June’s Blogs

The Waiting Game

My two-year-old Shih Tzu , Chai, loves to greet people when they come in the door. When he was younger he welcomed guests with his exciting actions; such as jumping on them, wagging his tail, slurpy kisses, and running circles around them. I knew I had to discourage his exuberance so our training began. I taught him to wait (in a sit command which he already knew). Then, I gave him a treat and repeated the word, wait, while I went out the door, rang the doorbell, and came back in. If he obeyed (it took repeated practice), he was rewarded with another treat and “good boy” commendation. If he moved from his sit/wait position there was no treat, although I did pet him, saying, “Let’s try again.” It took about a month before he was consistent in the waiting game.

Now, when my husband comes home from work and Chai hears the truck in the driveway, he runs to the window with tail wagging. As I approach the door and tell him, “Daddy’s home,” he runs to his place on the carpet and sits, waiting for Nick to come in. When the door closes, Chai welcomes him home eagerly. He does have lapses if he’s overly excited, but if I remind him to wait he knows where to go. Chai loves to please me. He knows a reward is coming when he does. Sometimes it’s a peanut butter treat and “good boy” acknowledgement, and other times it’s a simple hug.

I have been thinking about Chai’s training and obedience lately as I’ve gone through times of waiting. God has worked with me a long time, trying to teach me to wait on Him. When I listen and obey, He rewards me. If I lapse, the training is repeated with more opportunities to learn from experience.

I love pleasing God. I know that when I obey what He tells me, God is pleased and He will bless me in many different ways. Sometimes I’ll receive a treat from unexpected sources after waiting patiently for a season. Other times, God winks at me through a friend’s kindness and generosity. Many times my reward is being able to help others.

When Jesus became my Lord and Savior, I received the greatest reward—eternal life, a gift from God. I am not always obedient. I often get impatient after my prayers are seemingly unanswered, but God is faithful and never breaks a promise. Heaven waits for me as I wait for God.

The Joy of Surprises

I have been working diligently on the third book in my Legacy series. Some scenes come easily while others resist my efforts and disappear like invisible ink. Today’s writing went well and my characters gave me a lot of worthy material.

I went to my physical therapy session and my therapist asked about my book. I shared how easily the words flowed onto the page and that I was getting closer to the end. She asked if this would be the last book in the series. My response was that it probably would be unless “something” surprising happened in the next few chapters. It wouldn’t be the first time my characters surprised me and lengthened a book.

There is joy in surprises. It could be a moment of unexpected conversation that turns into a life-changing decision. It may be meeting with a complete stranger who changes the dynamics of a home. Perhaps a rescue dog appears out of nowhere asking for love and finds it among the most unlikely people.

As a writer, I feast on surprises brought about by my characters when I least expect it. I plan for certain things to happen but occasionally they take me on a detour. So today I wonder if Legacy’s Truth will be the final book in the series. Time will tell. I need to be open to whichever direction they take me instead of clinging to the plan I had.

We make plans too, setting goals, and looking ahead. We might plan to retire next year, get married, accept a new position, or other big decisions. Sometimes God intervenes and at some point in a chapter of our life, He may appear with a joyful surprise—a detour which takes you in a different direction.

God might call you into a ministry instead of allowing you to retire. the person you plan to marry may not be the one God desires for you. You might have a major career shift with fantastic opportunities.

God writes the story of our life. He alone knows how each chapter progresses and how the story ends. He doesn’t leave us in a mundane life, He loves adding joyful surprises along the way and breathing life into our story. If we stubbornly cling to life within our comfort zone, refusing to accept His surprises, we will miss the joy God wants to create in our life.

In my books there are different types of surprises. Some appear as a result of tragedy, while others are simply a gift or come from unexpected decisions. The same has been true of my life. I’ve learned to accept them, knowing God has only good things planned for me. He is the author and finisher of my faith.

Nooks & Crannies

Nooks & Crannies

I fell in love with English muffins years ago when I visited my Aunt Pearl in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The first morning after my arrival we sat in her small kitchen with a cozy cup of coffee (before I discovered the exciting flavors and benefits of hot tea). Auntie gently pulled apart the halves of a biscuit-looking bread. “Do you like English Muffins?” She asked, showing me the split discs.

I was amazed at what I saw; a catacomb of nooks and crannies throughout the bread. I confessed I’d never tasted it. Auntie popped them into the toaster and soon the unique aroma wafted through the kitchen. She placed the halves on a pretty plate and brought butter, jam, and jelly from the fridge. When I spread a small butter pat on the muffin, I watched as it melted and disappeared into the crevices,, exuding a tantalizing aroma. I added a bit of strawberry jam, observing the same process. One bite and I was hooked. The outside was crunchy firm, and yet the inside was soft and flavorful. Aunt Pearl and I spent enjoyable mornings during my visit, with her giving me pearls of wisdom about life.

