Beach time!

Beach time!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The 5 things that cancer taught me

Recently I was asked to participate in an article in my local newspaper that was focusing on cancer survivors. The theme was "What I learned from cancer". I didn't have a hard time coming up with one. Rather, it was difficult narrowing the lessons down to one sentence blurb. The answer I gave was neatly wrapped up. The reality is not quite as easily packaged, as many of you are all too familiar.

What I learned from cancer:

1. The enemy wants to destroy. In the raw moment of my cancer diagnosis on a cold Wednesday evening, we momentarily felt our hope slip past us. I knew in that very moment that if the enemy could destroy our hope and our spirit, he could kill our joy. We began a journey slightly in which we chose life. Chose hope. Chose joy.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)

2. It's okay to hurt and struggle, even in front of people. This was a tough one for me. I had to learn that it was healthy to have times when others saw that sometimes cancer just hurts. Sometimes cancer makes you cry. Sometimes cancer makes you feel terrified. And when we allow others into those moments, we often create a vulnerability that bridges relationships and points people to Him. Who understands suffering more than Jesus?
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our inequities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

3. Your relationships will change. While some people around you might have difficulty "doing life" with someone in pain, many more press in and intentionally walk beside you and carry you when you can't quite seem to walk on your own. Relationships become more real, More sacred. Just more.
"...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:4

4. God can (and will) use your scars. My scars are not a reminder of being wounded. They are my reminders of redemption, healing, and grace. I see my scars every day. Sometimes in a passing glance but other times in complete reverence with the humble realization that God chose to heal me fully.
"For I will restore you to health and heal your wounds..."Jeremiah 30:17

5. Baldness can be a part of a testimony. As devastating as it can be to outwardly show evidence of sickness and treatment, baldness allows people to have a glimpse into the pain. And everyone relates to pain at varying levels. God provided countless opportunities for raw and vulnerable conversations in my 'bald season' that otherwise might not have happened. Being able to praise Him during treatment, both in the quiet and while people were watching, were some of my most humbling and worshipful moments. And I am forever grateful for those moments.
"Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

Monday, October 27, 2014

Does God ignore his children?

In our recent history, we've struggled with mistaking God's "no's" for his absence. When we ask (and beg, plead and bargain) for God to change something, fix something, stop something, it often doesn't work out the way we picture it happening. Or even the way we've diligently prayed for it to happen. What we may view as indifferent silence or all out absence, may actually be a resounding "NO".

Working this out made me think about my children. When they ask (and beg, plead and bargain) for something that is not in their best, do I ignore them? Of course not! I consider the outcomes and many times I have to say "No" because, let's face it, our kids don't always know what is best for them. Or even if they know in their heart what is right, it's not as important as getting their way, regardless of consequences. If my 11 year old asks and pleads for a late bedtime, he isn't thinking about how tired it will make him feel the next morning. He is focused on getting his way in the moment. But when he asks, I am not indifferent or absent. I respond out of love, keeping him from doing something that is not for his best.

Isn't that how we act with our heavenly father? We ask (and beg, plead and bargain) and when our circumstances remain exactly the same without an inch of movement towards what we desire, we assume God is absent and indifferent. But God told me this tonight: He is so very present to us. Close enough to say no anytime I want to do something that is not for my best. He loves his children enough to continue to say "No" even when it hurts him. Even when he knows that our desires will make us happy. But he is working, my friend. He is always working. Even when our circumstances tell us otherwise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why I had to fail

Many of you know my testimony that emerged out of the last several years. I set out almost 3 years ago determined that my diligent research and study on the stronghold of fear would eradicate this giant in my life. This quest became my personal challenge. 1 year-every day-studying, praying, and writing. Not a bad goal by any means but God wanted more than I knew at that time I would have to give. He wanted more than my determination and drive to "fix myself". So, we walked through a tremendous season of loss-cancer, total financial devastation, and a general upending of our secure lives. 
The very things that God had prompted me to write about, we began experiencing first hand. Take a read (click the highlighted titles to read the original posting).

On December 1, 2011 I wrote this in "Calm in a Storm" (6 weeks prior):

However, Christ doesn't always "calm the storm" in the way that we would like. Sometimes really terrible things happen and our fears come true. Our boat capsizes in the storm. 
Just remember that even in the worst storms of life-the hopeless diagnosis, the financial crisis, the unexpected crushing loss-Jesus is not sleeping. He is calming storms around us and inviting us to rest in Him. His shoulders are broad enough for our anxieties and fears and he wants to carry them for us. Grow my faith, Lord!

