blessings and Road Blocks

God helped me take the boys to VBS in July.  That was a huge praise!  Forty-five minutes drive twice a day – God helped me do it, plus play the piano three times each day.  But, while Tim and the boys were camping for a few days, I got violently ill and had to be taken to the ER by my neighbor.  We still don’t know what caused that problem.

And since then we’ve figured out that something in our church building might be making me sick.  One Sunday night on our way home, after spending most of the time in the church basement, I felt like I couldn’t move, couldn’t stop crying, and could barely talk.  Tim had to help me into the house to my bed.  If I spend much time in the basement it seems worse.  So, for right now I am staying upstairs in the church building. Sigh. 

God wants me to slow down and change some things.  We weren’t able to go to family camp, and for that matter we can’t go very far from home at all right now.  I don’t know what He’s doing, but I can trust that it is good.

While I have seen relief from many of my symptoms, at times I feel very depressed.  I don’t have as much energy as I hoped I would have at this point.  There are good days and bad days.  I’ve definitely spent more time studying and listening to God’s Word.  I’ve asked God to help me, and He has sent people to encourage, show they care, and pray with me and for me.  It means SO MUCH to have a friend call just to see how I’m doing. 

He has also helped me locate a Christ-centered program to help me deal with my mind: 21 Day Brain Detox. I so appreciate Dr. Leaf.  She has the science combined with God’s word to explain how to Romans 12:1-2 – renew your mind.

What I’ve Been Learning

1.  Food was my idol. I’m still trying to fill in the gap that has been left by withdrawing my time, energy, and excitement (and pleasure of tasting and eating) trying new recipes and cooking fancy delicacies for my family.  I’ve been spoiled, and it is extremely sad when I cannot go out to eat or even to an ice cream stand.  God has taken this out of my priority list so that He is nearer the top!  Food is very much tied to socializing in our culture.  I already knew this, but it stands out even more now. It is challenging to meet with people and always having to bring my own food.  There are only two restaurants that are safe for me to go to (with no risk of cross contamination). 

2.  There is so much about the body we don’t understand.  I also knew this, but since nutrition and health have been my hobby for a few years, I had read tons of books on the subject.  And through this process I’ve been learning so much and know I have only scratched the surface learning about God’s incredible creation.  How could anyone believe all this evolved?!

3.  Don’t fight what God is doing.  A couple nights ago I was in such turmoil during the night (typical, but it had been escalating).  God lovingly showed me that I was angry with Him about my health, about my food limitations, and a few other things.  It is, of course, sin, to accuse Him of doing to me what living in this world cursed by sin has done to my body and mind.  Once I confessed my anger and He forgave me, I felt relief and relaxation drench my soul.  God has allowed this for a reason – a very good reason.  He knows that I need this experience to grow.  I am so thankful I can trust Him to go through this with me.

4.  My body likes eating this way Once a month had passed and my metabolism switched to fat burning instead of carb burning, my weight began to drop.  In about nine weeks I had lost 17 lbs.  It feels so good to be where I’ve wanted to be weight-wise for years!  Doc said this is not uncommon once you figure out a person’s food sensitivities and heal their gut.  I’m hardly ever hungry (don’t have that “gotta eat something”  hanging over me all day long).  I no longer feel like I need to sleep after each meal (not that I did sleep after every meal, but I felt like it).  It is wonderful to be able to let go of the extra weight in my life (not just physical, but mental, emotional, social and spiritual!) and to have a more focused view on God and what is most important in life.

5. There are many worse things in the world, but this is hard.  Sometimes I feel like I am in a prison.  I can’t take a break.  I cannot have a once a day treat, or a once a week treat, or even a once a month treat!!!  The first month I felt like I could kill for a piece of chocolate cake.  Thankfully no one was maimed.  And God has been graciously adjusting my taste buds, so I rarely weep over where I find myself.  Also, I have to remember, this will get better.  But, I must get used to a new normal.  I will never go back to how I was eating before.  At least once a week I think ahead to the marriage feast of the Lamb – and I am going to savor every bite (when I get there, no doubt the importance of food will fade even more in His presence)!

6.  Love.  Tim and the boys know that I love them when I make food for them that I used to enjoy.  They have shown such love and compassion!  Sometimes they hug me when I can’t hold back the tears, like last night when they had buttered popcorn and frozen yogurt.  They hugged me and told me how much they love me.  And when we sat down to watch Facing the Giants I knew I was loved while I munched on my sweet potato and bacon (which, by the way, was very satisfying).

