Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Embrace These Times

I shared a bit in my last blog about what a strange time this is for me. It is difficult to describe in words. It is not disturbing, just unsettling. Since finishing treatment and all the busyness that surrounds that, it has been a very quiet time. I know that it is a time to rest and heal from the journey through the desert. I know that it is not possible physically, right now, to go and do like I did before. But this uneasy feeling wasn't coming from that.

As I thought about it, I realized that for so long, my purpose has been spent trying to share what God was doing in me and through me on this journey. And now I am coming out of the desert and I ask myself, "What next?" I even wondered if God would still give me words to share on my blog.

It seems like I am wandering around in the dark with a blindfold on, being led by God to a place I don't know. I think my reliance upon Him, these last few days, has been every bit as strong, as any time during this journey.

"What is your purpose for me now, Lord? Will you have words for me to share? Will you still be able to use me?, I prayed.

Then, I began my morning devotions and read these words from Os Hilman,

Joshua was known for almost 40 years as "Joshua, servant of Moses." God's preparation for him required years of selfless service, training in the desert, and tests of faith. Those preparation years were booster rockets designed to move Joshua into each new stage of his development and his ultimate calling.

God allows each of us preparation times to lay a foundation that He plans to build on. Some of those foundation times appear to be laborious and meaningless, yet these experiences are what God is using to frame your life for the message He plans to speak through you. Without these experiences, the Jordan River can never be crossed and we cannot enter the Promised Land. Embrace these times of seeming inactivity from God. They, too, are a rocket booster to your next stage of your walk with God.

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

As I began to read this morning's devotional, tears filled my eyes. For, I knew after reading the first sentence, that God was speaking directly to me. By the time I finished, I was on my knees in humble gratitude for God Almighty hearing and answering my prayer.

Heavenly Father,
I look forward to what you will do in the "next stage" of my life. For I know you will complete the work you have begun in me. But for now, in this stage, I will "embrace" this time. I will surround, encircle and enclose myself in your loving arms. Thank you for holding me while I wait on you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Doing Something

It's Monday and there will be no going down to MD Anderson for anything. No radiation, no doctor visit, no labs. Nothing. It's a strange feeling. For the last 9 months, a part of nearly everyday, was spent "doing something" to get rid of the cancer. Somehow there was security in that. Today, I feel like I should be "doing something". Like if I go back down and have another treatment it will keep it from coming back.

I remember the feeling after I graduated from nursing school. Every day was spent reading textbooks, studying, writing papers, going to clinicals at the hospital. When I graduated, I felt "free" for a day or so. Glad to be finished. But, after a few days, I felt like I should be "doing something". Studying, reading, writing. Something that would make me a better nurse.

Today, I have the same feeling. Like I should be "doing something".

And, then the Holy Spirit speaks softly to me. Gentle, words of warning. "I" can be a dangerous word. "Doing something" is a phrase that could be trouble. My eyes fall on the card that Ann gave me on my last day of radiation. In it she wrote " Let not worries fill your heart or anxiety take over your soul. But trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." There is no "I" in that scripture. God wants me to lean on Him and trust Him.

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10) There is no "doing something" in those words.

And so I will sit in the swing, taking in His Holy presence, listening to the sweet song of the birds, enjoying the aroma of the gardenia flowers on the fence, basking in the warmth of the morning sunshine. Trusting Him for all my tomorrows. That is exactly what He wants me to be doing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Great is thy faithfulness. Day after day after day. Today, 276 days after discovering a lump that turned out to be cancer, God has brought me out of the desert.

Today was the last day of treatment. Three surgeries, 7 months of chemo. 7 weeks of radiation, and today was the last.

I came out of the changing room and walked down the hallway, as I have every day for the last 7 weeks, but this time, at the end of the hallway, there were many special people waiting to share my joy. Carl and our good friend Deloris. Ann, Nadine and Nancy came over from work, along with Bentley, our NICU chaplain.

My oldest son, Eric came with Katie and baby Cooper. My son Brent and his wife Sabrina had just arrived from North Carolina the night before and they were there along with my grandsons Lincoln and baby Ches.

In my excitement, I walked into the radiation room and started to get on the table, when Jared, the therapist said, "Wait! You forgot your blanket. We can't do this without your blanket." And he was right. My quilt has gone with me to every surgery, chemo, radiation and doctor's visit since the beginning. I couldn't do the last treatment without it. So, I went back out, got the quilt and they covered me with it one last time.

