Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Rose and the Thorns

If you want to bloom where you are planted then you need to learn to deal with thorns effectively.  Thorns are the things that cause us ongoing pain.  They are those people or circumstances that seem to plague us.  It could be failing health, an unhealthy relationship, or an emotional scar that doesn’t seem to heal.  It is something we feel plagues us and we can’t seem to do anything about it.  Oh, you will try to pluck out the thorns, but getting rid of your own thorns is impossible.  It is impossible because the author of the universe uses thorns to teach us.  If a thorn remains when we beg for it to be taken away, it is because there is still something that we need to learn.

Too often we use thorns as an impediment to victorious living.  We say to ourselves “If only I didn’t have this thorn, I would serve more, read my Bible more, be more. “ But what if we stopped waiting for our thorn to be taken away and look at it in a different light? What if we thanked God that he cares enough about us that he wants to teach us about his love and the only way he can do it is through our thorns.

One thing that our thorns can teach us is to have humility.  Thorns keep us teachable.  They make us feel weak and at the end of ourselves.  When we are at the end of ourselves, that is where God begins.  He has all the power of the universe at his disposal and can work his glory into any situation.  When we are weak, he is strong.

Paul suffered terribly from a thorn.  Three times he begged God to remove it.  It is only when he stopped begging for it to removed that he discovered the secret of contentment.  He discovered that he “could do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

In thinking of thorns, I thought mine was cancer.  Maybe it was in the beginning when everything was new and freshly painful.  But now it is part of my life.  I don’t have to even think about the meaning behind it all.  I know, with absolute certainty, that God is using it for my good and his Glory. 

If I am not careful, I could get a big head when it comes to how I am dealing with my cancer.  I get complements all the time about how strong I am and how I am such an inspiration.  I try to give the glory to God because I know that without him, I would be a big puddle of mess on the floor.

But Cancer isn’t teaching me humility.  You know what does? My kids.  I soon realize, as my seven year old pitches a fit or I have to change my 5 years olds pull up ( I know?? Five??) that I am little and life is not in my control.  Motherhood is rewarding, but it is also thankless.

I often find myself thinking “If only my kids were older I would write more, serve more, be more.”  If only my kids would behave better then I could get more done.  But what if God wants to teach me through my kids?  By focusing on the negative side of motherhood, I am missing the beauty of my life and family.  By focusing on the thorn, I am missing the beauty of the rose.

My kids teach me that I can’t be a good mother without God.  Control is an illusion and I need God to work his glory into my life and I can’t do that if I am doing it all in my own power. Dealing with the unpleasant side of motherhood draws me to my knees where (in my stronger moments) I pray “Lord, help me be a better mother”  not “Lord,  make my kids behave!!!” 

If you concentrate on the thorns, you will never enjoy the beauty of the rose, either.  And life is beautiful.  Don’t waste another minute asking “why this, Lord?”  We all have our own thorn to bear, unique to what God wants to teach us.  He loves us enough to not leave us with meaningless, shallow existences.  We could just have a picture of the rose, the beauty of the rose without the pain of the thorn.  But a picture doesn’t smell or have depth.  The picture pales in comparison to the real thing.  

Embrace your thorns.  Learn from them.  Thank God for them.  Don’t miss the beauty of the rose because you are afraid a few thorns.      

2 Cor 12:9  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Promise of the Ark and The Rainbow

The other day, I had a real struggle with my five year-old trying to get her ready for preschool. She wasn’t feeling good and didn’t want to go, but I knew that she was just backed up and if she got active then she would feel better (sorry for the TMI).  Every step was a negotiation—“I’ll let you stay home if you want, but you should change your pants so you feel better”  “You will have to at least go  with me to drop off sissy so you might as well get dressed.”  “We are going in to look at the book fair so I have to brush your hair.”  “if you come  in with me then I’ll buy you a book.” “If you go to preschool and don’t feel good, I’ll come back to get you.”  Finally came the big one “If you don’t go to preschool, then you can’t go trick or treating.” All I heard from the backseat was sniffling.  “Well? What is your decision?” “I’m thinking.. . . “ she paused for a long moment or two and said in a small, squeaky voice“O.K.  I’ll go to preschool.” She was just fine.

I know that a lot of that fight was over control.  She wanted it, but sensed that I had it.   I was struggling with maintaining it and not losing my cool.  I was so frustrated becauseI knew what was best for her.  I wanted to scream “Your life would be so much easier if you would just go along with me.  Trust me! “

Aren’t we the same way with God?  We want all the control and panic when our life seems to be spiraling out.  We try to desperately hang on to any scrap of control. How utterly ridiculous to believe that our lives are better off in our hands rather than the creator of the heavens and the earth!  All the while God is whispering, “Your life would be so much easier if you would just go along with me.  Trust me!" 