7.  It helps to laugh The other night I was in Barnes and Noble, pouring over the healthy cookbooks.  I felt like crying because there were still so many things in THOSE that I can’t eat.  A man sitting nearby was groaning audibly as he looked in several diabetes cookbooks.  At one point he cried out in despair, “Bean patte?!?”  When I came home and told Tim about it, he understandingly replied, “And you felt like saying to him, ‘I would love to have bean patte!’”  Sometimes when I feel so discouraged, it is as though Jesus puts His arms around me and gently reminds me, “Sara, I never got to eat pizza, ice cream, or chocolate either.”  And we laugh together – awww, He is such a comfort!

What Now?

For those of you who are going through much harder things, I am so sorry for what you are going through.  I do know that God has a plan for your life as well as mine, and we can trust Him!  Wouldn’t it be delightful to be able to get a diagnosis, pop a pill, and be all well?  Or maybe for you … to find a husband, to have a child, to see wayward family members come to Christ, to get relief from your grief, to get money to pay those bills, and be all better?  God is constantly using the struggles of life for one purpose: to draw us to Himself.  And when He has our attention we can either fight back and reject the priceless lessons He is trying to teach us, or accept and draw near to Him.

Today is the first time I’ve felt like writing in months – so, maybe this is a sign I am healing?  I hope that what I am writing makes sense.  I write to answer the many questions my small circle of family and friends have asked me, and in case my scribblings about all this may help someone in similar circumstances.

Please contact me if you would like information about resources.  I’d recommend you begin with the book Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg.  This book is informative and well documented.

I would love to hear from YOU.  And until next time … will you please enjoy a bowl of ice cream for me (better yet, pray for me)?

Joyfully His,
Sara

“My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26

In Her Shoes – Women and Cancer

 

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me,
I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 NKJV

 

This month we are blessed to hear from three women who have walked with God through the valley of the shadow of cancer.  Each testimony will bless your heart and remind you of God’s ever faithful love.  Below is a list of resources.  If you would like to share about your cancer journey or the journey of someone you love, we would treasure hearing from you at the end of this article. 

Our first testimony is from my sweet sister in Christ, Sarah from Iowa, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the very real possibility of cancer.  She delights in sharing about God’s faithfulness through her time of trial.  Thank you, Sarah!

God Is My Refuge 

 

Somewhere around the middle of 2012 was when I first began to realize that something might be wrong.  There were no major symptoms, but just a series of incidents that were significant enough to begin to cause some concern, such as some memory loss, a couple of severe headaches, and a dizzy spell or two that all seemed unusual.

 

From the very beginning, God’s hand was amazingly evident in every detail!  First of all, our family has a friend who is a neurologist, and she was the one who, after hearing about the incidents I had, was able to get me a referral to see a doctor in early October.  He did an EEG and an MRI, which revealed a small mass in my right temporal lobe that was causing some minor seizure-like activity in my brain.  He was of the opinion that it needed to be removed, even though it appeared benign, and he referred me to a doctor at the University of Iowa Hospital, because of the world-class excellence of the neurosurgery department there.  I first saw him on October 22, and he was able to get me scheduled me for surgery on November 14.

God graciously allowed me to continue teaching right up until the day before my surgery and make preparations for my aid, who took over the classroom in my absence.  This dear woman was another clear evidence of God’s sovereign provision, since she had been a part of our classroom since the beginning of the year and works wonderfully well with the kids!

The surgery lasted 7 hours and went very well, however they had to leave a small part of the tumor, because it was located so near to the brain stem.  We had been told that very likely I would have to do further treatment at some point or possibly have another surgery in the future.  I was released from the hospital 4 days after surgery and permitted to go to stay with my parents during the recovery time.  God’s timing was so perfect, as the time recommended for recovery took me right up to Christmas break, and it was such a blessing to be able to be with my family during that time!

When the pathology report came back, I was told that it was the best possible news I could have received!  Not only was the tumor benign, but amazingly they do not believe that I will ever have to worry about it again, even though they couldn’t remove it entirely!  I was totally overwhelmed by God’s goodness and mercy in giving me such complete healing!  The prayers of so many people on my behalf during this time were truly humbling and encouraging, and it was wonderful to be able to share this news, for when many people pray, many thanks can be rendered to God for His answer!

