Uncertain Times

This year has proven to be one which will go down in the history books as a year of extremes. The pandemic pulled us out of our comfort zone of social interaction, shopping strategies, and uncertain times. Jobs, education, worship, and entertainment resorted to virtual venues. Medical practices made drastic changes, while people contemplated how to gain access to health professionals and scheduled surgical procedures. Yes, 2020 is indeed a year filled with uncertain times.

Finding out I have breast cancer in the middle of the year has brought uncertainty into my life. In the shock of being told the news my mind immediately began planning what I needed to do in case…. I cried, prayed, and hoped. I want to live out my life according to God’s plan. I want to see my grandchildren and great grandchildren grow, and continue teaching, writing, and sharing Christ.

I was at the place of hope after prayer, when God reminded me that the year 2020, while it is an uncertain year in the minds of men, every year is uncertain. We have no idea what the future holds, or even tomorrow. I knew then that I need not fear whatever lie ahead. There were a few things, however, I could do that would bring peace to my heart and fill me with joy.

First, I must realize that my goals and plans are limited by the fact that I’m human. I think small, sometimes afraid to ask God for too much. If I will accept that realization then I open the door for God to fill my life with His plans.

Second, my expectations for my life are limited as well. I tend to think of what I expect according to my strength to accomplish it. I’ve learned through my cancer journey that it’s not my strength but God’s, that will fulfill the expectations for my life. In just two days I will see my surgeon and she will provide results of my recent MRI. Right now I’m uncertain about what she will see and tell me concerning the next step. I could wring my hands and worry, but it won’t change the results or prognosis. I do expect God to provide the strength for me to go through whatever is necessary to accomplish what He has called me to do.

Third, the most important thing I’ve learned is to believe God’s promises. I’m to study His Word, take the things God declares, into my heart and make them mine. Then I’ll be able to give them out to others going through uncertain times.

Doing these three things will not only help me get through a pandemic, financial uncertainty, and cancer, but also to encourage others through the sharing of what God is teaching me.

Insomnia

Whether it’s the cancer/chemo combo, the toe/finger neuropathy, or mental work on book three/cancer devotional work in progress, I am suffering with insomnia once again while Chai enjoys a good night’s sleep. It’s after midnight as I type. Laying in bed awake for almost two hours exhausted me. I prayed for those I know in need of prayer, including myself. I winced at the pain in my toes and fingers, and then mentally extracted a scene from book three, while sketching in a replacement that made connection. I finally gave up the thought of falling asleep, left the sound of my husband’s breathing, and padded my way to my recliner. Wide awake now for sure.

I look at the security cameras and admit the weather people didn’t get it right. The predicted overnight storm is nowhere around. They are all asleep apparently. No rain, wind or thunder. Am I the only one awake tonight? The only storm I’m experiencing is the one within me. Sorting through my thoughts I’m thankful I’m secure in a safe place. Like Chai on his “blankie,” I’m protected and loved. I have all I need. Why then does my mind wrestle with sleep? Why can’t it shut down long enough for me to slip into slumber for a few hours?

I finished chemo one week ago today, and the drugs shooting through my cells are still doing their intended job. Keeping me from a good night’s sleep seems to still be one of them. I wiggle my toes to relieve pain, and tap gently on the keyboard of my iPad to avoid pressure on my fingertips. The physical maladies can’t be avoided.

My writing WIP serve to ease my mind of pain and instead cause anxiety that I might forget what I wrote mentally. Getting up and jotting down notes seems to make sense but further widens my eyes and stimulates my mind.

Help me Lord, to lift my eyes up to You. Bring calm to my brain cells and slow my body down. Unravel the nerve-endings in my toes and tamp the soreness in my fingertips. Bring me to a relaxed place on a “blankie” of my own where You keep me safe and I know I’m covered with Your love as I fall into a blessed slumber.

Covered In Love

My breast cancer journey has been one of challenges, surprises, and discoveries. Now that I find myself three quarters of the way through chemotherapy and reflect on the many ways God has tucked me under His wing, I can revel in His protective love. From the beginning I was surrounded with support and nurtured through my haze of anxiety. I have been buoyed by my husband’s strength, encouraged with the love and prayers of family, friends, and yes, even people I’ve yet to meet.