God doesn't negotiate, but he may just give us one simple step at a time.  We are then more likely to say "O.K.  God, that is doable.  I can go along with that, but don't ask me that big thing over there."  Sooner or later we realize we are headed down the right path, doing the very thing we felt was too difficult for us to do.

Most days are a power struggle with all my children.  Some days are so sweet because it all comes together and our mornings flow smoothly and are full of peace.  Those are the days I treasure, because I feel so in control.

But, I’ve come to realize that control is an illusion.  Even on those peaceful days, God is control, not me.  He knows that allowing my kids to cooperate is just what I needed at that moment.  Although I don’t relish it, chaos is only a reminder that I don’t hold the reins. While I might think that peace is what I need, God knows that there is something in me that needs to be reminded of His sovereignty.

I can’t help but think of Noah.  When the floods came it must have been very chaotic.  He had spent 120 years being in control as he built the Ark.  He went day by day, building the ark and obeying God and not a drop of rain had fallen yet.  Even then, God was in control and had given Noah the exact specifications for the building.  His life was characterized by days of quiet dependence and faith.  Then the rains fell. The springs of the earth erupted and all he could do was hang on tight.

I just recently realized that in all the directives that God gave Noah, there is not one that mentions putting in a rudder or captains wheel.   The ark was at the mercy of the waves the whole times.  Each large swell was a reminder that Noah had to trust God. God was in control despite what it looked like.

Sometimes we may feel that life is tossing us around in the storms.  We must realize at those moments God is in control.  He holds us in his loving arms and will keep us safe and sound. He knows exactly where we need to be and after the storm will guide usto the shore to await the next storm, for the next time we need to be reminded that we are utterly dependent on God.

Noah and his family were saved by God and so are we.  We will get through the storm if we keep our eyes on our Father.  After the storm,  Noah was given the blessing of the rainbow because he stayed the course. It was a reminder of God’s everlasting covenant with his believers that He had opened up the clouds and He had closed them. Noah was safe in God’s very capable, very sovereign hands forever and so are we.

I find it interesting that when we see a rainbow, even one that we call full, it is only part of the full circle of what is actually created.  On earth, we have life to block our view of God’s everlasting love. Sometimes life circumstances can interfere with our view of God’s love.  Someday, when we are in heaven and can look at our life from God’s perspective, we will see that the full circle of God’s love was always there.  During the storms, the rain prevents us from seeing it, and even in the bright sunlight, we only see a portion of the blessings we receive.  

God is always in charge. We may feel like we are at the mercy of the waves, but He hold us in the ark of his love until we reach the safety of the shore.

John 14:27
“I am leaving you witha gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannotgive. So don’t be troubled or afraid

Romans 8:37-39
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. ForI am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, norany other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God,which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Deuteronomy 7:9
"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, whokeeps His covenant and His loving kindness to a thousandth generation withthose who love Him and keep His commandments;

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What We Can Learn from Bees

I am deathly afraid of bees.  I’m not sure why, having never been bitten.  The mere hint of the presence of one puts me into a tizzy.  I’m sure that half the fear is that I have built up the pain in my head.  The fear either freezes or makes me run away.

Emotional pain is like that too.  You build it up in your head so that the mere hint that it might be coming makes you frightened.  It isn’t the pain, however, that makes us freeze or run away.  It is the fear.   If we would be still and calm, we might escape the pain altogether.  We certainly build up the idea of pain in our heads, to the point that the fear is most assuredly worse than the pain itself. 

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

That got me thinking that there are other lessons I can learn from the bee.  Though fearsome, bees are very useful creatures.  The pollen they spread produces growth.  Pain too produces growth.  Like pollen, the growth from pain isn’t automatic.  You have to do something with it—process it, see what you can learn from it.  If it just sits there as you are praying for it to end, pain will not produce any growth.

Romans 5:3-4 also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Bees also produce honey.   Pain can produce a sweet joy in life in feeling the real presence of God in your life and his comfort.  Bees return laden with nectar in sacs—to the point that they waddle around with the burden.  “The worker bee returning to the hive with a load of nectar is almost immediately greeted by other workers ready to relieve her of the load”  (“How do Bees Make Honey?”).  We too are social creatures who should immediately come to our fellow workers aid, and with the load lightened, the work of turning pain into sweet honey can begin.