As I daily recovered my strength, it was great to be able to resume more and more normal activities, and when school started back up in January, I was able to go back to teaching.  It really only took about a week before I really felt like I was back into the swing of things, and in fact, in many ways I felt even better than I had before the surgery!

God has continued to give me many opportunities to share what He did through all of this, and to Him be all the glory for everything, for He is truly sovereign in every detail of life and wonderfully good in everything that He allows!  I would not trade this experience, because I learned so much through it – especially about what the Body of Christ looks like when it is truly functioning as God intends it to, the nearness of God that we can most fully experience when we are hurting the most or feeling the most needy, and His absolute sovereignty in every detail of our lives!  I praise Him for entrusting me with this small trial, so that I can be better able to be an encouragement to others with the same comfort that God gave to me during this time!

One of the verses that became especially precious to me through all this is Psalm 59:16 –

“I will sing of Your strength and will
joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning.  For You have been a
stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.”  CSB

Truly, God is my strength, my joy, and my refuge, and life’s trials only serve to make that truth more real and more precious than ever!

 This next testimony is from the heart of a beautiful friend named Kay who lives in Alabama.  I learned so much and was extremely encouraged by what she shared, and I know you will be, too.  Thank you, Kay!

 

My Cancer Journey . . .

– When your Mom gets breast cancer and you’re in elementary school, and when she passes away from it when you’re 12, you always have in the back of your mind that you’re going to get breast cancer, too.

– So when you find your first lump at 16, have it removed and it comes back benign, you’re relieved.

– And when you start having mammograms at 30, and they routinely show lumps that are non-cancerous you are relieved.

– And when you have a lump that doesn’t change, but doesn’t go away, you don’t really worry, but you get it checked out.  But, when the hospital Breast Cancer Center calls you back, and you walk in and see the doctor and the head of the BC Support Group, and before they even open their mouths, you know “this is the moment you’ve been dreading for 36 years!,” you’re still shocked, surprised, and numb.

At that point I was thankful for 3 specific things in my life: an amazing husband, a wonderful care team, and God’s immeasurable grace.
The medical care team told me they believed we had caught it early, but that we would need to do some more testing.  At that point things flew very quickly.  I was glad I’d thought through what I’d do, because you have to make life-altering, and body-altering decisions rather rapidly.

I chose a completely traditional medicine approach at that time.  If I had it to do again, I would probably do it differently – but I trust that God had me where he wanted me when He wanted me, so I choose to have no regrets. The doctors thought lumpectomy might be enough. With my history (which also included positive aunts on my father’s side), I chose double mastectomy.

Following surgery, the doctors told me they were glad for my decision; they found tumors in both breasts that had not appeared in any diagnostic procedure. Mastectomy was the only logical choice, and it had been the choice God had led me to make.

I cannot describe God’s overwhelming presence throughout the entire journey. Frankly, sometimes I almost miss cancer because I miss that extra grace that God gives in trials like that.  And, when you know your life is in God’s hands, you can trust that He is in control and going to do with it was it best for you and best for bringing glory to His name. Period.

I had many extra opportunities to talk with others about the Lord during this time. Many could not understand peace in the midst of my storm. On the other side, many were a great encouragement to me during this time.  I started a Facebook Page (link here) just to keep everyone updated. It was a HUGE comfort to ask for prayer and KNOW that friends were truly praying for me.  It was also very cathartic to be able to write out what I was going through each step of the way.  I’m also encouraged to go back and read through God’s provision and presence at every single step.

What did people say “right?”  “I’m praying for you” and “I love you” were always the best!  I loved the specific people – “we pray for you every day at breakfast!” or “the kids and I pray for you each night at bedtime.”  It reminded me that, if I was feeling bad at 8:00, the family that put their kids to bed at 8:00 was praying for me! Also the tangible “what can I do?” was wonderful.  It was offered often, but the ones who really waited and listened for me to answer were special. Also those who gave me permission to have bad days and a shoulder to cry on, even if words were never spoken were a blessing.

What did people say “wrong?” “OH, that’s terrible! My Grandma died from that!” or “Have fun in the bedroom now, you won’t be attractive to your hubby after they cut your breasts off!”  “Oh, you must be so terrified for your daughters!” (That one WAS one of my greatest fears, and I had to address it with the Lord. But someone reminding me really didn’t help anything!) Yeah, those three were pretty bad! Most of the time, people were great! Sometimes people put their foot in their mouth – but we usually just laughed together after that. I appreciated the effort and the selflessness of trying to say something sweet, even if it came out wrong.