Today as I had my quiet time after waking earlier than usual, I toasted a fresh English muffin. As I spread the butter on my toasted treat, I watched how it melted into those nooks and crannies, finding a place to settle. I was reading in Colossians and found this in chapter 3, verse 16; it says in part, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”

I pictured God’s Word dwelling within the nooks and crannies of my heart and mind, filling me with His richness and wisdom. With God’s Word permeating me, I have what is necessary to share with others, what He has taught me; ‘pearls of wisdom.’ His Word is always fresh, providing me with a firm faith. He often whispers a soft, comforting word to satisfy an anxious spirit.

Next time you’re in the store pick up a package of English muffins. Enjoy one as you seek the Lord’s wisdom for your day.

Cancer Cairn

Years back I created a cairn, a man-made stack of rocks. Cairns have long been used to mark trails, provide direction, and serve as a map. Modern cairns have become more of an art form rather than trail guides.

I created my cairn to remind me of places in my life where God changed the course I was on. Each rock was chosen carefully from places I visited, selected because of shape, color or inspiration. One by one, the stack grew and ultimately became a map of the season I was in at the time.

I haven’t traveled much lately. The pandemic, then cancer, put the brakes on my travel jaunts, so collecting actual stones hasn’t been possible. I realized though, that I could create a cancer cairn artistically on paper. I wouldn’t have to fight trying to balance the rocks, glue, or finding the perfect shapes. It is still a work-in-progress, as I sift through the past year and a half.

God reorganized my life when cancer entered, and the months that followed could never have been planned or orchestrated by me. His hand was on me throughout all my treatments. Each of the treatment rocks on my cairn point to a new direction.

One rock depicts the medical team God provided, and it reminds me that they were personally selected by God to minister to me. A round rock represents my family who encircled me with love and prayer. Other various shaped rocks remind me of dark days, bright ones, friends, pain, joy, and much more.

My cairn will have 12 stones of remembrance, based on Joshua 4:2-3, when God commanded Joshua to choose 12 men who would each choose 12 stones to remember the miraculous River crossing. They were to tell future generations about God rescuing them. To the Israelites the pile of rocks was a reminder of how God acts on behalf of His people. To everyone else they were simply a pile of rocks.

My cairn reminds me of how God changed the direction of my life, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s a reminder of His love for me.

Lesson from My Garden

Springtime ads for gardens popped up in our newspaper and I decided to take the plunge. I convinced my husband to build an elevated raised bed planter so I wouldn’t use what energy I had, stooping and bending to plant veggies. Once he had it built he went to the Home Depot and purchased soil, compost, and plant food. Seeing the filled planter made me joyful, so we went back and bought plants. It didn’t seem like many when I had them in the dirt. Cucumbers, bell peppers, pepperoncini, zucchini, yellow squash, and one cantaloupe. I also bought two different tomato plants and seeds for radishes and carrots.

Fast forward several weeks and I had a jungle on my hands. My first attempt at raised bed gardening revealed my inexperience. Spacing is important. The cucumbers, zucchini, and yellow squash leaves are huge and they spread all over the other plants. My radishes and carrots didn’t stand a chance. The cucumber plant was quite prolific and my tomatoes were loaded (I did plant them in a separate wooden container). The yellow squash began blooming and produced several fruit but insects devoured them leaving me with only two edible ones. The zucchini fared better. My pepperoncini gave out nice peppers, and I’m still waiting for the bell peppers and the cantaloupe to develop. The tomatoes have started ripening and are so sweet.

Daily I inspect the plants, ready to wash away insects if necessary. I snoop among the foliage for hidden veggies, twist off yet more cucumbers, and snatch a couple more red tomatoes. Then today, a surprise! Hanging over the side of the planter was the beginning of my first cantaloupe, about the size of a lemon. How did that happen? I check that area every day, and there was even a growing cucumber close by. How did I miss seeing the cantaloupe as it started growing. My focus was elsewhere. Even passing that spot, I was looking for cucumbers and peppers. My search for cantaloupe was within the covering inside the planter, not hanging over the side. It wasn’t where I expected it to be.

My life has been crazy over the past year and a half. Much has been overgrown, crowding out other things. Things I planted seem to have taken root, but some covered up other areas, making it hard for me to see what was important. Hard, that is, until one day I looked and there it was, clear as could be. The fruit in my life, the love that God has for me, and His purpose for me. As God reveals who I am to encourage and come along side of, I will nurture, love, and care for them. To me, things might look haphazard in my life at times, but God is the ultimate Gardener and has it under control.