Galatians 6: 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

“Nectar returned to the hive at this point is barely recognizable as honey,” being mostly water  (“How do Bees Make Honey?”).  The bee must add the enzymes from their own bodies, allowing the water to be evaporated, leaving behind the honey.  We too must add to the pain—we can add more pain, or we can add from our own deep sense of who God is, as revealed by the word and by our experience of His love, and the Holy Spirit that lives in a believer’s heart. Adding His love to pain produces the sweet victory that allows up to rise up out of our circumstances into the loving presence of God.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

All this takes time.  We must trust God that he knows what he is doing.  If you are heavy laden with the pain that you have begged God to free you from, trust that he must still want you to learn from it.  Unload some of it on your fellow workers and go to the work of turning the pain to honey. 

Romans 8:2828 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

“How do Bees Make Honey?”  Beeswax  Co. LLC. Online. 11 Oct 2012


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Trust the Driver

As a mom, I do a lot of driving around town, especially now that my daughters go to three different schools.  I am always amazed that my kids, who are 9,7, and 5, will question my driving.  I will hear “why are we going this way, Mommy?  I want to go that way.”  “Go faster, Mommy” and “We are going the wrong way.”  Talk about back seat driving in the worst way!  Is there such thing as car seat driving?  I keep telling them to trust me, that I know where we are going, and I know the best way to get there.

It is annoying, but aren’t we the same way with God? We too try to tell Him where we want to go. We urge him to go faster.  We question the direction He is leading us.

The truth is that we don’t really know how to drive.  We have limited vision and don’t know where we are headed.  We want to take the wheel when the truth is we don’ t know what is best.  Who are we to question the omniscient, all-powerful creator of all time and space?

We just need to sit back and trust that God knows where we are headed and the best way to get there.  We will encounter some roadblocks a long the way, likely causing us to question His path for us.  But he put those roadblocks there to protect us.  To make us turn around and go down a better path—the best path--a route that will get us to our destination at just the right time. 

But what is our destination?  Remember that I said that we don’t know where we are headed?  We often loose sight of our ultimate destination in favor of the pit stops along the way.  Maybe we think, “I just need to get over this illness” or “My kids just need to grow up and move out.”  With these pit stops as our destinations we are apt to take what we think is the quickest route.  But God always has our ultimate destination in mind---to give him glory by becoming more like Him.

We were created in the image of God, but we because of our nature we continually fall short of that image.  Our final destination is to become more like Christ.  The only way that it can happen is if we trust God with our path.  We may question the purpose of certain circumstances in our life, but that is because we don’t understand how it can work for our good.  We see only that the circumstances are in our way preventing us from reaching what we believe is our destination.  But God know our ultimate destination, and the best way to get there.

I’m thinking of the life of Abraham.  There he was prospering when God suddenly told him to pick up and move.  God didn’t even tell him where he was going, just that He would show him and bless him.  Abraham had to trust God with his path and his destination.   Along the way, he experienced many roadblocks and occasionally questioned God’s leading.  He even tried to take the wheel a couple of times.  Ultimately, as God proved Himself a faithful, loving God, Abraham came to a place where he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice—his son.  God had led him down a path where he had become more like God—who also made the ultimate sacrifice of his Son.

I have my dark moments where I question this disease and I just call out to God “heal me—but go faster!”  But I need to trust that there is a purpose for all of this and that God will deliver me to my destination safe and sound.  This illness is simply just a roadblock.  Because I trust the driver, I can have beautiful moments of pure bliss--wind in my hair, sun on my face, perfectly content.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

Romans 8:28

New International Version (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

I love the beginning of the school year. Fresh starts and new school supplies abound. Hope is in the air. I wish that hope was accompanied by cooler weather and the coloring of the leaves but alas I live in Vegas where it is 95 degrees at 8:00 in the morning and Palm trees and mesquite remain pretty much the same. Where there are three seasons-- pleasant, bearable, and Hell.

I wish too that I was starting fresh. That I was done with treatment and facing the excitement and hope that comes with new beginnings. But no, I'm still facing weekly chemotherapy with no end in sight. It seems like everybody else has something to look forward to -- a new baby, a trip, a new home. No, Hope in not in the air for me; I can't just breath it in as easily as I would take a breath. It is more elusive.

And yet, I still have hope because it is in Christ. Rom 5:4-5 says that perseverance develops character, character, hope. Hope is a matter of character that doesn't fluctuate due to circumstance. Hope isn't looking forward to events in your life, but a joy that looks forward to the good that God can make come from the worst of situations. Hope is not happiness in what is "happening" but a true joy in the Lord. That joy is not without tears; the difference is that when your hope is in the Lord those tears are not wasted. They don't just go down the sewer but soak into the soil of our heart and produce growth. Without hope, tears are wasted.