If you found out you had cancer today, I’d encourage you to pause. And then pray. I was grateful for quick care. But, frankly, there really was no rush. We’d been watching things for over 6 months; we could have waited 6 more months and little would have changed.  Pray and ask God to guide you (and spouse, if you are fortunate enough to have one involved). Then seek the counsel of those who have walked the path already. I learned more from other “survivors” than I did from Google, WebMD, medical journals, and the American Cancer Society together! Then pray some more and ask God to direct your specific path. Talk with your pastor and pastor’s wife.  They probably have a great deal more experience with “big things” than you do – even if it’s not cancer. Then walk your path with peace and confidence.

Our purpose on this planet is to glorify God. Psalm 86:12 tells us:

“I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.” KJV

I also found comfort in Philippians 1:20:

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” KJV

 

Frankly, if God wanted me to die from cancer, everything would be better because of it. He had a plan, and I was blessed to be a part of that plan.

 

I’m thankful I’m still here. But I remind myself, am I glorifying God today as much as I was when I was walking the path of breast cancer?  Cancer, in its own way, was something God allowed in my life that drew me closer to Him – and for that I am thankful.

 

This last testimony is from the mom of a dear college friend.  Thank you, Donna in California!  You are a blessing.

 

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME

It was about the beginning of December that I noticed something wasn’t quite right.  I made an appointment, and a verse started going through my mind – we had the sentence of death in ourselves.   The nurse practitioner found a large mass and seemed alarmed.  She told me to schedule a mammogram and ultrasound.  Thenext day the verse went through my mind again and I was by myself: “Lord, are you trying to telling me I am going to die?”

I stopped what I was doing and looked up the verse: II Corinthians 1:8-11:

“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble
which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength,
insomuch that we despaired even of life (sounds like cancer surgery, chemotherapy, being sick as a dog, and finding out you
have Stage IV cancer
):  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but
in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth
deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us: Ye also helping together
by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many
persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” KJV

 

I want to just make a plea here for you to familiarize yourself with God’s word.  It is so easy to do that in this day and age, with all the technology available to us.  You can listen to scripture on your iPod or iPad, download it, put it on CD’s, hear it in your car or when you are getting ready in the morning, you can get preaching from Sunday (online) – there are so many ways to get the Bible in to renew your mind – what a harvest of blessings that will bring to you!

You know, God really is good all the time.  He knows I am prone to worry.  He knew I might just fall apart if I got news of cancer.  So, He gave me these verses ahead of time, so I wouldn’t go off the deep end and despair.  I haven’t been upset about having cancer.  Other people are more upset than I am.  God was good to prepare me.

I had the mammogram and ultrasound, and the doctor said he saw something and scheduled a biopsy.  Three days before my biopsy, I was asked to play the offertory for Sunday. I chose Be Still My Soul. The phrase kept jumping out at me – in every change, He faithful will remain. God will be faithful to me in every change.

On January 22nd

I found out it was breast cancer and the doctor who gave me the news was so sweet.  I really was doing fine until she started being sympathetic and told me to put my trust in God.  That made me cry, and she cried with me. My Bible reading for that day was Exodus 14-16: 14:13 says, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today.” God told me in His word that morning, before I went to the appointment,
not to be afraid.

The oncologist said, “This is a sneaky kind of cancer.”  It’s not a lump – I never felt a lump – it’s a thickening, so it’s harder to detect.  And it’s lobular, so it doesn’t show up on a mammogram until it is very large.  She told us what our options were and one of them was the mastectomy and reconstruction.

Obviously, what I think is best for me would be no cancer.  But God had something else in mind.  If you had asked me 5 months ago if I thought it would be good for me to have cancer I would have said, “Of course not!”  But if it is true that God only does what is best for me, then it is good for me to have cancer.

We’ve been praying for some loved ones, to be saved, for some time now – and we don’t really know if they are unsaved or just away from the Lord.  One of them responded positively to an email update.  If I had to get cancer in order for him to get right with the Lord, it’s totally worth it. If I have to endure some light affliction in order for his immortal soul to be in heaven one day – that’s such a small price to pay.  I’ve always wished I could be able to reach some of my coworkers for the Lord, and this cancer has really opened doors for me. I want them to see that God is good, all the time … even when you get cancer.