My heart couldn’t comprehend the depth of concern and offers of all things imaginable. Besides my medical team, including a terrific nurse navigator, and a support group friend, God put together an awesome team to ride this roller coaster with me. I wasn’t alone! He provided a vast, worldwide team of prayer warriors, a meal group of awesome cooks, chauffeur, financial assistance, and His own powerful strength.

One thing I began to realize, even with all these resources and overflowing hearts helping, is that each person’s cancer journey is walked individually. Mine is certainly different from every other person. When the door is closed and I’m alone, I’m living it in real time. I cry and question why. When I’m in pain or sick, I get upset. Days that drag when I’m fatigued frustrate me. I want to be done and get on with living my life. But God wants to do something during this journey. He wants me to find joy in the journey I’m traveling with Him. Yes Joy! 

God has given me a devotional book to write during my time going through chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. I have found joy every day so far and I know more will be revealed. In the photo above I’m joyful to be covered in love. I have a cute wig to wear, a pretty, red headband from my granddaughter, Harleigh, and a mask and T-shirt designed by my sweet friend, Dawn, at church. The prayer shawl I’m wearing was a gift from another friend, Susan. These gifts are a small sample of many such surprises I’ve received. But the true gifts are not visible because they are in the heart. God’s love sent out through His people covers us when we need it the most. There will be many opportunities for me to send out His love to those going through breast cancer, and I pray that the devotional book He planted in my heart will be the beginning.

Courage Through Cancer

I have often looked at my calendar and made note of something which happened 2 months or years ago on a certain date. At times I’ve reminded my husband about a special time for us when the anniversary of it rolls around. I’m not talking about regular anniversaries, birthdays, or major events; I’m thinking of the simple joyful days of a special conversation that turned my day into sunshine, or a phone call from a friend or family member I haven’t talked to in forever. I would say, “One month ago today, so and so called.” Or, “6 weeks ago today Chai,” (my precious Shih Tzu) “began his new habit of cuddling with me in the chair.” I’m odd, perhaps, I remember odd, but important to me, things.

Today’s date, July 10th, is an odd one to jump out of my memory bank. Odd because it’s not a date I’m happy about, but one which has changed my life in many ways. One month ago today I was told I have breast cancer.

June 10, 2020. “It’s Cancer!”

I certainly would have preferred to remember this date for something else; my Achilles tendinitis stopped hurting, we had a beautiful rainstorm, or my Passion flower vine had 20 blooms at once. Anything except “It’s Cancer!”

Today, ten days since my first chemotherapy, I’m feeling a little more like my old self physically, except for the ongoing bad taste in my mouth and not sleeping without aid most nights. My time spent with the Lord has changed though, much like moving from the world of black and white TV, into vivid technicolor. It has become more passionate. I crave our conversations and my time in His Word. My prayer time has deepened, not as much for me, but for the people He puts on my heart to pray for.

The week that started for me on June 10th, was devastating to say the least. I had already endured multiple tests, scans, lab work, doctor visits, and anxiety. Then, to be told I needed chemotherapy, followed by surgery, and finally radiation, I started to crumble. But, when I shared my information with family and close friends, God stepped in and encompassed me with love through a network of prayer warriors from my family and church to literally across the globe. People began praying, helping, and lifting me up. Joy and courage in the midst of my cancer was birthed. God also revealed to me the plight of many who need the kind of love shown to them which He was showing to me. My prayers are developing in a whole new direction as I am prompted by His Holy Spirit to pray for others rather than myself. I’m overjoyed and privileged to go to the Throne of God and intercede for those He puts on my heart.

July 10, 2020. I have eleven days until my next chemotherapy, followed the next day with the injection that will stimulate my bones to create new white blood cells. It’s necessary and will cause every bone in my body to hurt. I wasn’t prepared for a-truck-ran-over-me, experience after the first injection, but I am now. God has fortified me and I’m going to be praising Him as I wait for the pain to pass…and it will. The chemo nausea, bad taste, and fatigue that follows chemotherapy will also pass…until the next treatment. I will cocoon myself in the comfort of cards, prayers, and hope. I won’t be afraid to cry when I hurt, or go to bed when I’m worn out. I won’t hold back from asking for help.

My calendar will continually hold special dates I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Courage through cancer doesn’t just happen. God builds it within, surrounds you without, and fortifies your spirit.