I don't have an end in sight with chemotherapy, but hope is being sure of what we don't see (Heb. 11:1). I don't see all the good God can make come from this ugly disease.  I must trust because I know God. I look at my circumstances through the eyes of God. I don't look at God through my circumstances because that would distort his image. Instead I focus on God alone.

So for now I will hope in the Lord. I will continue on my journey that is not without tears, knowing God will use them to water the garden of my soul.

A word study of hope:

The word hope is mentioned directly 166 times in 158 verses

The book that mentions the word hope most (besides Psalms) is Job (16 times).  Job certainly didn't have the best circumstances.

Most of the new testament (outside of the gospels) is attributed to Paul.  He mentions hope 70 times.  Have you read what happened to him?  Read 2 Cor 11:23-28 just to name a few trials.

Rom 4:18 Abraham hoped didn't see realization

Rom 15:4 we can have hope through endurance and the encouragement of scriptureRom 15:12 We serve the God of Hope

Eph. 1:18 open the eyes of your heart to know the hope to which he has called you

Eph. 4:4 We have one hope

1 Tim 6:17-- we are not to hope in riches

Heb 6:17-18  God makes the unchanging nature of his purpose clear so that we that have hope may be encouraged

Heb 6:19 hope is an anchor for the soul, firm and secure

1 Peter 1:3 through the resurrection of Christ, we are born to a living hope

1 pet 3:15 believers should always be prepared to give a reason for the hope

1 John 3:3 hope purifies

Romans 8:24-25  24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Not Wasting the Water

Earlier this week I wrote about the storms of life. It is funny that storms involve a lot of water, but you can hardly call them refreshing. In order to bloom, however, you do need water, but a soft, gentle rain or a bubbling spring is best for that. Often after a storm the water runs off and you are left with the dry cracked earth of the desert. So what then?

Sometimes God is gracious and provides us a season of rest after the storm or more often small breaks, or breathers as I like to call them, even in the midst of longer storms. But if we aren't careful we could use these breaks as an excuse to rest on our laurels, as though we are “entitled” to these moments.

I went through this a couple of years ago. I had gone through chemo, lumpectomy and then radiation and, though I was still getting herceptin, it was only short trips to the chemo chair every few weeks and seemed like nothing compared to what I had gone through in the last year. I thought the cancer was gone and that I was finally able to rest. The problem is that I decided that was a rest from everything—my household duties, my health (eating right and excercising), and most appaling of all, my prayer life and quiet time with the Lord. By doing this, I actually was self imposing desert living. I grew complacent and distant from God and as a consequence was not growing.

I had a rather jarring wake up call when friends had to confront me with the knowledge that I was neglecting my children to the point that the day care had mentioned calling CPS. Thank goodness that never happened. I could have wallowed, put up a fight exclaiming “but look what I have gone through?” or “why aren't you accusing Brian of the same things?” O.K. I did a fair amount of this at first. But then I woke up and confronted myself and it drew me closer to God as I prayed about what I needed to do. First things first is that I had to get back to the Word and use it to water my soul back to green. I also reflected on how God's goodness had gotten me that far. Finally the brown, cracked earth of my heart began to come back to life.

Think about the Isrealites. They went from having too much water when they were threatened by the Red Sea, to grumbling about being thirsty to the point of death. Maybe if they had reflected on God's goodness in saving them out of Egypt, they would have realized that God was not going to let them go. God provides what we need, if we rely on him for the giving.

That is the key to bringing the refreshment of water back to the desert moments in our life. Go to the true source of the Living Water—Christ's love as reflected in the Bible and in our own life through his loving provision. Spend time in prayer and in the Word even if it feels strange at first, like you are going through the motions. The pump needs to be primed a bit before the water begins to flow. That isn't any fault of God's though, but a by product of our neglect. Look over your life and record even the smallest of merciful moments where Christ's love brought you through the storms of your life. Then watch how God brings you back to life again. And don't forget to reflect and record that blooming.

We don't have to wait for rest to bring the Living Water into our lives. We need to stay in the Word while we are going through the storms. In doing so we are catching the rain water so it can do good to our souls, rather than running out into the gutters of life. We should reflect on and record the littlest provisions, the strength and peace God provides through it all. Then maybe we can experience more of the gentle waters of the cool garden and less of the cracked earth of the desert. Then when we are given rest, it won't be wasted, but will be times of true blooming.

