Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I am the clay

A potter works diligently on a particularly stubborn lump of clay. He kneads, tosses, and thumps it into submission. With a determined look in his eyes and the rest of the world blurry beyond the clay, he works until his forearms burn. He has a picture in his mind. A picture not of the formless mass in his hands but of a beautiful vase. A vase that will hold the tulips of her beloved or the wilted dandelions of her young son. So he works. As the clay begins to submit to his authority, it begins to slowly take shape. It's not quite beautiful yet but he can see its innermost potential. Once it is on the wheel, water is added, along with patience and determination. Several times it forms an unknown shape, closer to a bowl or something else outside of the potter's vision. With patience and determination, he perseveres until the shape in front of him matches the vision of his imagination. He sets it to dry, waiting for its turn in the kiln. Once fired, he is so very pleased. He imagines a young family buying it from his humble shop, excited about a purchase for their home.

God formed us in the same way-with love, patience, and a vision of who He wants us to be. This happened before we were even born and it continues every day as we grow in Him if we are willing to be flexible enough to let the potter work in us and through us. But what happens if we allow others to change our identity outside of Christ? Through expectations, criticism, and insecurities, we can lose part of our identity in our maker, our potter. If someone came into that pottery shop and said that the vase was ugly and had no use, does that change the potter's view of his creation? Certainly not. The opinions of others have no bearing on our true identity in our Father.

It is so very important that when I am tempted to focus on myself that I look to my potter instead. The One who sees my beauty and righteousness. The One who sees me as "wonderfully made". The One who sees my potential instead of my filth. The One who looks at me and sees the very vision in His mind that he used as a blueprint when He created me.

May our identities always be in who you say we are, Lord. Help us to honor our creator by being willing to be formed into what you desire for us. Thank you for loving us even we feel unlovable and unusable.

Oh  Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ponytails and returning to rest

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, even when I said, "I am severely afflicted." Psalm 116:7-8

I've been "sitting" on this verse for several days now. Working it out, praying it out. I felt like God was telling me to wait. I even sat down and typed the verse 2 days ago and stopped. And then tonight I had a "yippee!" moment. My hair, after losing it almost 2 years ago to chemo, is finally long enough to be in a (very) little pony tail right now as I type this. So not a big deal to many but a really big deal to me. It's not about the hair. Ok, so maybe it's a little about the hair. But it's more the evidence of my healing, both emotional and physical, over this past year. It has been frustrating at times, feeling like I should be completely over everything but still having moments when I haven't quite felt 100% like my normal self. But every day I get a little closer. And then just like that, I have a ponytail! :)

So, this verse really sums up where I am right now. I feel like my soul is returning to rest after a long and tumultuous season of loss. My Lord chose to heal me and for that I am more thankful than I have the words to express.

My husband and I can talk about the future without fear. My children laugh until their stomachs hurt.  We are walking in the land of the living. And even though I always believed, even in my darkest of days, now I can return to rest.

I hope and pray that you can return to rest as well, my friends. You may not be in a season of rest right now. But hold on, dear one. Your season of rest is coming. Just keep believing in the God that rescues you and upholds you with His right hand.

Much love and blessings.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I am not a survivor

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:10 (The Message)

     Over the past year or so, I have tried to pinpoint why I have a difficult time identifying with the title of "survivor". Many who have had a cancer diagnosis like mine rightfully wear this title as a badge of honor or a crown. I haven't quite gotten there. I am not ashamed of what I've been through, as mine is a story of healing and redemption, but I don't feel like a survivor. 
   
      I think I actually feel like a "thriver". God brought me through so much to not just crawl out of the pit but to also have "more and a better life than (I) ever dreamed of". Granted, many days have been about survival but I want people to look at my life and understand that God has not just kept me from death, but that I am joyful about life and that I am truly thriving. I feel happy.
     
     Perhaps my season of singing has started. My season of blooming. I don't know what God will choose to bring me to in the coming days but I know that my past has made me strong in Him, willing to surrender to his authority.
    
     I can see with clarity that there is purpose in the pain. Would I choose to walk through it all again? Ooh. That's a hard one. it was such a painful season but as I look at where he is bringing my family, it makes me pause and think. I don't think I can say truthfully that I would willingly choose the pain but I definitely accept my path. I accept it so that I can give credit to the One who redeems, who knows me and calls me by my name. Who loves me.

     I am not a survivor. I am a thriver. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I love Him more today

I recently read the following tweet from Beth Moore: We think we'd love God more if we had pain-dodging, success-driven, trouble-detouring lives but it's not true. It's faith that fans fervor.