Little did I know that while I was on the table, my therapists Jared, Dennis and Therese were snapping pictures with my camera. They made radiation fun every day. And I will always be grateful to them for their kindness, smiles and good humor.

When I finished the treatment we went out to ring the bell. As my friends and loved ones gathered around I rung that bell just as hard as I could pull three times. We all came together and Bentley had a beautiful prayer.

Although, today's events are a bit out of sequence, I wanted to end today's post with the cross.
When the treatment began and that wonderful cross overhead came into view for the last time, tears began to flow. Every emotion that I felt was expressed in that little cross etched in the ceiling. Without the cross of Jesus, I would not have been made it through the desert. That cross has provided me with strength to go on when my strength was gone. That cross has given me wonderful husband, family and friends who have lifted me up in prayer. It has given me forgiveness, when I have doubted. That cross has carried my burdens, when the load was too heavy. It has been a reminder every single day of His love and great faithfulness to me.

At the close of this special day, I will be on my knees praising God for what He has done in me and through me on this journey.

And if I am given a new morning, I will place my hope in Him and enjoy His fresh new mercies once again.

Great is Thy Faithfulness!!
(Lamentations 3:21-24)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Questions

I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my son, Brent and his family from North Carolina, coming for a week long visit. For the first time in a long time, all my grandchildren will be here together and they plan to have a picture made of all of them. The best part of it all is they will be here to share my exciting day tomorrow. The day to "ring the bell", meaning radiation is done. I can't wait!! God is Good all the Time!!

A friend sent me this e-mail and I liked it so much that I wanted to share it on the blog. I hope it brings a smile to your face.

Life Really Boils Down To 2 Questions.....

1. Should I get a dog......?


2. Should I have children.....?

Now that I made you smile, pass it on to someone else who needs a laugh today!

No matter what situation life throws at you...
No matter how long and treacherous your journey may seem...
Remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Have a great day and remember to give thanks!

Cats are so dramatic!!!

Achieving The Outcome

"Are you a person who is more concerned with outcome than how you achieve the outcome?"

Those were the first words I read from my morning devotional. And boy did they hit me between the eyes! Have you ever had someone ask you a question and you felt like they could see right through you when you answered? Or listened to a sermon and was sure you heard the pastor say your name aloud as he preached? Well, that's how this morning's question made me feel. Like God was speaking them directly to me.

I knew that I had to see my oncologist today. Aside from what he would say about going back to work now, I always wonder if he is going to tell me something I don't want to hear. I shared on yesterday's blog, my struggle with worry over this appointment and how I finally gave up and gave it all to the Lord.

You see, I was only looking at how I would have the energy and strength to go back to work. The outcome.

But, what God was looking at, was how I achieved that outcome. And this morning, I went in, trusting that God would handle it all, because I had given it to Him. That's how I achieved the outcome. By giving all my worries and cares to Him and letting Him take care of them.

As Carl and I waited in the waiting room, I felt a sense of peace that everything would work out okay. I experienced His peace again when Dr. B's nurse, Ellen, came in. She is one of the most calming, gentle people I have ever met. She gave me a hug and we talked for a bit and she said, "Remember, we nurses are the worst. Be kind to yourself." As she left, I again sensed God's peace, shown in my ever quiet, ever strong husband sitting in the chair next to me.

And even as Dr. B talked with us, God's peace could be felt through his care and concern as he patiently listened and answered every question. Never rushing. Always acting as if we were his only patients for the day.

What was the outcome, you might ask? He wants me to stay off of work and rest. Regain my strength, and try to get the swelling down in the arm by resting it. A follow-up doppler study ordered to see what is happening with the clot. He wants to wait a month before running any follow-up scans to try and provide some rest time in between.

Although I am very relieved and thankful for the outcome today, I am more thankful for how the outcome was achieved. For the lesson He taught me in the process. How to take the "easy way out." by giving it all to Him. And for the lessons He continues to teach me along this journey.

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you." (1Peter 5:7)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Taking The Easy Way Out

Sometimes I wonder why I choose to take the "hard way out" instead of the "easy way out". Last night before I finally fell asleep, I had myself so worried that I hardly slept at all. I had started worrying about going back to work when I finish radiation this week.