My pastor came over that day and prayed with us and said he agrees with me about my verses and feels the Lord is going to use this cancer for ministry to others.  He gave me Philippians 1:29:

 For unto you it is given (it’s a gift) in the behalf of
Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”  KJV

 

Suffering is a gift from God.  He said there are 3 reasons people suffer – for stupidity, for sin, and for service.  And part of the reason may be stupidity – I hadn’t had a mammogram for 8 years, so we might have caught it sooner, but maybe not since it’s so hard to detect.  My doctor did say I have had this cancer for years.  (I just want to put in a little plug here.  If you do need to get a mammogram, you are better off to get the thermal kind, so you are not getting all that radiation.)

He said God is not doing this to me, He is doing this for me.  Then he gave us Psalm 71:18. I love this one:

“Now also when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not;
until I have showed thy strength unto this generation and thy power to every
one that is to come.” KJV

God will use this to show His power to my children and my grandchildren.  I was actually kind of excited about having cancer.  I do want my children and grandchildren to love God and cling closely to Him all their days.

I thought I was handling everything pretty well, but even if our minds are doing well, our bodies can be reacting to the stress. That night I had flashing lights on the side of my vision that last for several minutes.  Before my appointment (to check my eyes), I went to a nutrition class for cancer patients, and saw a man with a scar from one ear to the other, over the top of his head, and his hair was just starting to grow back.  I thought, Oh my word, he must have brain cancer!

After class I told my nurse about the flashing lights and I said, “You don’t think that could have anything to do with my breast cancer, do you?”  She said, “Well, breast cancer goes to the brain, so your doctor will probably order a brain scan, in fact she’ll probably order a full body scan, just to make sure.”

I went to the car and cried.  I don’t mind having breast cancer, but I don’t want to have brain cancer. I found out it was an eye migraine caused by stress.  The Lord has given me grace for breast cancer because I have breast cancer … and that’s why I’m okay with it.  But He has not given me grace for brain cancer, because I don’t have brain cancer.

Some of you may think, “I could never handle what she’s going through!”  Yes, you could.  If God gives that to you, He will also give you the grace to bear it.  Grace is spiritual strength.  It is that ability to be obedient to our Savior, even under pressure.  It’s what keeps us from falling under the load.  You will have the spiritual strength to endure whatever the Lord brings into your life because He’s a good God.

The end of that week I had a biopsy of the lymph node that was positive for cancer, and later had a bone scan that showed cancer all down my spine and in my pelvis.  So, I am Stage IV.  Once breast cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body, there is no cure. They still felt I needed surgery, so I went ahead and had a 9 hour surgery at UCLA that included the mastectomy, removal of 60 lymph nodes (59 of which were cancerous) and the reconstruction.  Just before surgery I was tempted to be frightened.  But, I had taken a verse with me to the hospital (Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts … and be ye thankful”). That verse calmed me right down, and I started thinking of all my blessings. I remembered all the cards, emails, kind words and prayers going up for me.  There are some perks to having cancer – you find out how much everyone loves you.  I was thankful for my husband and all my wonderful family.  I felt very loved and cared for.

Right now I am doing very well.  I don’t have any symptoms, I don’t have any pain.  The Lord has been so good to me.  I haven’t had to endure what most cancer patients go through.  I didn’t have to have chemotherapy and be sick or lose my hair.  My treatment is a pill I take every day and then I get a shot once a month.  I have a couple more out-patient surgeries for reconstruction. I do have Stage IV cancer, but my doctor said I could live for years on this treatment.

I hope all this has helped you realize how good God is and that you can trust Him with anything, even that hard thing that makes you tremble.

 

Resources

 Articles:

Books:

 

 

His List Is Longer Than Mine

To be completely honest, I wish I were on a beach without a care in the world this morning.  Instead I have a list longer than an elephant’s trunk of things I need to do. 

Thankfully, I have something far better than a day (or week, or month!) at the beach.  And it is not dependent on location, weather, or my state of mind:  God never changes … aren’t you thankful?  So much in life is unpredictable.  Yet, God remains completely trustworthy!  As I stare at what needs to be done, and want to shrink back in my weakness and lack of “want to,” I am hopeful and revived, because God never changes!