     I've taken a few days and thought this over. I've thought about all that my family has lost over the past year and a half. I pondered the fears we've experienced, many of which became a reality that we had to walk through. I thought about the feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that we have felt so deeply. The conclusion that I came to? I love God now more than I did 2 years ago. I have a hard time writing that because the "good Christian" in me wants to say that I always loved God at equally measurable levels. But that wouldn't be telling the truth. Yes, I've loved God ever since I gave him my life as a little girl with pigtails (yes, I was pretty cute). And I have had some pain in my adult life, mostly in regards to relational divisions that have occurred in my family, but I haven't led a troubled, painful life.  Until last year.
     I took some time recently and read over things that I wrote and that were written to me when I was diagnosed. I read the scriptures that were sent to me and that I clung to. I read the prayers that I fervently wrote. I examined the relationships that blossomed in what was the darkest time of my life. Instead of feeling sad, though, I realized that it was also a time of life, faith, ultimate reliance, and a growing love for my God that I've never experienced before. It's a love that was born from surrender. A child clinging to her father, saying,  "I can't do this alone. I need You."
     So, does a pain-dodging, success-driven life grow our love for God? Not necessarily. It may grow our appreciation and our fondness for Him. It will probably make us feel blessed. But true love is grown out of knowing and acknowledging our need for Christ. Only when we admit that we need Him, do we learn to fully express our love to Him. This doesn't have to occur during crisis by any means. Oh, how much better to love our God well without experiencing the pain of this world. But the faith that is grown during a difficult season fans the fervor, the love.  Jesus himself expressed his love for you and for me by experiencing pain on the cross. Sacrifice.  Love. Surrender. It's all intertwined.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
 Lamentations 3:19-24

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I hate "cancer days"

They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
Psalm 112:7
 
 
     "I hate cancer days". This is how Jeremy summed up our day today.
     Anyone that has had a diagnosis understands that once you get through the worst of it, there are years and years of checkups that will test both your faith and your patience. Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for conscientious doctors that care for me and my family, both physically and emotionally. But these days are exhausting. I always say that I don't fully realize how much these appointments worry me until they are over and I feel the relief that comes with a doctor giving an all clear for 6 more months.
      So, why did I use this verse, you wonder? Because I wonder if I can ever get there-to the place of complete acceptance and peace. I'm not sure if, in my "pre-cancer" days, I feared bad news. I had normal concerns and worries, mostly about my children. But I don't recall having regular fear of bad news. I certainly didn't fear bad news related to my own personal health. Once you receive a potentially life-changing diagnosis, so much changes. You end up having to work through those thoughts (even if they are fleeting) of what it would mean to those around you if God's ultimate plan isn't to heal you.
     This fear of bad news isn't limited to health scares. Perhaps a marriage is shaky or a spouse is about to lose his job. How do we, as believers, not fear bad news? I'll be honest. I don't have a good answer here because I am clearly still working this one out. I don't want to leave you hanging, though. I do know this: When I am walking with my God daily and committing every circumstance and every moment to him, I fear less. I didn't say I was fearless. I just fear less than I do when I am working in my own emotions and feelings.
     Life can change in a single moment. In a phone call. In a doctor's appointment. We have all lived through enough adversity to know that. But I know that my God does care for me. I trust in Him.
But I still hate cancer days.
 
 
Lord, remind me that you do not want me to fear bad news. Help me to look to you and confidently trust in you to care for me. Thank you for loving me through the moments of self-reliance and for guiding me into a life of You-reliance.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Courtney

     Recently I, and the countless people that knew and loved her, experienced a tremendous loss. I met Courtney King several weeks after I had been diagnosed with cancer in the winter of 2012. A mutual friend suggested we get in contact with each other because Courtney had also just been diagnosed with breast cancer and we were in similar stages of life, mid/late 30's, young family, etc. He thought we might be a source of support to one another. He was right. We immediately struck up regular correspondence. Whenever one of us struggled or was dealing with an unexpected cancer-related occurrence, we messaged each other and committed to pray for the other. We sent each other bible verses that might encourage the other. We finally got to see each other this summer at family day for Winshape and we immediately hugged and cried. We spoke of children and husbands, treatment, fear, and struggles.When God brings you down a similar road with another believer, it knits your heart to her heart. God provided perspective and hope through two people who truly understood the anxieties, hopes, and changes that come with cancer. When I had a scary moment this past summer, she was one that I immediately got in touch with and even though she was still dealing with her own cancer, she encouraged me, prayed, and checked in on me. Here is part of our conversation that day. It makes me smile.