As I look back on the last 10 months, the effect of the treatments on my body were almost like fresh fallen snow on the top of a mountain. They started out as a little handful of soft snow. And with each treatment, the little handful turned into a snowball. The more treatments that went by the bigger the snowball got. Then came radiation, and the snowball seemed to get bigger and bigger. Now it seems like an avalanche out of control. I started out, before treatment, with a pretty good supply of energy, even though I was anemic. But as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, that energy seems a distant memory left at the top of the snow covered mountain. It is a chore to get through the day without several naps. Where as before, I could "push through" and "muster up" enough energy to accomplish what needed to be done, I find I have no more "push" or "muster".

Yesterday, as I thought about returning to work and the amount of energy it takes to do my job, I started worrying. I thought about getting up at 5am and making it through the day without a nap. When now I am taking 2 naps a day. And I continued to worry. I told Carl, I didn't think I could do it, and I continued to worry. By evening time, I had wasted the better part of my Sunday worrying. Instead of taking the "easy way out", and giving it all to God, I kept it and had a fitful night of sleep.

But God's faithfulness is great and He grants me new mercies every morning. (Lament. 3:23-24) Where would I be without Your mercy, Oh Lord?

As I began my devotion time, this morning, I couldn't find the words to pray. The combination of worry and lack of sleep last night left my mind blank. So I just sat, knowing God was there. Soon, I felt the gentle touch of the Holy Spirit as He whispered, "Be still and know that I am God."

I spotted a baby bird chirping on the fence. "Did he spend his night worrying?" I thought.
And I asked myself, "Why do you insist on taking the "hard way" first? How much of yesterday did you waste on worry? What did you change by all the worrying that you did? Could I have better spent that time telling Carl how much he means to me, whispering a prayer for someone in need, calling a friend I haven't talked to in awhile, or noticing the fresh new roses on the bush outside?

And there in the quietness of the new morning, in His holy presence, I took the "easy way" out. I laid all of my worries and cares at His feet. I just gave them all to Him. My job, my fatigue, my worries. All of it.

I don't know how He will take care of those worries, I only know He will. And today, instead of wasting precious time worrying, I'll take the "easy way out" and use my time in a way that will be pleasing to Him.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Power of Positive Thinking

Another Friday radiation done! I love the weekends off. It kind of gives the skin a little time to recoup. Ann gave me an aloe plant before I started radiation and I have become VERY fond of it. When I told the radiation oncologist I was using an aloe plant, he said "just make sure the leaves are washed before using it, since you are still immune compromised." I laughed and said, "My friend, who gave it to me, is a NICU nurse. I'm sure the plant went through the 3 minute scrub process before she gave it to me!!"

I remember some months ago posting all the positive things about chemo. So I thought today I might post some of the positive reasons to have radiation. I'm sure some of my breast cancer sisters could add to it.

1. A free tanning bed.

2. Free tattoos in the colors of your choice.

3. A free 20 minute yoga session as you maintain the "arms over head" position.

4. No beach sand to irritate the sunburn.

5. Your internal body temperature increases several degrees so your not as cold. (This is a BIG plus for me!)

6. A chance to model your gorgeous 3 arm gown, for all those around, as you walk down the hall to the treatment room.

Many people have said to me "I've heard people with a positive attitude always do better." I have always believed in thinking and acting positive. At times, I have wondered if studies have actually shown that a person's attitude could help them to live longer. But, I don't believe so.
Why not?

In my morning devotions this morning, I was reading a post by Os Hilman. He talked about the world's emphasis on the power of positive thinking and all the self-help books, and programs that are available. Many of these are promoted as "tools for believers to overcome the mountains in their lives". But, he said, "These ideas lead us away from dependence on God to a self-based psychology designed to give US more power. Our faith in God becomes faith in faith. It is born out of hard work and diligence rather than obedience to God's Spirit. The problem lies in that these philosophies sound good, and can even be supported by Bible verses. Beware of anything that puts the burden of performance on you rather than God. There are times in our lives when God doesn't want us to climb every mountain. Sometimes He wants us to go around. ". God asks me to live my life by His spirit, not by my power. My positive outlook should not reflect an ulterior motive of living a longer life. "Who of you can add a single hour to his life ?" (Luke 12:25)

Does God want me to stop having a positive attitude? Absolutely not! My positive attitude reflects the joy and peace that comes through having a relationship with Him. Nothing more is expected on my part. He will take care of the rest.