I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor and plan to continue my gardening adventure. I’ve learned to space things out a bit and not try to include quite so much in a small space. But God taught me to see through His eyes, not mine, and to keep my focus in the right place.

My little cantaloupe on the right!

Shattered Pieces

The year of the pandemic will long be remembered for shattering lives in so many ways; globally, locally, and personally. It’s safe to say that no one was exempt from the changes which came about as a result of the COVID-19 Virus infestation. Like shattered china, our lives will never be the same. We all desire things to go back to the way we were, but it’s not possible. Yes, one day we won’t have to wear a mask, social distance, and refrain from hugging those we love. Businesses will rehire, reopen, and welcome groups. Families will enjoy gatherings with grands and great-grands for holiday meals. Travel will resume via highways, cruise ships, and air. Yet, we will not be the same people we were in 2019.

When we experience major trauma, something changes inside, unseen to others possibly, and maybe even ourselves for a time. I know! God allowed Breast cancer to accompany a pandemic into my life. Both appeared slowly at first and then isolated me, shattering my daily activities, ability to write, and take proper care of my home. For a time!

But God….

When my china ornament fell and shattered, I was devastated. It was given to me by a dear friend for my Tea Tree at Christmas. I knew I could glue the three severed sections back together, but I also know I would forever remember the crack lines each time I looked at it. It will still be loved but it is changed. But God taught me a principle through the little teapot. I can gather those pieces and create something brand new from them. They can be made into a piece of jewelry, or adhered to a tea wreath. It will never be the same teapot but it will become a new creation. It has the same structural pieces, but will be made into something new.

I love how Scripture describes hopeless situations throughout the Old Testament especially, and then I read, “But God….” when things get shattered God gathers the pieces and makes something new. He picks up what’s broken and creates something more beautiful.

My life has changed, and I dare say yours probably has too. I no longer hold in high priority many things I did before. Things don’t have the appeal they held before the pandemic and Breast Cancer entered my life. People matter ten fold over where they were before. I’ve always loved people and enjoyed time spent with friends and family. Now, God has filled me with more empathy, compassion, and love than I dreamed I could have. Every person has a story and their story wants to be heard. God has increased my listening skills. Going through cancer treatments humbled me and gave me an inner appreciation for taking better care of the body God gave me, along with heartfelt thankfulness for the awesome medical team He put together just for me. My love for God exploded last year as I watched Him work for me, in me, and through me and others in my life. I am forever changed. My old life was shattered but God took the pieces and did what no one else could do! I am a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Rest

Several people have asked me how I rest when faced with difficult circumstances so today I spent time reflecting on this topic. The verb, rest, means to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. When I look into Scripture, I find that rest is the sense of security and peace that flows from a right relation with God through obedience to his Son, Jesus Christ.

Before I can experience God’s rest I need to examine what causes unrest in my soul. When I was first told on June 10, 2020, that I had breast cancer, I was devastated, distraught, and filled with unrest. I didn’t want cancer in my life. I hated how it was going to change my life. I feared for what it would do to my loved ones. What I didn’t know or expect then was that God was going to teach me how to enter into His rest.

Day after day, I found myself moving deeper into prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to take those tear-filled supplications to the throne of God. As time passed, help arrived in ways I can’t explain except that it was Devine intervention. Each was an answer to my heart’s pleading. My faith and trust in God grew and exploded, resulting in a sense of peace, knowing I was safely being cared for. I spent countless hours in God’s Word and Joy filled my soul. I had found God’s rest even though I still had cancer, still had horrible side effects from treatment, and was unsure of the future. I rested on days I had no strength, was in pain, and couldn’t eat. I praised God for those days of rest because it helped me regain my strength, both physically and spiritually. In the midst of my cancer I knew The Lord was there with me. I could allow Him to carry me. I kept that image in my mind and it allowed me to truly rest.

Today I am cancer-free, praise God. I still enter into His rest to maintain my strength for the next challenge that will surely come. Satan doesn’t like victory stories so I expect to be tested. He can’t have my soul because I belong to Jesus, but Satan can try to destroy my testimony by wreaking havoc in my life. It’s important to rest in The Lord in preparation for whatever may come. It can be health challenges, financial trouble, relationship problems, fear over world situations, or loss of loved ones. But we can still rest and rejoice in the Lord. We can be a testimony of God’s love, power and strength.