    • Courtney Jones King

      This makes everything scary! God is bigger than fear and bad news. I cling to that every day!
    • Laura Joy Wolfe
      Laura Joy Wolfe

      Will we ever not sweat these things out??? I so thought I had all of my fear under control.
    • Courtney Jones King
      Courtney Jones King

      We are still human. It's hard to totally toss the fear, but I have gotten a little better. We can't wrap our minds totally around God's power, but just keep having faith and giving Him credit as you do so well. He will protect you.
     Courtney had a more formidable battle to fight than did I and she fought hard. All with her eyes focused on Christ and her young family. Several weeks after the conversation above, Courtney was sick again and passed away a few weeks later.
One of the verses that she continually referenced throughout the short time I knew her was John 11:4.

    "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it"

     When I received the news in the middle of the night that Courtney had died, this verse was the first thing that came to mind. Why, God? Why place that verse on her heart and then take her from her young family and husband? I had to really wrestle with this for several weeks. I know the "right" answers but they weren't providing a whole lot of reassurance at the time. 
     Then I began to understand. Her sickness did not truly end in death. In the physical terms, yes. But the moment she was absent from this world, she was present in the arms of Christ. Whole again, healthy, never having to fear bad news again or the threat of another treatment. I felt a relief for her at that moment. I count it a privilege to have known a bit of her heart and to see how God is using her complete faith and ultimate healing to bring people closer to Him. 
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. 8 His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112:7-8


Much Love, Laura 


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An Open Letter to the Rest of the World

I am participating in the Open Letter Challenge writing contest organized by Josh Irby. The following letter is my response to An Open Letter to You from the Rest of the World.

An Open Letter to the Rest of the World:

     I am not afraid. Hear that, world?!? OK. Maybe I am sometimes but doesn't it sound better to you if I say that I'm not? What if I tell you that I am a Christ-follower? Then I really shouldn't show fear, right? I started a journey almost 2 years ago in an attempt to eradicate fear and anxiety from my life. I researched and scoured the scriptures, studying them to find out how we were supposed to handle fear. What I thought would happen and what actually happened were miles apart. In my heart, I truly believed that through my studies I would enter into a serene life filled with security and peace. Some sort of a "Super Christian!!!", able to handle life's punches as they came at me. 
     What actually took place was that my very life was turned on its head. The losses and hurts began to mount. And they kept coming. Month after month. Being diagnosed with cancer and having to tell our children? We handled that with a pretty strong punch. Husband loses his job while wife is in cancer treatment? Slightly less energetic punch back. Foreclosed on our home? No punch left at all.
    During this time,  I tried to combat 'life' with smiles and with a wave that disregarded and denied the concerns of those around us. 
     Then, I was just so very tired. I was tired from cancer treatment and trying to act like life was normal. It was exhausting. It was not, indeed, normal. Everyone seemed to grasp that except for me. 

     So, I decided that I would be real. So, world, then there were days when I was sad. Days when I was angry. Days when I felt the weighty impact of the injustice of our circumstances. But you know what, world? When I finally allowed myself to feel my feelings, I began to truly heal.God teaches me every day how to honor Him by being real. I hope that's OK, world. Because life is so incredibly hard for many people and if I act like it's not, I don't look like "Super Christian!!!", I look like a liar. Please forgive me for acting like it was no big deal. Because it was. But my God is a bigger deal. And I am not afraid (mostly).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Heal my wounds but leave my scars

     I was listening to a song on the way to work this morning, singing my little heart out :) but a line in it got me thinking. She sang, "Heal my scars, Lord". Something didn't sit well with me. Why? Why am I uncomfortable asking God to heal my scars? We all have scars, don't we? Some of our scars are emotional and some are physical but the reality of them is the same. Our scars serve as reminders of  a wound or a hurt. Some scars are new and others have faded into the color of our lives but they are a definite part of who we are.
     This may be a topic that makes you feel vulnerable or exposed so I will be transparent with you and hopefully that will spur us to conversation. I'll talk physical scars first. I have 2 definite and dramatic scars that are well covered by clothing but are a constant reminder of a cancer diagnosis, a scary time, in which my family clung to each other and to God all while dealing with fears and the anxiety of this unknown disease in my body. They remind me not only of diagnosis but also of surgery, extensive treatment, and healing. They remind me of the fragile nature of life. But they also remind me of a closeness with God, of grace, of mercy. Of family, friends, and my God that loved me and carried me through a dark time. Redemption. That's what my scars spell out for me and that is why I need my scars. I need them to remind me that the same God that allows the tough circumstances also redeems me. Calls me by name. Walks through the flood and the fire before me and beside me without letting me get consumed or overtaken.
     Your scars may be emotional, unseen to any eyes but tattooed to your heart in your quiet moments. They are no less important to who you are in Christ. I pray that they also tell a story of redemption and grace that go beyond the hurt and loss. Christ wants to redeem your scars. He wants to redeem you. He wants to take you to a place of freedom and mercy. A place where we are whole, not defined by our scars but reminded by them. Reminded that God uses wounds so that in our moments of fragility we are forced to trust in Him.
     The wounds of Jesus on the cross were ultimately used for our healing and salvation. His scars were what physically identified him as Savior to those he met after his resurrection. So, I don't pray for my scars to be healed. May God use you and me and our scars as He allows us to be a part of His story. If you need prayer for your wounds or if you are seeking God, please feel free to contact me anytime. Much love, Laura