There is an old proverb about 2 cups on the table. One seems half empty and one half full. I know who holds my future and because of that, I see 3 cups on the table. Mine is the third cup, and it is overflowing with grace, peace, love and joy.

And therein lies the power of positive thinking!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prayers For A Little Boy

My blog post today is not a happy one because my heart is sad. And I need to share why.

Today, when I was coming out of radiation, I walked past a room and saw a little boy lying on a stretcher. He looked to be about 7 or 8 years old. He was so pale and so tired. But what struck me the hardest was the look in his eyes as I caught his glance. It was the look that tugs at every mother's heart. It said "I hurt and I am sick. Please help me feel better". His mom and dad were by his side stroking his arm, trying to comfort him as he silently lay there. The father had turned off the lights for the little boy, perhaps to minimize a headache, while they waited for radiation.

Right there in the middle of the hallway, I wanted to cry and yell at the same time. I thought of Dylan and Jayda, two of my precious grandchildren, close to that age. They were probably at school right now, running and playing and laughing on the playground, like children that age are supposed to do. Later, they would go to football practice, or baseball practice or cheerleading. They would laugh, they would run, they would jump, they would get dirty. That's what children do. Not This!!

I tried to keep myself together long enough to see the radiation oncologist. As soon as I was finished and left for my car, I had a meltdown. I sobbed. My tears flowed for that sweet little boy and his pain. For his mommy and daddy and their helplessness.

I was angry. My anger, directed at this awful disease. My parents always taught us that "hate" is a strong word. Well, I HATE CANCER!! I HATE that it robs little children of the joy of life. I HATE that it breaks the hearts of loving parents.

As I drove home, my tears continued to flow. Tears for my dad, for my mom, for John, for Eddie, for Jenny. For so many I have loved and lost to this disease. And I did the only thing I know to do when sadness overwhelms me. I cried out to Jesus. I didn't ask for understanding. For I am not even capable, in my humanness, of understanding His divine plan. I simply asked Him to bring peace and comfort to that sweet little boy and his parents. To hold them securely in His arms. To pick them up and carry them when the journey road becomes to rough. And, in His time, to gently place them on the other side.

I don't know this little boy's name. But it was no accident that he touched my heart in such a powerful way, with just a short glance at each other. I wanted to ask of you who are reading this post, that before you close your eyes tonight, please, could you whisper a prayer for him and his mommy and daddy? I don't know exactly how, but I do know, that God will hear our prayers, for that sweet little boy, and answer them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Suitcase

Today was the first day of the radiation boosts. I completed the 28 treatments of radiation to all four quadrants, which was good timing, because the skin was sufficiently done. Well-done actually. I initially thought there would be 5 radiation boosts but was told today there would be seven. "He usually does 5" she said, "but he's added a couple of extra on yours." So a couple more days added to the end, but in the grand scheme of things, nothing at all. The boosts are really quick since they only radiate the tumor area, so I was in and out on no time.

I came upon a quick little quote, right before I went into radiation. (Nothing happens by accident) It said, "God planned and packed you on purpose for His purpose." Hmmm... That's interesting, I thought. But as soon as the cross overhead came into view, God flooded my mind with understanding of those words.

God has always had a plan for my life. He has been preparing me "on purpose" to accomplish "His purpose". He has used this walk through the desert of cancer to help accomplish His purpose. But he gave me a suitcase and packed it perfectly for the journey.

Along the road, He has placed people in my life who are fighting or preparing to fight the same disease. The type may be different, the stage may be different, the treatment may be different, but the fear and questions are all the same. The "why me?", "what ifs", where's God, what "happened to my faith"?

I believe, God has allowed me to go through this desert, so I could share my faith, my knowledge, "the things in my suitcase" with others who are not as far along on the journey. I don't say this to boast, for I can only do what God enables me to do and nothing more. "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness." (2 Corinthians 11:30)
I can't place my things in the suitcase, for then it becomes too heavy and won't close. But, He has packed my suitcase with just the right items to tell others how He has worked in my life along the journey.