The fact that God never changes means:

1.  I am always loved.

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’Jeremiah 31:3

2.  I am never alone.  He is always with me, as He promised.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper;I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

3.  He is always holy – He never sins, never messes up.

“For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble,and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'” Isaiah 57:15

4.  He always makes His innumerable resources available
     to me – His kingdom never shuts down!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3


5.  His mercy is unwavering, His grace immoveable.

“For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5


6.  His forgiveness is always available for this saved sinner.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

7.  I never stop being His child.

having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:5-6
 
Can you think of anything else to add?  I’m sure there is no end to the list (it’s much longer than our to-do lists!!!), but these are what stood out to me this morning.  Have a blessed day, basking in God’s faithfulness!

The Great I AM Still Is

I’m confused . . .
 
I AM intimately involved.  Listen to Me and believe.  I AM in charge of the knowns and unknowns.

I feel alone . . .

I AM always right beside you.  You are exactly where you need to be. Talk to Me.  I AM listening.

I’m hurting . . .

I AM your true Friend.  Deflect your pain to Me.  I AM working on every detail right now.

My life is cluttered . . .

I AM holy, organized, beautiful.  Look at Me.  Dwell in Me.  I AM your eternal peaceful retreat.

I’m needy . . .

I AM able.  I know your need and I AM always right on time.  If I AM not meeting it, it is not a true need at the moment (or I AM working a bigger plan.)

My heart is aching . . .
    
I AM the Healer of broken hearts and the Calmer of storms.  Rest in Me.  I want to hold you.

I’m afraid . . .
    
I AM peace.  Reject the lie that anything is bigger than Me. You are safe with Me.

I don’t like the way things are . . .

I AM Your everything.  Gaze past the temporal to the eternal.  Embrace Me.  I never disappoint.

I’m battle weary . . .

I AM your Protector, My darling.  Relax. Rest in Me.   Let Me put My armor on you.  Stay close.  I have already won the war.

I’m stained . . .

I AM your Redeemer.  The price is paid.  Forgiven.  You are clean in My eyes.  Press on.

I’m crying . . .

I AM crying with you.  I understand earth pain.  What you are going through will not be wasted. Very soon – no more tears, forever.

I’m tempted . . .

I AM the best.  If only you knew how much I love you, you would never interrupt our blissful moments with a useless and dangerous idol.

I’m discouraged . . .

I AM real and I AM strong.  Discouragement is one of Satan’s favorite tools.  I AM closer to you than breathing.  Take My hand and we’ll go through it together.

 Our story has a happy ending. I promise.         

. . . . . . .

“And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’'” Exodus 3:14

“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.'” John 8:58

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah 41:10



What are your favorite Scripture passages that speak these truths of God?  Please share!




Autumn Reflections

Last Sunday afternoon we drove to a nearby park to take in the autumn splendor. One son was at a birthday party, so we took the opportunity to enjoy an adventure with our four-year-old. In the middle of the park is a twenty-seven acre lake. It beckoned and we followed.

This lake is unique because of the seven bridges, some over 100 years old, which were transplanted from various locations around our state. 

One bridge stood out to me. I was surprised to discover that the bridge’s original purpose was to be the support structure for the top of a building.   Because it didn’t meet specifications, the builders threw it away. Later on it was discovered by someone with a vision for what it could be. If this bridge had a brain, it never would have imagined ending up here. God knew that this bridge wasn’t a mistake! He allowed a man to find and place it in this majestic setting.

As we approached the bridge and followed it from beginning to end, we were impressed by it’s rustic beauty. We were very grateful for the bridge’s help as it made it possible for us to walk all the way around the lake. Yet, the focus of our attention and praise was not the bridge. We were captivated by the incredible beauty of God’s creation all around us.

The bridge originally destined for the top of a building

These bridges remind me of how God works in my life.   My dreams sometimes clash with reality. God created me for different roles in life, and sometimes He uproots me to a different location. I cry, “But, I thought you wanted me to be here, to do this!”   He lovingly carries me, reassembling me in my new place of service. And miraculously, to me, I fit into His plan.

And my imperfect past was not a mistake.  God used people, places, and Himself to make me who He wants me to be.  He can use me wherever He places me.  And I will not be here alone – He promises to stay with me all the time.  Like the bridge, my purpose is not to captivate people, bringing attention to myself.  I am part of what helps make it possible for people to see God.
This autumn has been one of the prettiest in recent years. The colors feed my spirit. The crisp breeze, warmed by the Indian Summer sun, nourishes my soul. In the midst of this beauty my weary heart cannot help but smile. At times I feel insecure during life’s constant state of transition.  This is what keeps me depending on God instead of myself.  As I take my hurts and disappointments to my Savior, He promises to comfort and bless.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Are you grieving a life that is different than what you had hoped it would be? Are you confused about what God is doing in your family, schedule, body, job, church, etc.?  Grieving is not wrong. It is part of the way God made us. But, our grieving must not keep us from moving ahead with God. He hears the cries of our hearts, He understands, and He is working what is best. He can be trusted.
As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” Psalm 18:30
Father God, please help us to be thankful for where You have placed us, and may our lives help others see You in all Your splendor.