But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds...
Jeremiah 30:17

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Promise of Restoration

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." Joel 2:25

    It is my big brother's birthday today and we kept joking that he was only 32 (he's my older brother). I was good with that because that would make me 29. :)  Wouldn't that be wonderful to rewind a bit, perhaps give our older and mature future self some gentle warnings about the days to come? Jeremy overhead my end of the conversation and said, "NO! Don't say that! That would mean we all have to go through everything again!"
     That got me thinking about restoration and this verse instantly came to mind. How many of us feel like locusts have eaten some of our prosperity, peace, or security? And sometimes the locusts seem to have pulled a chair up at an all you can eat buffet of our lives!
     When we experience times of loss, regret, and difficulty, it can feel impossible to see past what could have or would have been. But then He gives us a promise. God promises not only to walk with us and hold us up but also to actually pay us back for what has been lost. This repayment may be in unexpected ways but it is always displayed in extra measures of grace. Perhaps in relationships formed, kindnesses shown by others, or in actual physical means. God knows exactly how we need to be restored and He will do it. We just need to be open to restoration and not locked into regret or bitterness.
     Hold onto this promise, my dear friend. I'll be holding on with you!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Altar of Peace

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it THE LORD IS PEACE.
Judges 6:24a

     In Judges 6, The Israelites (those crazy, blessed, disobedient people!) were being oppressed by the Midians. Their tents and crops were constantly ruined by them and the Israelites were generally just ravaged by these Midians day and night. When the Israelites reached their breaking point, they cried out to God. Why didn't they do it earlier? I have no idea. Why don't we cry out to God right away? Probably because we think "we got this". He sends the Israelites a prophet who basically gives a reprimand from God himself. Something along the lines of "I delivered you, I rescued you, I told you exactly how to be obedient and still you don't listen." An angel then appeared to Gideon who is busy working and Gideon says "Pardon me, my Lord. But if the Lord is with us, why has all of this happened to us?". For some reason this line made me laugh. I think could see myself saying those same words (Ok, I'm pretty sure I have said those words to God before). The Lord Himself then appears to Gideon and commissions him out to save his people. " 'Pardon me, my Lord, ' Gideon replied, 'but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.' " Oh, sheesh, Gideon! God himself is telling you that you and He are going to save the chosen people together! The Lord assures Gideon that they will strike down the enemy together. Still Gideon asks for a sign and the Lord says he'll wait for him to return. God had to be worn out with the lot of them, no? But, oh, let's not be too quick to judge. We are just like the Israelites and Gideon in so many ways. Gideon brings some food back and the Lord instructs him to put it on a rock and fire flares up and consumes it all. At this point Gideon finally acknowledges the presence of the Lord and builds an altar of peace.
     What is an altar really? I'm ashamed to say that I googled the word to see an official (ok, from Wikipedia) definition of the word. I know what it is but I had a time articulating it. I'm kind of embarrassed that I had to google such a simple word but I figure I'm all out there these days anyway. Haha. So, it says that an altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made. Stick with me on this one. I got to thinking about building an altar of peace in my own life. At first thought it sounds like a lovely idea. All peaceful and fragrant. And then I started thinking about the sacrifice that is required to actually make an altar, well, an altar. Sacrifice is a stinky, nasty, and painful situation. There is pain and blood and all sorts of unpleasant things that have to take place at an altar. Now, we know that there is no actual physical bloodshed required anymore at an altar since Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and pouring out of blood for everyone. But still, what would a sacrifice look like if I was building an altar of peace in my life? I think I would have to sacrifice all of the yuck in my life that takes away my peace. I might have to give up my need for control, my self-centeredness, people-pleasing, fear, anxious tendencies, my quest to ensure God's love for me, and anything else that gets in the way of peace in my life. If I could truly go through the nasty process of sacrificing all of that in my life (which is the journey I feel like I've been on for some time now), I believe I could actually have an altar of peace in my life. And just maybe I could get to the place where I could see that an altar is not intended for the well-being of the one bringing the sacrifice (me) but it is to honor the one to whom the sacrifice is being offered (God). Get it? It's not about you and me, my friends. It's about the God the altar is supposed to be honoring. My quest for peace all of these months has been all about me and my ability to have a calm spirit and a peaceful heart. Here's my Aha! moment. When I am at peace and totally trusting my God to provide and love me, I am honoring Him. It becomes less about me and all about Him!
     Ok, so God just showed up here on my couch in my living room through this post. My mind is blown at the realization that God just taught me something totally new as I was writing and praying. When I am at peace, I honor Him. That is how I build an altar of peace. I sacrifice all of the uglies that keep me from peace and God is lifted up and honored above all else. As a result, people will see God for who He really is.
    I know that was a lot. And maybe that was just more for me than for you (I said during one post that this blog functions like a good therapist sometimes). But I ask that you think on and pray about how we can build an altar of peace in our lives. Not for our happiness but for His glory.