It is exciting to know that my suitcase was pre-packed by the Almighty God. And when opened and used according to His plan, I will be allowed to play a small part in accomplishing His purpose in someone else's life. What an awesome privelege!!

Thank You Father for allowing me to be used by you. Let me never forget that you alone have planned each and every step I take and will equip me with all that I need to make the journey. Amen

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Music of a Quiet Prayer

We had a good weekend. Dinner with my baby sister, Dylan's football game and then the Gator game with Katie and the family. Time to spend with baby Cooper. A birthday lunch for our friend Pat and a great visit with our friend Deloris. Just a time to enjoy the company of special people.

Yesterday during our worship service, as we do each Sunday, the pastor invites the congregation to share any praises or prayer requests. My favorite part is to listen to the praises and hear how God has answered prayer and worked in the lives of our church family.

I was quite surprised though, when Carl stood up to offer a praise, because that is generally out of his comfort zone. He shared how much I loved to play the harp and how the surgery to remove the tumor and lymph nodes left a question as to whether the muscles and nerves would be left intact enough to continue playing. How the surgeon wasn't sure she would be able to make that happen. He shared how, through prayer, God enabled me to go through the baby steps of strengthening the muscles, and over time, allowed me to be able to progress enough to play again.

As Carl continued to speak, my eyes filled with tears. For it never occurred to me to ask God that I would be able to play the harp again. I was consumed with the fighting of this disease. But Carl, in his wisdom and love for me, knew how important the gift of music was in my life. How one day I would miss it. And so he quietly prayed. He continued to pray. He offered up prayer on my behalf, without me even knowing, and God answered that prayer. I was able to play my big harp in worship last Sunday.

Oh, the incredible power of prayer when lifted up on behalf of someone else. God knows our needs and desires of our heart even when we can't see them for ourselves. How thankful I am that God knew that I would one day want to play the harp again. And grateful that He blessed me with a godly husband who lifted me before the Father to ask for that prayer to be answered.

And from this day on, each and every time I sit at my harp to play, I will pause to give God thanks for the music of a quiet prayer lifted on my behalf.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It's Just Not As Big As I Thought

Have you ever had the opportunity to go back and visit the house where you lived as a small child? Was it just as you remembered it? Probably not. Often, when we remember a house from our childhood, it was a LARGE house, in our minds. We remember the neighborhood seeming like a town. The windows and doors on the house seemed enormous. The bedrooms were huge. The yard was the size of a football field. The rooftop seemed to reach to the sky.

And then, as adults, when we go back to visit, we are amazed at how much smaller the house actually is, compared to what we remembered.

When I walked into the treatment room today, I looked at the radiation machine. I vividly remembered how large and intimidating that machine seemed when I first started the treatments. But today, it just didn't seem as big. Why was that? And as usual, when the cross overhead came into view, my mind went to work. Or should I say the Holy Spirit went to work?

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, it seemed "enormous". At the time filled my world. My thoughts, my emotions, my discussions, my energy, my time. It was "BIG" and it was intimidating. 10 months of treatment seemed like an eternity. The thought of 8 months chemo seemed impossible. The desert seemed too large to cross.

But, I was a child then. God has walked with me through these last many months and held my hand, while I grew. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." (1 Corinthians 13:11) And now, cancer doesn't seem as large as it once did.

I still have much growing to do in many areas of my life. There are times when I worry and play the "what if" game. In fact there are times when I revert back to being a baby and feed on milk instead of solid food. But it seems as though God already knew I would have a tendency to do that. "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" (Hebrews 5:12) But God has brought me a long way in how I view this disease in my life. And when I look back and remember how I felt when I first was diagnosed, one thought comes to mind. "It's just not as big as I thought!"

Is there something in your life right now that seems larger than you can handle? A desert that seems too large to cross? Does it consume your thoughts, your discussions, your energy, your emotions, your time? Do you feel as a small child, powerless against it? Then give God your hand. Let Him walk you through it. One day at a time. Let Him supply your "milk" until you are able to tolerate "solid food". For as long as it takes. And one day, you will look back on it, and "It just won't seem as big as you thought."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

His Will

I got some new markings today. I wasn't sure there was any place to put new marks, but have come to find out there's always a place. The new markings will be for the boost radiations. The "boosts" will be 5 doses of "supercharged" radiation that zooms in on the tumor site to kill off any cells that might not have wanted to leave during the first treatment. Another set of tattoos. The tattoos remain permanent, so there is no more radiation to that area. Once an area is radiated, it cannot be radiated again, as it would start killing off too many of the healthy cells. So, the tattoos alert any healthcare people not to radiate in that area. I think the next time I get a tattoo, I'm going to pick the design and where I want it!!