Psalm 1:2-4

New International Version (NIV)
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

John 7:37-39

New International Version (NIV)
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Calm vs. Peace

I am definitely in a stormy period in my life. It may not be a full out tornado, but it is a steady down pour with the occasional squall. The squalls usually involved my children. They are no respecters of my disease. They still act like willful children. Yesterday I was in charge of children's church. It went fine except for my two littlest ones—they int interrupted me every five seconds, whining and crying about some such matter. I finally had to drag them (literally) out to their father, them screaming all the while. What a nightmare!

Here I was serving God and this happens. I often find myself wishing things would go smoother, especially on the days of my treatment. Is it too much to ask that my children get ready without struggle, that my house be clean and in order, that my appliances and car work without fail? Yes, it is.

God never says life will be without storms. He just promises that He will be there to help us weather them. Sometimes God calms the storms and I am forever grateful for the rest that provides, but sometimes He lets the winds roar and we just have to trust Him.

I can think of several instances in the Bible involving storms and the disciples.

One is in Mark 4. This time everyone was in the boat, including Jesus when

37 [a] furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?"
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
This time he calmed the storm. What a wonderful relief to the disciples. Perhaps Jesus sensed their fragile faith couldn't take too much of the wind, but he still needed to teach them to trust Him. Sometimes our storms are short lived, but there is still a lesson to be learned, a lesson to take into the next storm that may last longer.
Another is in Matthew 14. This is the one where Peter walks on water. The wind is buffeting the boat when Jesus came to them:
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid."
28 "Lord, if it’s you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29 "Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God.”
Notice that Jesus didn't calm the storm until Peter had walked out to Him. He may not have lasted long above water, but he did show faith and courage as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus and not the storm. No matter how long the storm, we too must keep our eyes on Jesus and not our circumstances.

Finally in John 6 there is a storm and Jesus walks out to the disciples whose boat was in rough waters. Jesus says, 
“It is I; don’t be afraid." 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
Notice that it never said that he calmed the storm. Perhaps even when they reached the shore safely, the storm still raged. Who knows how long the storm lasted, but Jesus still got them to where they needed to go and He does the same for us.

All three (and many others) have one thing in common—Jesus urged his followers to not be afraid. This is the key between calm and true peace. The truth is that only storms bring growth. It was only in the storms that our faith is tested and we are able to walk on water. But we can still have peace amidst the buffeting if we take courage, resist fear, keep our eyes on Jesus. Then our hearts will have clear skies while outside the wind roars.

Or in my case, my children scream :-)

Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Answers or Beauty?

In light of the Colorado theatre shooting, I am struck with how terrible things happen to people everyday. I am sure that there are many that are asking “why?” and “how can a loving God do such a thing?” These are vital questions that everyone must answer. Myself, I answered them long ago and though I could talk about the reasons, I don't want to right now. The bottom line is that I have faith and I know my God and I don't define my God by what happens to me; I define what happens to me by knowing God. You can ask yourself “Why?” all eternity long about the bad things that happen to you, but you will only kill your spirit, draining yourself of the strength to face another day.

So I choose to focus on the positive. For example, the story of Petra Anderson, who survived a shot in the head because of a brain defect she had had since birth though she had no idea of it. She had a channel of fluid that ran from the front of her brain to the back and the bullet happened to follow that channel so as to not damage the vital parts of her brain. That is certainly not a coincidence. God had prepared her from birth to get through this incident. What she does with that from now on will be the true miracle.

I can look back and see that God prepared me for breast cancer. Eleven months prior to my diagnosis, I got a wonderful job from home that has allowed me to keep up with working all through my treatments. I didn't opt for medical coverage when I was hired, but was urged to seek double coverage at the time of diagnosis. Since k12 had grown so much (in a recession no less :-) they were switching everyone over to a new insurance and so I was able to get coverage with no pre-existing condition exclusion and my doctors were in the network. From the people he has surrounded me with, to the knowledge of Him in which I was firmly planted, God has lovingly provided me with all I need to get through this part of my life. Not just to survive, but to proclaim his glory through it all.

Our lives are a mosaic lovingly arranged by God. Our hearts are delicate pieces of glass that God breaks apart and it may seem like random shattering. But he picks up each piece in his loving hands and adds his own pieces and makes a beautiful masterpiece. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, we can't see the picture that He is making and the finished product isn't always recognizable. In fact, I don't think the masterpiece of our lives is ever really finished. Sometimes you have to step back to see the beauty in the shattered pieces, but it's there. You can look for answers or you can look for beauty, but strength comes from beauty.