A Need for Normal

Turmoil and chaos overshadow daily living, blocking the ability to accomplish things we set out to do. The media bombards the mind through negativity and graphic descriptions eyes cannot unsee. Sheltering in the safety of home seems best, until the enemy shows up from within, emerging from its hiding place, silently growing, invading, and threatening to disrupt a normal life.

Cancer does that you know! It becomes the unwelcome reality to a normal life after a biopsy. The knot in your stomach tightens until you can’t eat or sleep. In the silence of the night you hear your heartbeat pounding out fear of what will happen next. Once the word is spoken you can’t take it back. It hurts to tell family and friends through tears, accepting their support and prayers, knowing you’re loved deeply. You cry out to God for strength and grace to face the morning. Scriptures of His power, plans, and peace, soar through your mind, bolstering your weakened state, until your faith shows up strong.

Then the fight begins! Doctor visits, more tests, chemo, surgery, and hope. You listen and learn more about this enemy than you ever wanted to know. God gives you strength for each day and His wisdom to follow along, trusting and believing. One day at a time.

The knot in your stomach begins to loosen, allowing some normal back in your life. Conversations without tears, laughter over silly jokes, and enjoying a decent meal. The enemy has been revealed and will be removed. A normal life…not a new normal…will return. The same people will love you and desire to be involved in your life. The same saving faith in Christ will continue saving you everyday. The same heart that pounded out fear will beat with a passion for a loving God who has overcome the world.

All Alone Together

In a recent conversation with my college student Granddaughter, Harleigh Garcia, we talked about being sad that she was alone (not with family), with her dog, Astro, in CA for Easter this year.

I mentioned that Grandpa, Chai and I were alone in Texas, and her parents/brother were alone in Saudi. She sighed and said something I consider very profound for a soon-to-be senior college girl. She remarked, “Yes, we are all alone together.”

A pandemic keeps us physically distanced right now but the Lord Jesus binds us together. We may not be able to gather together physically but in our aloneness we are connected by the cross. During the quarantine time imposed on us we can heart-tag our loved ones living across town, out of state or overseas. Because we have the Spirit of God living within us we’re never really alone. Our separation from family and friends will soon be over and we will return to family gatherings, vacations, and celebrations. The best thing to remember right now is that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39). He is always with us wherever we are!

Six Foot Rule

Life as we knew it just a month ago has taken on a new normal for not just our country, but around the globe. Shutdowns and restrictions have thrown states, cities, households and daily activity into chaos. Something I never dreamed I’d experience is seeing churches close and turn to online streaming of their services.

The most common evidence of change comes with a six foot rule. Television reporters and anchors allow distance between them and everyone is advised to do likewise. Now that we have a mandatory stay home ordinance (with exceptions), I’ve thought about the six foot rule in a completely different perspective. I wonder how many people have been distancing themselves from God before the Coronavirus made an appearance. Have we instituted a spiritual six foot rule, holding God at bay unless we find ourselves in need?

This morning in my quiet time, I realized my mind and thoughts have focused more on the physical restrictions imposed on me, and I’ve allowed current political rhetoric to steal my peace. My spiritual pulse was being threatened by marathon television reports, negative social media, and lack of human connection. This morning I broke the spiritual distancing and brought God close. I felt His presence, His touch, and the breathing of His Holy Spirit.

Right now it is necessary to be cautious and we must practice preventative habits to help us stay healthy even in our own homes. We clean doorknobs as well as countertops, and wash our hands repeatedly. Let’s also remember to practice spiritual closeness with God. Read and memorize Scripture, spend additional time in prayer, watch your church service online, and keep a thankful journal.

We will emerge from the virus restrictions and when we do, our spiritual condition can be stronger if we don’t keep God six feet away.

Testing!

Growing up I never liked taking tests in school, especially in math. no matter how long or hard I studied, when it came time to test I would freeze. A knot would form in the pit of my stomach and my mouth became a desert.

My reaction to taking tests continued throughout school. I finally received a diploma (GED), 33 years after dropping out of school in my junior year, but my aversion to those pesky tests stayed with me. I envied kids who breezed through them, received high scores and made the honor roll consistently. I admire older adults who return to get a degree, knowing tests were in store for them. Getting my driver’s license was a traumatic event in my life. Sure I passed after two attempts, and I’m a good driver, but the written test was my nemesis.