I overheard a conversation behind me this morning, while I was waiting for radiation. Two ladies were talking about God's will and it caught my attention. After a couple of minutes I heard the one lady bitterly say, "Well, I guess this cancer must be God's will for me; His punishment for me not going to church." I couldn't see who she was, but I felt so sad for her. As I got called into the treatment room, I turned and caught her eye and whispered a prayer for her.

On the radiation table, as soon as the cross on the ceiling came into view, I thought about God's will for my life. God takes no pleasure in watching me walk through the desert of cancer. But, it is His will that I be brought closer to Him. He is trying to accomplish something far greater in my life than would have been possible without the cancer. It is not punishment for my wrongdoings. His will only desires the best for me.

I don't believe it is God's will to watch any of His children suffer. He takes no pleasure in watching us grieve the loss of a loved one. Or lose a job or a marriage. Yes, He allows it. But for no other reason than to accomplish His purpose in our lives. And when that happens, He will reveal His plan to us and we will understand and rejoice!

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1Peter 4:12-13)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

5 Minutes or Less

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him. (Psalms 37:7 )

As I was waiting for my turn at radiation this morning, I spotted a magazine on the table. The cover article read "How to have the perfect body in 5 minutes a day." It struck me funny that a body that has been used and abused for many years, could become "perfect" in 5 minutes.

With the computer scan check-in system, I was in and out of radiation in "no time at all." No time wasted here.

I stopped by the grocery store for a drink and spotted the line for "10 items or less, no waiting." Ironically, it was the line with the most people in it. But since I had one item, I chose that line. No time to speak with the cashier or anyone else for that matter. No time wasted here.

I stopped by the pharmacy drive- thru to pick up medications. Two minutes and I was done. No time wasted here.

People beep at the person in front of them at the traffic light, lest they would spend another 10 seconds of idle time.

We go out to lunch and the menu reads "10 lunches served in 10 minutes or less". Guaranteed." No time wasted on enjoying the company of the one you are eating with.

A one year bible reading plan. A one minute daily devotional. No time wasted on getting to know the Saviour more.

Why is it that we spend so much time and energy on how to add the number of days to our lives, but want to experience life in 5 minutes or less?

God is a God of forever. A life in Him means a life that will last forever. "The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever." (Psalms 37:29).

Is it really so important that we rush through?

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Garden

I walked outside this morning to talk to Carl as he was working in the garden. It is a good thing that the plants and flowers are tended to by Carl, because if it was left to me the would all be dead. He was busy pruning back the some of the overgrown plants and trees. I used to think he just went out there with a pair of clippers and started chopping away, but over the years I have learned that there is so much more to it than that. He knows exactly when each type of plant needs to be cut back in order for it to put out new growth. He knows how far back to cut the limbs and branches. He knows to cut out some of the overgrown branches from the bottom, that are stealing vital nutrients from the rest of the tree. He knows there may be bare spots for awhile, but in time they will fill in, full and green.

As I watched him working, it seemed like the garden was a mirror of my life for the last 10 months. My branches were overgrown with many things. A paralyzing fear of cancer, busyness, taking for granted the little things in life, the need to be in control. And all of these overgrown branches were stealing vital nutrients from my spiritual life.

And so the Lord began to prune my branches. But he didn't just start cutting away haphazardly. One by one, in His time, He would cut a branch that was keeping me from growing. Confronting this disease head on helped to minimize my fear and keep it from having a crippling effect on my life. Facing the possibility of a life cut short early, showed me that each and every day is a gift not to be taken for granted. Going through surgery, chemo and radiation has forced me to slow down. And in that slowing down, He has shown me that busyness is not always productive, when it takes away from the important things in life.

I think the biggest area of pruning in my life, has been the need to be in control. He has had to cut many branches from this vine. As a parent, I used to say "there can only be one boss and I'm it." On this journey, the Lord has taught me that only one person can be in control and it must be Him. I have no control over the number of days in my life. I have no control over the rocks or valleys along the journey. It cannot be "all about my will". He has shown me time and again that when I surrender my control and my will, the journey becomes so much easier to travel.