Psalm 22: 9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Light Upon my Path

I went to the doctor yesterday before getting my weekly chemo. He said that my labs look good and that the CAT scan is clear. He is very pleased on how well the drugs are working and how well I am handling the Chemo. I pressed him about how long I will have to keep up the weekly chemo. He didn't want to use the word “indefinitely” but he did say it is not unheard of patients being on these type of drugs for two years! The thing is, he explained, is this is a brand new drug that is doing its job so he doesn't want to stop prematurely and then have the cancer come back. There is a lot of hope in what he said, but the thought of two more years of this is just disheartening to say the least. I am tolerating the medicine rather well, but that doesn't mean that it is easy, by no means. And just the time it takes and how tired I am afterwards—my Thursdays are pretty much shot.

I am trying to stay on the bright side, as difficult as that is. I am trying to look at this as a chronic condition, like lupus or diabetes. These drugs are doing a good job managing my disease, but aren't without their inconveniences and side effects. Like some chronic illnesses, there is a chance that I will go into remission and be able to get off the drugs. But in the mean time they are necessary and just part of my life.

So, as always, I need to trust my future to God. I posted a couple of weeks ago: “We want answers to our questions because sometimes they are easier to trust than God. -- Beth Booram”
Lord, help me to trust you when answers are hard to come by. I would so much like the doctor to say I am done with this and be able to move on from this facet of my life. But there are obviously lessons I still need to learn, places I still need to grow. The Lord knows what he is doing.

My new obsession is the song “Better than I” from the movie Joseph, King of Dream. It is so beautiful! It expresses exactly how we are to react when our future is not certain.

If this has been a test,
I cannot see the reason.
But maybe knowing I don't know
Is part of getting through.

I try to do what's best,
And faith has made it easy,
To see the best thing I can do
I Is put my trust in You.

For You know better than I,
You know the way.
I've let go the need the need to know why,
For You know better than I.

Joseph must have felt similar to me when he faced all that time in prison. He found himself in a situation he never expected to be in, he didn't want and with no end in sight. He had to trust that God knows what he is doing and he has a plan and a purpose in all of his sufferings. God gives us glimpses of His plan as wonderful gifts to keep us going (like days I get to encourage my fellow chemo buddies) but for the most part we just need to trust him. Like a lantern to our path, God reveals just enough ahead of us to keep us going. If we saw the whole path, who is to say we wouldn't just freak and run away or freeze our movements altogether. Who is to say we would even understand it. If we knew the whole plan then we wouldn't have to trust God and have faith that everything will work out for His Glory and our good.

So here I am, trusting God with my future. I am to move ahead on my path, praising God and serving him in all that I do, holding the lantern of God's word and the Holy Spirit ahead of me, putting one foot before the other, trusting God with the darkness.

Isaiah 42:16
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Importance of Roots

This weekend I was struck by how important the roots are to a plant. With all the rain we've been getting lately, I am feeling refreshed and revitalized. I realized how desperate I was for the water. I am sure the plants were feeling the same, yet without those roots the water would never get to where it needs to—to the heart of the plant.

It is the same for us Christians. Unless we are rooted in the Word, no amount of quenching that God wants to do will get to our hearts. It will simply wash away without affecting us. Then when the storms come, our very essence will be washed away with all the muck and the mud.

These last couple of years have been full of storms. But they have also seen beautiful moments of gentle rain that refreshed and renewed my soul: a women's conference at just the right time, a date night with my husband, a Sunday message meant just for me. I'm not sure I would recognize those moments without being rooted in the Word. Sometimes it is even more subtle—a verse that comes to mind when I or a friend needs it the most. I am natorious for offering a verse and saying “I'm not sure where that is, but it is in the Bible somewhere.” Thank God for the searchable function of the Bible on my phone so I can be more precise.

No one was more rooted in the Word than Christ himself. It seems that he was quoting the Bible every time he opened his mouth. Maybe he had an advantage because, afterall, he is THE WORD. But, he was also fully human, so I imagine his mind worked much the same as ours. He used the Bible to settle arguments, challenge his followers, make a point, resist temptation, teach a lesson and so on. He comforted and challenged with the Word. There was never a situation or occasion where the words of the Bible were not appropriate.

Righteousness begins in the mind and language comes from the mind. It is right to use the words of the Bible to wash our thoughts and to fight the battles that happen there. Being rooted means that every day we stretch the tendrils of our thoughts into the Bible and explore what God would have us learn. Then, when the winds of storms blow, we will have an anchor for our souls and we will emerge stronger than ever.