Much love, Laura (an Israelite at heart that keeps disobeying and is continually shown grace time and time again)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why do we care?

A conversation today got me thinking: Why do we care so much about what other people think of us? On the other hand, shouldn't we care since, as believers, we are His representative?
It's a tough balance to strike and I'll be honest, it is one of my toughest daily struggles. If I am doing the right thing and it bothers someone else, I should have the confidence in the One who gives me conviction to stand in assurance, regardless of others' opinions. Similarly, if I am striving to please people, I am most likely missing the mark. Isn't that the real issue? Much of my time and emotional energy is spent on pleasing people-wondering if someone approves of me or likes me. If I took that same time and energy and invested it in reading my bible and spending time with God, wouldn't that replace my need to please people?

So, I went in search of a verse that might apply.

Am I now trying to win human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Well, alrighty then. That pretty much clears things up. I can't try to win the approval of people and God simultaneously.In fact, if I am trying to please people, I am not serving Christ. Impossible to do both? I guess so. But didn't I already know that? I know that when I am so concerned about an opinion of me, then I am not focused at all on Christ and His instant approval of me. He approves of me just because I am His. And because He is the great I AM. I don't have to understand why He loves and approves of me even when I am completely in my flesh-selfish and consumed with my needs only. He loves and approves of me simply because I am His adopted child. And when I am walking in that, I am always going to be a representative of Jesus. Amen and amen.

Much to think about and much love to you!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Waiting for a season of singing

"See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come." Song of Songs 2:11

     So,  I was blessed with an opportunity to have some downtime this weekend at a women's retreat in gorgeous Asheville, NC. The company was great, the speaker insightful, and the view was spectacular. But here's the most important thing: I heard God this weekend. I heard Him through His word.
     I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I am waiting for a "season of singing". When I began to reflect on this, my heart cried out to God. Why, when crisis has passed, do we still struggle? I began to think on this and talk to God about this. And the very next scripture he brought to me was in Ecclesiastes 3, vs 1-8.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to  uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stories and a time to gather,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

     I have heard that scripture read many times before. I heard it sung as a child (For every season, turn turn turn...) but I've never dwelled on it before. You know what, friend? Whatever season you are in is just that. A season. Seasons don't last forever but even when a long winter is ending, the frozen land has to thaw bit by bit. And when we've had a winter-type season of loss or pain, and the freeze has been deep, it takes much warmth and time to get to the deepest layers of ice. When our hurts run very deep, it takes longer to heal those wounds.
     Why do we expect ourselves to blossom as soon as winter is over? I feel often times we have a self-imposed pressure to produce flowers as soon as a crisis is "over". We think that people expect us to move on, work through, get over things as quickly as possible. That may be true. Let's face it. Crisis generally makes people uncomfortable. We don't like to see someone we love struggle. Never knowing what to say, what to do.
    I do, however, believe we shouldn't linger in a valley when God is providing us hope, healing and restoration. But I know that we have to allow ourselves to heal completely from the deepest of wounds, whether the wound is emotional, physical, or spiritual. And your dearest of friends will give you the grace to do that. More importantly, our God gives us the grace.
     So, I know my season of singing is coming. I do. I feel like God is preparing me for it. But for now, I will rest in His arms where He gives me the time and grace to heal and strengthen. For now, I know that He is taking delight in me and singing over me.

The Lord your God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you in singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

Dear friend, give yourself the time to heal that God himself gives us. There is a season for it. Allow Him to sing over you and so you can rest in His delight. You don't have to earn it. You just have to rest in it. There will be a season of singing soon. Hold on!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The scary thing about fear

