Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I just had skin graft surgery. They removed all the cancerous skin around the mastectomy scar on my left breast and put on skin from my left thigh. I had just started thinking my chest was looking better and now I look like Frankenstein. I was sort of prepared because my father had gotten so many disfiguring surgeries on his neck and face in the years before he died (he would have been 80 today). Hey, I thought, at least I can put a shirt on to hide it. I told my dad in a tribute I wrote about him that cancer is ugly, but the people who fight cancer are beautiful. That he was beautiful no matter what he looked like. Now that it is me, it is harder to believe. Hard when you are looking in the mirror. I am just ignoring mirrors for the time being.

Even before the surgery, I never had a great attitude about my body. So when my friend, who had a unexpected mastectomy years ago, told me to say goodbye to my breasts, I thought she was a bit batty. But what the hay. Feeling a bit foolish, I found my self looking at the mirror one day. I said (out loud:-) to my left breast "you--you are a trouble maker. I am not sorry to see you go." Then I turned my head slightly and said to my right "You, I'm afraid, are guilty by association."

It is difficult to feel comfortable, let alone alone good in my skin right now. It would be easy for me to me to simply say I am spiritual creature and that the physical body doesn't matter but that would be over simplifying the human condition. We are not simply spiritual creatures. God created our hearts, our minds---and our bodies. We are given our bodies on loan to take care of and our physical bodies do effect us continually. We snap at our kids when we have a headache or the natural high from exercise (that, I have to admit, I haven't really understood) causes us to have a good day. Sometimes our bodies scream at us and demand our attention like toddlers who are feeling ignored. And sometimes they are just as hard to control.

But it is true that we are much more than our bodies. We must try to not let our baser instincts take over or let our bodies control our behavior. To bloom where you are planted means to bloom with the body that God gave us---whether that means struggling with your weight, or a receding (or non existent:-) hair line or a genetic make-up that makes cancer grow fast. It means living with the pains and the wounds of life until they fade, leaving us stronger. God made each one of our bodies and they are amazing-- even if they aren't conventionally beautiful. We all must find a way to come to terms with who we are physically-- whether that be permanent or temporary-- to bloom in our God given bodies.

One day we are all going to get beautiful, bright, shiny bodies that won't creak and groan with every passing hour. Someday all the pain will be but a faint memory. But until then this tent houses the Holy Spirit and is fantastically complicated and astonishingly efficacious. So while I am on this earth, I will bloom in the body I was planted in.

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
 13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the Flames With You

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego continues. The threat of death didn't make them stop worshiping God. Yet Nebuchadnezzar didn't just threaten these men, he actually had them thrown in! The Bible says they weren't even touched by the fire despite it being so hot that the guards that put them in there were killed (wouldn't want that job :-). Even more extraordinary is that Nebuchadnezzar saw another person in the flames with them:

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

There is evidence to suggest because of other references in the Bible that this was Jesus in the flames! This is a reminder that no matter how hot the fire of your life, God is there with you. This event caused Nebuchadnezzar, the most pagan of all kings, to praise the king of kings, the one and only most Holy of God. This, folks, is why we are all here on this earth, am I right??? That's what I'm talkin' about!

I know that God has been here right beside me through this all and he will continue to be faithful. My job is to tell everyone I meet of his faithfulness and love so they can see the goodness of God and know that he will be there with them too.

Deuteronomy 7:9
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Praising God No Matter What

The other day I shared the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and how God had equipped them to bloom where they were planted. Their story,however, wasn't finished with them thriving in captivity. God wanted them to go further as living testimonies to His power. Nebuchadnezzar instituted a law that required that all in the land bow down to the god he chose. When the three men refused, they were ordered into the blazing furnace. The men's response shows how much they trusted God:

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Notice how they said "even if he does not. . .we will not serve your gods. . ." You might feel like God is asking you to walk through fire but, please, please don't refuse to worship God. To refuse to trust and praise him is to is to say that our God is not big enough, not strong enough, not loving enough to get us through our circumstances. That is simply not true.

Furthermore, these men's faith was not dependent on any predetermined outcome. No matter what happened they were God's children and they would continue to praise him and him alone. Period.

I want you to know that I fully expect that God will heal me of this disease. But if he does not it isn't because he is less of a God. Quite the contrary. He has been with me this whole journey and I could not go one step without his love and provision. I will continue to follow His plan and praise him to the end whenever that is. I will pray that his glory be revealed. No matter what. Period.

Job 1:22
   “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
   and naked I will depart.[c]
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
   may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dancing with God

Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago.  It seems appropriate to my circumstance right now. 

You danced with the heavens and the earth, with the darkness and the light
You waltzed the universe into being with your hovering spirit
And you saw that it was good.