God is still working in the garden of my life. There are bare spots that have been pruned, but in His time, there will be new growth. Because I so often fail Him, there will continue to be branches that will need to be cut back. But with each cut He is pruning out the old to make room for the new. And one day, when I meet Him face to face, the garden will be in full bloom and never fade away.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Count Your Blessings

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

It is the close of another day. Sunday. The Sabbath. A day of worship and rest. And I pause to think about a few of the things that made this day special.

Taking part in communion.
Watching the expressions of the children during the children's sermon.
Little Ashlee running up to me before church to give me a hug.
Little Skylar showing off her dress that "matched Nana's".
Sitting beside Carl as we worshipped together.
A thank you card from a good friend.
A long afternoon nap.
A phone call from Brent.
Watching Hallmark movies all afternoon.
Listening to the gentle steady early evening rain. No lightning, no thunder. Just soft gentle rain.
A beautiful rainbow stretching from one end of the sky to the other.
Raindrops on the newly planted roses.
A piece of Carl's homemade strawberry pie after dinner.

As I was "thinking about these things" tonight, I remembered and old song called that my mother used to sing called "Count Your Blessings."

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will keep singing as the days go by.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Far too often, at the end of the day, I fall asleep thanking Him for His blessings, but never taking the time to think about each of them. But tonight, I will take the time to count them. To name them one by one. And give thanks and praise for every good and perfect gift He gives.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Go Gators!

I love college football! Especially the Gators. We are big University of Florda Gator football fans in our family. There are a lot of big football teams in Florida (Florida State, University of Miami, University of Central Florida) and so there is a lot of rivalry come football season. We even rival with our pastor since he's an Alabama fan.

For several weeks before the season starts, and continuing through to the end, there is considerable teasing between the different fans. We start wearing t-shirts and hats. We put messages all over facebook. We put stickers and flags on the cars. And we even dress our little children and grandchildren appropriately. If they're too little for a gator t-shirt we just dress them in orange and blue. We teach them very early in life to say "Go Gators" and how to do the Gator chomp with their little arms.

I think what I like most about all of it, is that it brings people together. Whether they are Gator fans or Alabama fans (or whatever team) people share a common bond that spells out "fun". There are so many things in life that seem to stress people. All you have to do is listen to about 5 minutes of news to know that. So when football season starts and people start having cookouts, and gatherings with family and friends, and cheering at games to celebrate college football, I love it!!

Tonight we will gather at family's house for the opening game. I can't wait! It will be a joyous time. We'll all be in our gator shirts (including the grandbabies). I actually got some orange and blue radiation tattoos! We'll laugh and shout and cheer and share our love for each other. And at the end of the evening, whether my team wins or not, I will have had the victory for "The joy of the Lord is my strength!"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Lighter Load

Last night Carl made some shrimp and rice casserole and we took it over to our dear friend, Deloris' house. We had the best time eating and visiting. After dinner, as we were chatting, she asked me how I was doing with the treatments. I told her I was doing well, all things considered, and the words she said next were music to my ears. She said "You know, as good as you look and have done through all of this, I can't help but believe that you have beat this."

They were such uplifting and encouraging words that I felt like I was a balloon, just released into the air. To "beat this" haven't been words I have had in my vocabulary throughout this time. Perhaps losing my mother to this disease, perhaps being a medical person, perhaps the daunting statistics, but "beating it" just wasn't something I had entertained. It certainly wasn't because I didn't think God was fully capable of a complete and permanent healing, but I also know that "His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts". I had gotten into the mindset, that after treatment, I would wait and see what God had planned for the next leg of the journey. Trusting all the while that He would continue to uphold me along the way.

But as I replayed Deloris' words over and over in my head last night, I thought. "Why not assume that I have "beaten it." 3 surgeries, 8 months of chemo and 33 radiations will soon be behind me. Why not get on with my life and believe I have "beat this"?

When I was first diagnosed, I realized I could let this disease make me miserable, or I could let God have it, and believe His promise "that all things work together for the good of those who love Him." (Romans 8:28) I chose to let God have it and keep a positive attitude as I walked the journey.