Now in my seventies, and having been a Christian a good number of years, I am truly aware that testing is something I can’t get away from. God tests His children. He’s not so much concerned about the circumstances we face as He is about our response to it. When life happens in the form of crisis in our family, on the job, or with our health, the way we respond reveals how much we’ve learned from God during our walk with Him. Recent events the world is dealing with, namely the corona virus, feels like another test to me. The knot in my stomach appears when I think of my family overseas being quarantined due to someone in their compound testing positive. My mouth goes dry remembering my two new great grandbabies born just two months ago and so susceptible to germs. I remember God’s command to be strong and courageous, and His promises to never leave me. He’s watching for my faith response to trust him with those I love so deeply (I am). He’s teaching me to replace fear with faith, terror with trust, and panic with peace…His peace (which drives out fear).

We have no idea how long this virus will linger, who or how many will contract it, or exactly where it will show up next.

Today I choose to trust and conduct my life by faith in a God who loves me more than I could ever hope to be loved. Today I choose to pray for those who have been stricken, caregivers, and first responders. I will pray for my family and friends, and stay in the Word, resting on His promises. As I sip my tea, I’ll pray to pass the test of choosing what is best…trusting God!

Strength Every Morning

Praying for a Friend

A daily prayer from my lips before I rise each day is simply to ask God for strength to meet the challenges of the day. Sometimes I need my prayer answered just to get my arthritic joints out of bed. I depend on God’s strength rather than my own because the older I get the more uncooperative my body becomes. It’s certainly not wrong to ask God for something for myself.

On January 1st this year, however, I thought how amazing it would be to focus a daily prayer on one person. I asked God whom I might choose and finally settled on her. I found a blank journal and after preparing a cup of tea, I began writing a prayer for this person each morning. Doing this has been such an inspiring thing for me personally. I think about how I pray for myself before getting up and then I pray for my friend in a similar way. She may not deal with arthritis but her health, body, challenges and work all need prayer.

I smile as I add pages to her journal because she has no idea I’m doing it. I try to imagine her reading what I’ve written on any given day and wonder how she will receive my prayers. My heart pours words onto the page when I know she’s hurting, or I sing words of joy knowing she is rejoicing. I’ve prayed God’s Word for her, inserting her name instead of person pronouns. At the end of this year, New Year’s Eve, I will reveal the journal and present it to her, excited to see her reaction.

Writing prayers for my friend has been a commitment to prayer. It has been a testimony to my faith because I firmly believe God has and will continue to honor my effort to be faithful in praying. January 1st next year I will pray for another recipient and continue this endearing method of praying for a friend. I treasure the short amount of time it takes to write a one page prayer asking God to give a friend strength for the morning, every morning for a year.

Turning Corners

Many jokes and yes, even sermons, have been told since we entered the year 2020. Seeing clearly, having greater focus, and the most common, 20/20 vision, permeates conversations everywhere in regard to goals for the coming months. My journal is no different because I have discussions with God written down where I’ve asked for those very things. We all want to move ahead being able to get a glimpse around the corner of our future days, months and years. We’d like to put things in order, dispose of some, and enjoy our journey.

I couldn’t sleep tonight because my mind reflected on how January has started my year and the shift my life is taking. It seems my corners keep moving. I’m no different from you in watching the kids become adults and their kids growing, then another generation begins. All mine are grown and have adult children of their own, and some have babies as well. As I tried to fall asleep I kept seeing each of their households as a corner of my life. Part of me lives in each corner and will carry on when I’m gone. I suddenly realized while tossing and turning, that they are busy taking care of their todays, trying to focus on their futures just as I did when they were young.

They each are turning their own corners; putting kids through college, building a life, seeing babies being born, and excitedly praying for a glimpse of what’s ahead. I can watch and offer guidance if/when needed, but I must leave them to making their own decisions, setting their lives on a journey they must live. They will be fine because they have the Lord leading them. I believe they are ready.

I look at my corner; my marriage, writing, ministry and where I’m headed. I think about my husband’s and my health, my next book (plus future ones), and how God wants to use me in my church. I’m ready as well. Time doesn’t stand still and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to either. Whatever is around my corner of life will come with God’s approval. Whatever it might look like, God will be there with me. When I’m no longer here I will have left part of me behind.

Are you approaching a corner of life ready for what’s around it? Trust God to guide and help you move ahead.