Colossians 2:6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flying Lessons

Content to stay in the safety of the chrysalis,
Only dreaming of flight,
I could not be taught there.

The hatching was a battle.
Forgetting the promise of flight, I prayed for it to pass quickly,
But struggle strengthens wings

Even with wings, I sometimes forgot flying
And crawled like a caterpillar, mucked in the mud
As if I had no choice

I, as a new creature, was meant to soar,
Not in the clouds where earth is forgotten,
But among the flowers.

My name comes from the king
So I can’t help but head towards the warmth of my home
Finding my course by listening to the His gentle voice inside

My father’s wings are like Eagle’s wings--strong,
Mine like gossamer,
Needing His protection to weather the storm, to keep on flying.

No, I didn’t learn flying from a book or even by watching others
(Though catching some hope of flight)
But by the power of His love, weakened not by events on the ground.

By His help, I can realize the power of my purpose
To color the sky with my wings,
Gathering His seed wherever I go,
Birthing the hope of His bloom where I land.

Psalm 63: 7 
Because you are my help, 
    I sing in the shadow of your wings. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My New Normal

Right now I am part a phase 1 drug trial of a new drug that is unique targeted to my type of cancer.  It doesn’t even have a name yet, just a number.  I get that drug, Herceptin (an antibody that blocks the her/2 receptors of my cancer) and a small bit of the hard stuff.  Since I only get a small bit of the hard stuff, I am experiencing only mild hair loss and no nausea (Thank the Lord!!!)  But the new drug does cause moderate to severe diarrhea. I have had some rough nights, but overall this regiment is easier than some of the others I’ve had (this is the third combo they have tried).  It seems to be working because my lesions have gone away, yet another praise.

The problem is that I have to go every week for Chemo—every week!!  With that comes all the hassles that come with sitting in a chair for four hours a week—what to do with the kids, falling behind with my work, neglecting household duties, being tired for a couple of days—not to mention the side effects, though mild at times. It is so exhausting dealing with going every week.  It was really tough at first.  I swear that the girls moved slower and were more stubborn on Thursdays, the day of my treatment.  That just doesn’t seem fair!  I have resigned myself to having to go each week, but is it too much to ask that getting to and from my appointment and arrangements with the kids go smoothly?  Twice I’ve gotten colds that delayed my treatment thus giving me a nice break, but leaving me miserable for several days.  Again, shouldn’t there be some rule where you shouldn’t have to get colds while you have cancer?  Yes, I know it is actually the opposite since my immune system is compromised.

I’ve gotten used to going now.  It is part of my life.  I have decided that those things that I have put off until I was done with treatment can no longer be put off.   God has clearly told me that I have no excuse not to serve him and obey him.  Some changes I’ve made willingly and with excitement—I started a women’s Bible study at my church (Last Monday of the month this summer—all are welcome, message me if you are interested).  Others I am resisting.  For example, I need to write more, exercise and eat better.  Especially, the eat better has become evidently clear.  What I eat has much more of an impact now.  My bowels have a way of vividly rebelling against what I eat.

The point is that this is my life.  There is no point in bemoaning my fate or shirking my responsibilities.  Whatever my lot, I am a child of God and must serve him.  He continues to show me grace and comfort each week.  His grace is sufficient.  In my weakness, he is strong.  This is my new normal.

I am reminded of the life of Daniel.  There are some real crises in the life of Daniel—and some real triumphs as well.  Who could ever forget the exciting story of Daniel and the lion’s den?  But for the most part his life was one of prolonged captivity—punctuated by dramatic events that highlighted Daniel’s continued faith and God’ s response.   He was a slave—though an honored one and one that experienced some sense of power.  Every time the Babylon rulers exercised their authority as religious ruler and objects of worship it reminded Daniel that he was a slave in a very real way, but slavery was his normal, no matter how unpleasant. Still, the king of Babylon said of him that he served his God “continually” (Dan 6:20). He had to learn to act with integrity and serve God in the day-to-day drudgery of a life he didn’t ask for.

This cancer has been punctuated by dramatic moments that have called out from me every ounce of my strength and then allowed me to rely on God’s strength and see his enduring goodness.  But for the most part it has become old hat, the drudgery of a life that I didn’t ask for. 