So why not after treatment? I can spend three years waiting for the cancer to come back, or I can live my life believing I have "beaten it." God alone knows how the journey ends. I know that He will never leave me and that He will walk with me, whether I choose to be miserable or choose to be positive. He always gives me the choice.

But waiting for the "other shoe to drop" is a heavy load to carry. Choosing to believe I have "beaten it" is a much lighter load. And, I believe I'll choose the lighter load.

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." ( Matthew 11:30 )

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


As I was driving home from radiation today, the car radio was on a show called "Doctor Radio". It is a satellite station and various types of doctors from New York University have shows dealing with their specialty areas. They pick a topic to discuss, and then callers can call in and ask questions. Today's show was on oncology and there were two oncologists talking about the doctor - patient relationship. One of the doctors made a statement that really struck a chord in me. She said, "The relationship that a cancer patient has with the oncologist, especially when the stakes are high, is an intimate relationship. The patient is placing his life in the physician's hands and therefore it must be one of complete trust."

My first thought was of my relationship with my own oncologist. I have said several times how impressed I am with him. He is an extremely intelligent man. He trains the fellows at MD Anderson cancer center and therefore must be up to date with all the latest studies and trials. He is honest. (Sometimes more honest than I would like). He is kind and gentle. And I trust that he will make the medical decisions that will best influence my care.

But as much as I like my doctor, my ultimate trust is not in him. "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save." (Psalms 146:3)
My life is not held in his hands. My intimate relationship is with my Lord and Saviour. The almighty God, who is the great physician, the great healer. In Him I place my life and my trust.

I am thankful that God has placed me in the hands of a caring and competent medical team. I know that He hand picked each and every one. I am grateful for an excellent cancer center so close to home. For insurance that meets my medical needs. For medicines and machines that help to fight this vicious disease. But it is not in these things that I place my trust.

" But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." (Psalms 31:14)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Training Against the Enemy

1/2 way through radiation! Another milestone on the journey!!

On the way home, I saw 7 or 8 police cars surrounding a house and immediately thought of my boys. My oldest son, Eric, is a police officer. Last week he went through an all-day special training called Force on Force. They spent the day training in buildings searching out potential armed suspects. They learned ways to go around a blind corner so their vital organs would not take a hit if the were shot. They practiced shooting left handed in case their blind corner needed them to shoot from that side. They spent the entire day in training against their potential enemy. They practiced their techniques often enough for it to become second nature, should a surprise attack come upon them.

My youngest son, Brent, is in the Marine Corps. He just came back from training to prepare for deployment to Afghanistan. They are trained on how to spot explosive devices hidden by the enemy. How to use their weapons against enemy fire. How to walk through mountainous terrain and wade through water, while still keeping their weapon ever- ready. They train long and hard to be prepared should a surprise attack come upon them.

Although I shudder as a mom to think of my boys in these training fields, I am also thankful for it. For I know, the more prepared they are to fight their enemy, the safer they will be. And every morning I whisper a prayer for their safety and pray Psalms 91:11 upon them that God would "Command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

We too, battle an enemy. Unlike Eric and Brent, who don't always know who their enemy is, we do. We battle Satan as our enemy and his ways are just as covert and dangerous as those whom Eric and Brent go up against. He is disguised in pride, lust, jealousy and anger. He steals our time. He robs us of our joy. He plants doubts. The only way to protect ourselves from the enemy is to spend time in the Word. It is our training field. The more training we have the better prepared we will be against attack from the enemy. Time spent in training is not wasted time.

Are you prepared for the enemy's attack on your life? Because if he hasn't already done so, he stands ready to, at anytime. He tries to attack me often. Sometimes he will catch me totally by surprise. He finds the weakest areas of my life and attacks with a vengeance. It seems the closer I get to the Lord, the more he tries to attack me. The only way to be ready for it, is to train ourselves in His word. We have the weapons. "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:17)
The more training we have, the better prepared we are against attack. "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me." (Psalms 119:147)

God's word is our training. Keep it close, read it often. And we will be prepared when the enemy attacks.

I'm looking forward to watching Eric's first softball game tonight. Several of the guys from his squad at the police department have a team, and they laugh and joke and tease each other unmercifully. But they have a good time. And a triple bonus! My grandchildren Dylan, Jayda and baby Cooper will be there. God is good!!