     The scary thing about fear is that it can attack out of nowhere. I've been feeling more peaceful these days-hubby has recently landed a good job, kids are happy and settled, I am exactly a full year (today!) post cancer treatment and starting to feel pretty 'normal'. But all of those good feelings were gone in an instant several days ago. I had a health scare related to last year's cancer that really rocked me to my core and made me fear my 'tomorrows'. I quickly realized that, although I carry a confidence in Christ, my feelings of security or fear are so often purely situational. Things are going well, I am peaceful. Things are uncertain, I am anxious. You may be thinking that is just a part of being human. Well, shouldn't we want more than just being like the rest of the world? I want the peace of Christ to truly replace my worries about tomorrow. This is not, mind you, a drive of myself to be "Super Christian!!!" (cue the super hero music).  It is actually quite the opposite. It's a willingness to put myself and my pride in submission to God.
     Interestingly enough, I recently watched a session of Beth Moore, in which she said that "Feeling anxious or worried about how I will handle a situation is just another form of pride." Honestly, when I heard that, I thought, "Well, sister, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree on that one!" But then I took a moment to step outside of my prickly defenses and saw the truth. Here is what God revealed to me: If I am worrying, I am saying that 1. I'm in charge and 2. The outcome is up to me. In other words, the more I worry and fret the more I feel like I can work out a solution to the problem in front of me.  If I am trying to hold onto that control, there is no way that I am allowing God to work in me. I can't have it both ways-praying for God to work the situation out and trying to do it on my own.  Ok. Wow. I gotcha, God.
     God's clearly been working on me for a while now but I have many miles to go on my journey. Oh, and never think you have something "handled" because something will happen that will show you just how susceptible you are to falling into old thought patterns. So, I'm back at it. Praying about and working out my fear issues again. But by the grace and love of my God, He just keeps lifting me up and carrying me through.

     We did receive a great report from the doctor this week regarding my concerns. I am thankful and humbled by His continued faithfulness. My prayer is that the next time I face uncertainty (and I most certainly will!) that I can take it to God and God alone. I have learned much from this, though. I am most definitely a faulty, but grateful, child of my Abba.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. 
John 16:33



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Thankful for cancer

     Ah, do I have your attention?  I have said up until recently (even a couple of weeks ago in a conversation with my mom) that I didn't think that I would ever be thankful for my cancer diagnosis. I can, however, examine the last year and see how God was timely and abundantly providing for our needs. But not thankful for cancer. Not. Thankful. Not appreciative of surgery, chemo, fear and worry. Nope. Not thankful.
     Well, as is generally my story, God used my belligerent little stomping foot to reveal Himself to me through His Word.
     I've naturally been drawn to the Psalms throughout this year. I am bolstered by the despair, hope, hopelessness, and ultimate reliance on God even when the path is dimly lit. I am amazed by the Psalmists' ability to not only question God's presence but also passionately praise a God that doesn't always reveal Himself in our timing. 

     Sometimes I read Psalms with a strategy but more often I pick a passage and start reading. That is what I did last night, looking for some encouragement and clarity. I started around chapter 117 and moved through several chapters. I reached Psalm 119:71 and this is what I read:

"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes." (Psalm 119:71)

     Well, that is pretty clear. I began thinking and praying about our present circumstances and those of the past year. If this is your first time reading my blog or "meeting" me, I will sum it up chronologically: started writing "A Year of No Fear" (Nov 25 2011), tornado hit our property (Dec 2011),  I was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer (Feb 2012), hubby lost his job (April 2012), we lost our home and a car (August 2012), and hubby was unemployed for 14 months. When I began this blog, my goal was to become more disciplined in the scriptures, specifically as it relates to the effect that fear has on our lives. I had no idea that I was being prepared for a battle. I periodically look back at earlier entries and see God all over them, readying me for the coming months. 
     So, back to being thankful for cancer. This disease, this evidence of a fallen world, afforded me two pathways. I could either crawl into bed for 6 months until it was over, or I could ask God to carry me, teach me, guide me. I did have plenty of "crawl into bed" moments. I had some "poor me" days. I had many times that my crying out to God and my just plain old crying were virtually indistinguishable. But mostly I chose. Chose to worship and chose to understand that God would use this one day. And I read scriptures. Poured over them in a desperate attempt to make sense of our "today". Searched for answers and encouragement. Looked for the superstars of the bible that so often felt hopeless. And you know what happened? These truths, these statutes, took root in my heart. Gave me permission to cry, doubt, question, and rage. But then something interesting happened. I began to accept, bless, praise, and hope. 
     Cancer, my affliction, reminded me that although this earthly life can be so very heartbreaking, I have a Savior who loves me, weeps with me, carries me, and understands any emotion I bring to His feet. 
     I was wrong. I am thankful for my cancer. 