Daniel couldn’t wait for his bondage to end to serve God and neither can I.  I still need to use my talents to glorify God, to take care of my kids and husband.  Just because I have chemo each week, I still have to put up with days when my husband is irritable, the house is a mess, my four-year-old resists using the potty.  This is my life—I didn’t ask for it, but I can still bloom, have success despite, even because of it.  I am asked to act with integrity and serve God in the midst of my bondage to the chemo chair.

Maybe you are experiencing your bondage to a life you didn’t ask for and find unpleasant.  A town you had to move to that is lonely and doesn’t feel like home.  Perhaps a constant struggle with a rebellious teen.  A marriage that is experiencing a winter season.   Maybe a medical condition like my own.  You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control your reaction to it.  God is still faithful.  Let him comfort you.  And above all, never stop obeying him and serving him in the midst of your circumstances.  Like Daniel, you will find yourself blooming where you are planted.    

Psalm 119: 49 Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. 50 My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life.56 This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Key to Elijah's Blooming

I haven’t written in so long, a fact that saddens me to no end.  In September, while I was still undergoing Chemo, I accepted the privilege of being a Bible Study Fellowship children’s leader.  I am so happy to be back in the loving embrace of a wonderful group of ladies and I am thoroughly enjoying being a children’s leader.  It has been tough though trying to balance all the responsibilities of being a mother, wife, and all my medical appointments.  God is faithful, though and there has not been any times where I haven’t been able to serve because of my illness.  It is true that when he asks you to serve, he equips you and provides everything you need to succeed.  You just have to say yes.  With that said, it is not because of BSF that I haven’t written, because, truth be told, I could have easily given up an hour or two of television to write.  The lesson I taught this week (for BSFJ) convicted me that I need to be using my talents to build up the body of Christ, not just for my own pleasure.  Surely the truths that the Lord has blessed me with He intends for me to pass on.  So here it goes. . . .

What does it mean to bloom where you are planted?  It means growing in Christ even under the most trying of circumstances. One of the individual’s who demonstrates this so clearly is Elijah. 

His story begins in 1 Kings 17 when he delivers the bad news to Ahab, King of Israel, that there was going to be a severe famine.  From that point forward, He basically becomes a hunted man.  If anyone experienced trying circumstances, it was this guy.  But time and time again, Elijah made it perfectly clear that he was going to follow the Lord whatever happened.  Whenever he spoke, he prefaced it with “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve. . .”  In this one pithy statement he says a lot. 

First, he is saying that God is Lord and remains in charge no matter what. It may seem like your life is spiraling out of control, but just because you don’t have control, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t.  He caused the famine and he would surely provide for his people during it. Psalm 40: 10 in the Message says:

 "Look! Your God!"
Look at him! God, the Master, comes in power,
   ready to go into action.
He is going to pay back his enemies
   and reward those who have loved him.
Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
   gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them,
   leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

I love the idea of the Lord hugging me to himself.  He takes care of me in so many ways. I don’t know if I would see him loving care if it weren’t for my trying circumstances.  I love how this translation says “Look!”   Often times we take our eyes off of God and his provision and onto our circumstances when God just wants us to see him.  Sometimes (O.K most of the time) it takes trying circumstances to have us really see him working in our lives.

Next, Elijah calls him “living.”  God is not a distant and cold King who could care less about our lives.  He is a living and active God, “ready to go into action” as the Psalm above points out.  He lives in our hearts and moves in our lives. 2 Corinthians 3: 3 says “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (NIV).”  We are God’s love letter and God uses the Holy Spirit to write his love on our hearts. 

Finally, he makes it absolutely clear that, no matter what, he is going to serve God.  It didn’t matter if there was a famine or he was being hunted down, he was going to obey and serve God.  It is what he was created for; it is what we all were created for.  We find true happiness, independent of our circumstances, when we are living for Christ, serving and worshipping him alone.  It seemed crazy that God would expect me to serve him while I was undergoing chemotherapy.  Now, I am actually getting it ONCE A WEEK!   But do you know that I feel more blessed, strong, and energized than ever before?  Last year during my brief period of not going to the doctors constantly, I languished.  I decided that I could “take it easy” because after all, I had gotten through a tough year and I deserved a break right?  I got lazy and wasn’t in the Word daily and so became distant from God.  I decided (no, I believe God, in his mercy decided) that I wasn’t going to have that this time around.  I needed God in my life more than ever.  If God chooses to heal me again, then I will have the structure of serving to help me stay on track.  God saves us not to live our lives for ourselves, but to live for Him.

Later this week (Yes I will!! I say to myself;-), I will continue with the story of Elijah and God’s loving provision during his trials.  Until then I pray God’s peace over you and your circumstances, “as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve. . .”