On December 5, 2011 in "A Promise of Trouble" I wrote this:

His Word does, however, guarantee a peace if we are willing to walk with Him-step by step, moment by moment. I'll be honest with you. I'm still not sure how to do this but I know in my heart it has everything to do with surrender-surrender of our fears of loss, rejection, hurt. And I know that if Jesus said it, then it is absolutely true. It is possible to have peace in the times of troubles, heartbreak, and devastation. Peace, mind you, doesn't mean we have to understand what we are going through or that we can't struggle with it. Peace is knowing that God is on the throne and we are not (how messy my life would be if I was on the throne!). Peace is knowing that God will never let me down when the humans around me fail. Peace is knowing that one day I will be with him forever and that this life is like a vapor compared to the eternity we will spend in worship. 

On January 17, 2012, "Jumping Without a Safety Net", I prayed this:

Lord, I give you this year. I know you have a purpose in my studies on fear and I see the way it is intertwining with your plan for our family. Guide us with confidence and the assurance of the One who has already overcome.

On January 19, 2012, "A Different View of Prospering", I wrote

 I do have a distinct feeling, however, that God is working to break open my quiet sense of comfort and security. I believe that we are ready to be stretched and this verse will carry us through any uncertainty that may come. This verse will breathe new peace into my life throughout these times.
God's plans for us go through stages of change and times of stability. May I never become complacent in the quiet times and may I never fear God-ordained change.

On January 25, 2012 (the very day before I found the cancerous lump in my breast), I wrote the following in  "An Invitation to Be Tested?"

How willing am I to put my heart and my anxious thoughts under God's microscope? Am I willing to be tested by God? What if I knew that going through all of that would make my heavenly relationship more intimate and my earthly relationships more fulfilling and purposeful?

I could go on and on. It's apparent to me at this point that God was more intensely preparing me the closer I got to that cancer diagnosis in the middle of February, 2012 and all of the losses that would occur over the course of only a couple of months. 

Was God preparing me through these studies? Absolutely. I have no doubt that in the months leading up to that season, I was training for a battle-a battle for my soul, mind, and my life. But I also think that I had to fail in my own attempt at self-help so that He could be glorified in my insufficiency. God knew that my determination to "not fear" might not endure and could be blown away by the very first wind. I believe he allowed it all so that all I was left with was Christ. Period. 

Do I still fear? Yes, I do. I'm human. 

But one thing has changed. Fear no longer has an icy grip on my heart. My God has a grip instead. 

Is it all worth it? I'm beginning to think it is. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The idol I didn't know I had (that you may have too)

OK, so we all have our struggles. But on a basic level, aren't many of our struggles based on our identity being somewhere other than Christ? Here's what I mean. So many of us (myself included) are on a quest to lose weight, get to a certain size, or a particular level of physical fitness. Nothing wrong with honoring the body God gave us-keeping it healthy and as pure as a possible. But for many of us (again, myself included), it goes way beyond being healthy. This quest becomes who I am, what I am, and how valuable I am.

 As my dear friend and I were discussing this unhealthy focus on our weight and body image, she said that this very thing had become an idol in her life. Whoa. Idol is a big word. As in "Do not have any idols before Me" (says God Himself). But in my heart I knew she was right. An idol is anything that replaces, in time and attention, my adoration of God. It occurred to me the amount of time that I spend worrying about what I eat, feeling guilty about what I eat (oh, those 3 jelly munchkins I ate today!), and thinking about how to eat perfectly is completely out of balance with the minimal time that I spend with the One who thinks that I am perfect exactly as I am. Not perfect as soon as I lose 15 pounds. Perfect now. As in today.

And how much do I break the heart of my Creator? Every single day that I feel like I wish I was better, prettier, or thinner I put a small distance between He and I. I am saying that He is insufficient for my needs and not enough to make me happy. I am telling him that I will be valuable as soon as I meet my goals. Even as I type this, I keep backspacing and retyping because it looks ridiculous in print. But I know that I am not alone in my thoughts.

So how do we rid ourselves of this idol? When people in the Old Testament wanted no part of idolatry the bible says they had to "Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places." (Deuteronomy 12:3)
They weren't told to ignore the idols or put them out of reach. They were commanded to completely destroy them so that the idols were beyond repair or potential worship in the future. My friends, we must do the same thing with our idols-any idols-that are taking our time, our attention, our joy.

Until I have a clearer answer, I will begin by saturating my heart, mind, and soul with God's word that affirms my identity in the God who creates, loves, and finds me precious. Just as I am.

Oh, yes, you shaped me first inside, then out. you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God-you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration-what a creation!
You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted  from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.

Psalms 139:13-16 (MSG)

Oh, Lord. May I allow you to speak over me instead of speaking over myself. You long for me to find my value in you as you sing over me. I just need to listen to how much you rejoice in me exactly as I am. Exactly as you created me. Please forgive me for acting as if you are insufficient to make me happy and complete, lacking nothing and highly valued. Please help me to tear down my idols. I know this is what I have to do. Thank you for loving me with an everlasting love. Thank you for delighting in me even when I don't feel delightful.

*Thanks to, Keshia, for her perspective and honesty on this subject that is sensitive to so many.
 Love you and your transparency. We'll knock down these idols that have been up for so many years!