Friday, February 15, 2013

My story

Some of you I have known for many years, many of you I have met in recent years, and perhaps some have stumbled upon my blog without ever having seen me. Being the 1 year anniversary of my diagnosis, I thought I would tell my story from the beginning. Feel free to indulge me for a moment. But even if you don't, this is probably as much (if not more) for me than anyone else. Cheap therapy :)

I felt a strong conviction in November of 2011 to start a blog that would explore the "fear" verses. I delayed it for a bit, thinking it would be slightly egotistical to write a blog (assuming anyone even noticed it). After a week or two, I literally could not shake the compulsion to write. Now, I have never been a writer outside of the obligatory research and writing assignments I was forced into by my teachers and professors. But, I wrote anyway. I figured if no one read it, then it would be a good exercise in bible research for me and a way to keep my thoughts organized (unlike my sermon notes that I find in random places). I knew that my writing was completely ordained by God because I would sit in my sun room at the computer with only my bible and many times had no ideas or prompts for the day's topic. I generally started at night when the house was quiet and would begin by praying for guidance and wisdom, feeling the weight of my assignment. Then I would begin to research and write, write and research. Finally I would read the words I had been given, usually knowing it came straight from God's heart.

We made our way through the craziness of the Christmas season (shopping, family events, and THE tornado) and settled back into normal routine in January. About the 3rd week in January, I was getting ready for school one morning and was running late to meet my car pool buddy (nothing new, huh Keshia?) but as I got dressed, I noticed something unusual. A large mass on the top part of my chest that had not been previously noticeable was all of a sudden protruding. I quickly decided it was nothing, made a mental note to call for a yearly visit that was due anyway, and went to work. I will fast forward through several boring doctor's appointments where I was told it was nothing, possibly injury based (huh???), and would probably go away on it's own, and that we would recheck in 6 months. I really struggled with this. I prayed about not wanting to blow something out of proportion but also knowing I needed to take responsibility for my health. I insisted on a biopsy (and kind of felt like I was being high-maintenance by pushing for it). The day of the biopsy was a bit rough. I came home and was in the bed for a couple of days while I recovered. I went back to work on Monday and was uncharacteristically laid back about the whole situation. I really never allowed myself to consider a possibility of anything other than a benign mass. After all, I had been told that there "was almost 0% it could test positive for cancer". I was scheduled for my appointment on the 16th of February but the office called me in a day earlier than planned. Even that didn't worry me. In fact, I told Jeremy not to come and that I was just going for a check up. Thankfully, he ignored me.

As we sat in the exam room for an extended period of time, I considered for the first time that perhaps all was not ok. The doctor and her staff were in deep discussion outside the door and the office was quiet. As she came in, I could see distress in her eyes. She then said the words I never expected to hear. "I'm sorry, Laura, but you have breast cancer. We are completely shocked." I looked at Jeremy, his eyes closed and his head leaned against the wall, and I couldn't think. Couldn't breathe. We were given a ton of information, more than we could process, and eventually walked out to the car. We had driven separately as we had both come straight from work, and drove home in a daze. Jeremy made some phone calls initially but I just was frozen. He got the boys who were being kept by a friend and met me at home. We put the boys to bed, who were unaware at this point, and called a small circle of family and close friends who prayed for us and cried with us. We told our sons later the next day about my diagnosis. Our oldest son who was 9 at the time, broke down into a heart wrenching sob. We all held each other, prayed, and then got some ice cream. :)

The next few weeks were a blur. I was quickly scheduled for surgery. My tumor concerned the doctor because it had an extremely high proliferation rate, meaning it was growing way too fast. More than 3 or 4 times what would be "normal". My surgery went well and there were no further complications. From there, we met with my amazing oncologist who sat with us for 3 1/2 hours one Friday evening and went over my treatment plan detail by detail while I scribbled notes. My fear of having to have chemotherapy was at this point a reality. I would have my first chemotherapy treatment a mere 5 days from then.

Jeremy and I (thanks to helpful grandparents) went away and had a quiet weekend in Atlanta together, not knowing what the next few months would be like. We wanted to take advantage of me feeling well before I started treatments.

I was scheduled for chemo that Wednesday. As I walked into the infusion room, I didn't know what to expect. Most of the people in there were elderly. A few even made comments about me being too  young to have to be there. Overall, it was ok. I was able to work for the next couple of days but was really feeling rough by the end of the day on Friday. So bad that Jeremy had to come and get me from school. I spent the weekend in the bed. I would come to learn that these weekends were emotionally the biggest struggle for me. The medicine I had to take for the side effects made me sad and I was already sad from not feeling well. These weekends were dark times for me. I generally turned off my phone and laid in the bed for several days, while my sweet family cared for me.

About a week and a half after my first treatment we had our spring break. I was feeling good and decided to take the kids to the Tellus Science museum for the day. Earlier that morning, however, I noticed that my hair had begun to fall out dramatically. By the end of the day, I had been to my hair dresser and was sporting a scarf where my hair had been. Once that was over with, I felt like I could breathe deeply again. I don't think I realized how heavily the anticipation and dread of losing my hair had been hanging over me.