You danced Adam into being also, but sensed he needed another partner too
You gave him Eve, watched them and ordered their steps
And made grace out of their bumbling.

Then you danced with them both, in the cool of the garden
And they knew the warmth of your touch
But they switched partners when the serpent cut in.

You danced with Noah as he built, though to him it didn’t make sense
And you kept him close as the rain poured
And held on tighter through the thunder.

And even after the flood, you tried to dance with mankind
But they wanted to do it their own way and made noise of the music
So that now some of them have forgotten all the steps.

You asked Abraham to dance, though it took him awhile to get out on the floor
And even then he stumbled quite a bit
But yet he kept on to a good old age, full of years, gathered to his people.

Isaac danced with you all the way up on the altar
And you were delighted in his surrender and the merging of your bodies
But then he took it all for granted, and ended up sitting it out mostly.

Jacob wanted to wrestle instead
All his life you tried to teach him the steps
And he finally got it, and danced leaning on his staff

Joseph danced with you all his life
Whether in pit, prison, or palace
Teaching others to dance with his forgiveness.

You dance with me, also, though I’m mostly out of step
But you have blessed me with rare moments of grace
When I trusted the dancer not the dance.

What is the difference between 
                                    Grace and bumbling
                                    Order and stumbling  
wrestling and dancing?
The difference is the answer to one question:  

                                                              Who is in the lead?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Provision for Blooming

I am fixing to have another surgery--again. This is, quite frankly, getting old. I feel like I am getting ready to walk through fire again, though this surgery is not as extensive as the last. I try to focus on God, draw strength from Him and trust his plan for my life. Most days I do O.K. Coffee and chocolate help too.

Today, I am drawn to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. By following God's plan for their lives they found themselves thriving in captivity, eventually being promoted to administrators. God had equipped them with all the skills and qualities to help them right where they were planted and they were considered among the wisest of the land. What a living testimony to an awesome God who equips us with everything we need to meet the challenges He sends us.

He certainly has equipped me! I have so many stories that show God's provision during the tough times in my life. God has always been with me, but what a privilege it has been to so visibly witness God working in my life in the last few years. One of the biggest blessings has been my job as an online teacher. God gave me the skills, experience and opportunity to get this job in January of 2009. Little did I know (but God did) that in November of that same year that I would be diagnosed with cancer. Having this job has allowed me the ability to care for my children, adjust my schedule around doctor's appointments, and work from my lap top while recovering from surgeries. If that wasn't enough, I love it. It gives me all the challenges and joys of teaching without the head aches of the non-virtual classroom. Plus I was able to get insurance so I am double covered. God is such a loving and creative God.

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There Goes My Life

Once again I find my life all about doctors appointments. I remember the first time that I was diagnosed, I fell horribly behind in my grading because of all the diagnostic appointments. Then there was the chemo appointments every week for an hour and every three weeks for 4-5 hours. I did start to think of those as quiet time because the rest of the time I was so swamped with my job and parenting. Your life has to be pretty hectic if you start looking forward to chemo:-) Then there was the six weeks that I had to go to radiation everyday. I even had the hour chemo appointments up until last Thanksgiving. When all this started happening again my first thought was "There goes my life." Substitute your own expletive there because I sure did.

To a certain extent I had these same thoughts before I was diagnosed--about being a mom. On some days I don't even have to get dressed ( I am online teacher) and a lot of times it is frankly not worth getting the girl's dressed. I would often think "When they are all in school, then I can have my life back."

I still have a poor attitude when it comes to being a mom. I often find myself thinking "I have cancer and I still have to potty train (unsuccessfully) my toddler and pick up after these kids! ( I think it is funny that when they are being sweet they are my girls or babies but when they are horrid, they are those kids, as if they just magically appeared and I don't want to claim them.) I would much rather lead a Bible study or even teach high school; sometimes other areas of my life are much more gratifying. There I said it. Motherhood is not always the epitome of personhood for me.

I wonder if it ever crossed Paul's mind when he went to prison "There goes my life!" I wonder if he was tempted to just coast and not do anything while he was locked up. I wonder if he ever thought "I have to be in jail AND share the Gospel? You got to be kidding me!" Talk about blooming where he was planted.

The Bible tells me that my life is in Christ. My life is doing what God wants me to do that is right here in front of me-- not somewhere down the line. It means treating my kids (and husband) with love even when I don't feel good. It means being a mother ( and wife) even when I don't get thanked ( which, let's face it, is pretty much all the time:-). It means treating doctor's and nurses kindly and with respect even when they don't move fast enough for my taste or I'm in pain. It means sharing what God is teaching me here with these words even when I'm busy ( sorry about not posting last week-- volunteering for vacation Bible school kicked my butt). It means being grateful for everything in my life. It means blooming where I am planted.

"I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. 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 10:9-10 The Message (MSG)