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

The Appointment

Yesterday my husband met with his boss for a yearly review. There was no doubt in my mind that he would be given an excellent assessment, but I still prayed for him and was anxious to find out how it went.  His appointment got me thinking, when have I gone to God, my “Boss,” for a review?  So, I wrote the mysterious sounding appointment on my calendar for yesterday afternoon and wondered what it would be like.

It’s not that I never meet with God.  Most mornings my first conscious thought is, “Thank You, Lord, for today” or “Help!” or, preferably, both.  And every day I spend at least a little time in His Word and in prayer.  My ideal is to have three hours, surrounded by stacks of Bibles, concordances, biblically based commentaries and my laptop (with someone else preparing lunch so I’m not distracted, of course), which is about as common as a polite hippopotamus.  Reality is somewhere in the middle.  Not that it replaces much needed quality Bible study, but the older I get, the more secure I am in the reality of our relationship, God and me, talking with Him whenever, wherever I am.  (I’m love studying and praying … my weaknesses are being still and listening.)

So, there it was, my shining moment, my official meeting with God to find out how well I’m doing on my mission for Him!  If my meeting had been in a professional office, I’d have meticulously dressed and groomed myself, preparing the exact words I was going to say and perhaps practicing my smile in the mirror (at least I’ve heard of people who do that).  I would have been early, with no hint of scrambled eggs on my breath. But, no…

Hello, Reality

Even though God didn’t care that I had not curled my hair and was wearing crop pants, a t-shirt and sneakers, I failed.  It was a Midwestern mess of my own making:  while working on “important” things time got away from me, and my three-year-old doesn’t sleep as long as he used to … and zlip … there my afternoon went. I felt miserable.
God used my irresponsibility to show me a glimpse of how I’m doing.  To add to the pile, It hit me afresh that I am not graded or judged by God in comparison with:

The women in my church
My neighbors
My mother/mother-in-law
My mentors
Other mothers
The Proverbs 31 woman
My pastor’s wife
Elisabeth Elliot, Ruth Bell Graham, or Beth Moore
My sisters The girl I used to be

No. It’s way bigger than that!  My Creator God is my example, His holiness my grading scale.  Gulp. What a relief that God has provided a way to forgive my sins and restore our relationship … it was paid for by Jesus on the cross, my only way of salvation.  There’s nothing I can do to earn His favor.  I am a recipient of His priceless love gift.

And thankfully, God understands my struggle with sin, not expecting absolute perfection right now.  Not to say He doesn’t want obedience – there’s a difference.  God wants me to obey Him and depend on Him every hour of every day.  But, there is a process … and, being the wonderful awesome God that He is, He takes full responsibility for the sanctifying of my life.

However, anyone who doesn’t have tunnel vision realizes she is not “off the hook” of responsibility:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8

 Why did He do that?  And what does He ask from me when I can’t begin to resemble Him?

“That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”  Philippians 1:6

 

God Understands

How I spend my time matters to God.  Isn’t it encouraging that He knows what life is like, because He came to earth as a man?!  God knows our hearts, our schedules, the demands on our time, the interruptions, that our five-year-olds were being grumpy and disobedient, our teenagers missed the bus, the toilet overflowed, the electricity went out, and that we’ve had insatiable cravings for chocolate since before breakfast.  Is He angry with us?  No. He loves us more than we could ever imagine, still!

When we need mercy, He shows mercy:

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.  He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities (sins).  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those that fear Him.” Psalm 103:8, 10-11

When we need forgiveness, He offers free and full forgiveness:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:13

 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrightousness.”  I John 1:9

When we are pitiful, He pities us:

“As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear Him.”  Psalm 103:13

Today I am looking forward to my appointment with God for my mission review.  I’m preparing to meet Him this afternoon while my boys are resting.  And if things spin wildly out of my control, it’s going to be okay.  With my whole heart I thank God for His love and patience.  He’s the best Boss I could ever have.