The next couple of months felt like they would never come to an end. Finally, I finished my school year and got to spend some time with my sweet friend, Ginger, who came into town to go with me to my final chemo treatment on May 23rd. Several weeks later, Jeremy and I were able to take a trip to the beach in celebration of the end of treatment, thanks to the offer of a free beach side condo for a week. Praising my God the whole time, my family was able to laugh together, rest peacefully, and recuperate from a physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

Shortly after our return I began radiation treatments. For me, these were simple and straight ahead. I suffered little to no side effects and my energy began picking up throughout the summer. I was blessed by a new job that turned out to be a whole 4 minutes away from the house God had for us when we had to move out of our home in August. I completed my radiation treatments on July 31st-one day before I reported to my new classroom!

I knew throughout this year that I was never alone. Even in my darkest moments, my God was there. He walked before me in this and He walked beside me the whole time. I will never be able to adequately express my thanks for those of you who chose to love us through this. So many of you helped us care for our boys, cooked countless meals, or laughed and cried with us. I don't think I even know how many of you stood in the gap for us and prayed diligently.

I am feeling so great these days. I have begun running again and we are eating with purpose to optimize my health. God is still God and God is still good!

Thank you for sticking with me on this lengthy blog post and for sticking with me in general. Love and blessings to you.

Love, Laura





This is the evening that I had my head shaved
Love from my little guy

Final treatment/ "chemo party" with Ginger
Our portrait of hope
First chemo treatment-all smiles!


 




This was kind of cool. I submitted my picture to be used on a Dove ad on Times Square.
They chose my picture and sent me a photo of the billboard. My 3 seconds of "fame"!

My precious 11th/12th grade small group had Disciple Now shirts made in my honor. They say "I will praise you in this storm." This was my very first treatment weekend and I was so sad to miss out.


 


Beach fun!

Beach fun with my sweet hubby :)

The beginnings of hair growth! Nathaniel (our 7 year old) called this my "hamster hair"



Healthy Laura

Monday, January 28, 2013

Still going :)

Well, yes, the "Year of No Fear" is technically complete ( if this is your first time at my blog, please take a moment to read my earlier blog postings to see how this whole thing got started). However, don't ever think that you've got something "handled" because that will put you right back at the starting line. I studied, researched, prayed, and blogged for a year on the topic of being consumed with fear because this was something that I had struggled with for a long time (don't we all struggle with it on differing levels?). The truths that God taught me brought us through a series of difficult circumstances that began about a month after my first post and on many levels is still playing out. Tornado destruction, job loss, my cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the loss of our home pretty well covers it. Even though we had some pretty scary days, God used those times to teach me in a very concrete way that all I have is Him. We can lose so much but we will never lose the One who sustains, redeems, and calls us by name. Loss can be materialistic, health, financial, relational and a variety of unsettling things that we feel like we need to feel secure.

I was sitting in church yesterday and God was using the words of our teaching pastor to "circumcise my heart"(check out Colossians 2:11), or reveal any areas of idolatries. Areas that I am finding my security with other than Christ. Ok, so that's the background. Now here is what is going on that prompted this post. I am experiencing moments of all consuming fear several times a week as I analyze our budget. Now, everything is fine and I know that in my head but with us still searching for a job for Jeremy diligently, the budget is, of course, understandably tight. I am dealing with physical fear and anxiety when we pay bills and budget what is left. I have known in my heart that I need to give it up but I think I had to get to the root of why I got sweaty hands every time I worked on our financials. (Thankfully my sweet hubby is the level-headed voice of reason in these moments). God prompted me to write this sentence in my notes while listening to the sermon yesterday:

Anything that I am finding my security in other than Christ will always disappoint me and leave me feeling dissatisfied.

Immediately, I thought MONEY. I am trying desperately to grasp at this security that I feel like having "enough" will provide. And guess what? IT ISN'T WORKING.  I also began thinking about where this applies to other areas. How often do I seek out friendships with others to provide the affirmation and security that God provides fully? How many times do I consult the opinions of others instead of the One whose opinion and Word matters the most? Now, having wonderful friends and seeking Godly counsel are great, God-given things as long as that is not my primary source of security. (I can't be the only one who picks up her phone before her bible many times when faced with a dilemma). And that's what I am talking about. The place where I turn first is the going to be the source of my security or could turn into my source of fear and anxiety.

So, this is why I say that God is still working on the fear thing with me. In some ways, I am back to the starting line but I have the truths that He has taught us in very physical ways in my pocket and in my heart. I feel like I have to retry a marathon but at least I trained for this one so maybe it won't hurt so badly. Starting line? Yes. Unprepared? No.

Our story isn't finished being told yet. Your story isn't through yet, either. Walk with me as we learn (and re-learn) how to fully rest on Him.

"...the Lord's beloved rests securely on Him.
He shields him all day long,
and he rests on His shoulders"
Deuteronomy 33:12