As Habakkuk 3:18 says, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Rest and rejoicing begins with:

Receiving Jesus Christ as Savior.

It comes by prayer.

It grows by trust.

Deep roots

I have finally completed all my cancer treatments and according to my Breast Cancer Support Group leader, Debbie, I’ve entered into what she termed survivorship level. Now I learn how to live life after cancer. Having dealt with chemo, surgery, radiation and starting hormone therapy, I’ve conquered each stage successfully. The big question is “What do I do now?” I’m cancer free. I’m a survivor. My life changed dramatically when cancer entered, and now that it’s gone, how will my life be different? I’ll always be a cancer survivor. I’ll have more frequent mammograms, tests and doctor checkups, at least for the next 5 years. My question now is, “What does a cancer survivor do when cancer leaves?” At least that’s the question I posed to God in my quiet time. His straightforward answer?

“Grow your roots deep in me and use what I’ve taught you over the past year to help others as they begin their journey.”

Recently I dug up a rose bush which had died. I had to dig deep to get the roots out so it wouldn’t grow back. I didn’t get deep enough so some were left behind, which will eventually grow up and out, producing new shoots. God’s words echoed back to me. If my roots grow deeper and deeper in Him, nothing will stop me; not even cancer, from living the life He designed for me. I will put out new shoots and bloom, helping others find joy and beauty in their life in spite of the change cancer causes. Colossians 2:7 says,

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

I am overflowing with thankfulness and joy. Cancer changed me and it changed how I will live my life after cancer.

A Prayer A Day…

Last year on January 1st I committed publicly that I would choose one person and pray every single day for all aspects of that person’s life. Little did I know how a global pandemic and breast cancer would influence that commitment. How often do we tell people, “yes, I’ll pray for you,” and then we send up a quick prayer to fulfill our promise? Or, we go about our daily life and forget to pray as we promised? I decided to use a prayer journal to hold me accountable to pray a prayer a day. When I prayed about who that one person to pray over would be, I also asked God to impress on my heart the need to follow through and not quit as the weeks and months passed by. Then the pandemic entered the scene.

You would think that being told to “shelter in place” would allow more time to pray. It did to some extent, but it also meant there was much more to pray about. Securing supplies from local stores became a major undertaking (think toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.). There were many more people to pray for, job losses, small businesses (including our own), struggling to keep going, and church attendance went virtual. Having chosen the “one,” I was then cut off from seeing her each week. I maintained my commitment and the blank pages started filling with earnest prayer over a precious lady. She had no idea I was lifting her and her family up to the Lord, day after day. That thought made me chuckle. How surprised she would be next January. In spite of the virus chaos, I found joy in my prayers for her. Then breast cancer entered my life.

Mid-year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That proclamation began a flurry of tests, treatments, and turmoil, as I dealt with side effects, surgery, and subsequent healing. There were days I couldn’t imagine I’d have strength to pray for myself, let alone for someone else. Times prevailed when my numb fingertips barely held a pen and my fingernails felt as though they were being pried off. The blessing came when the Holy Spirit took over and gave me power to pray through pain. I found joy as I prayed for this friend, not knowing if she was in pain, or whether she was dealing with lack of finances as I experienced. When joy overflowed onto the pages of that journal, my pain diminished.

Keeping a written prayer journal was something I’ve done through the years, but not for one specific person. Doing it for my friend changed me on the inside. I owe that to God. When we pray for others it’s nearly impossible to feel sorry for self! I’m a people person, a hugger, and I hate being stuck at home because a virus is rampant and my immune system can’t fight strong right now. But, praying like I did, all year for this special lady, enveloped my heart and allowed me to get outside myself to encourage others.

I am now cancer free, although my immune system is still low and trying to recover from the 23 radiation treatments which ended on December 18th. I firmly feel that God allowed me to go through this so I can be someone else’s encouragement when they experience a life-changing event such as breast cancer. I found joy in my cancer journey…and God has prompted me to write a breast cancer devotional. I look forward to seeing what He does with it.

I am excited to hear from my friend after she receives her prayer journal in the mail and discovers she is the “one” I chose to pray for, a prayer a day.

The Finish Line

I can see it! I have it marked on my wall calendar. There’s even a count-down clock on my Facebook page steadily moving toward it. My iPad has it remembered so I’ll be notified when it happens! What is IT? The day I finish my radiation treatments.

When Dr. Dziuk told me last month that I would need 23 treatments, I thought I’d never see it come to an end. The task of driving 20 minutes each way to be administered a treatment lasting 12 minutes, seemed difficult at the very least. Going through the process of allowing the radiologist technicians to get measurements of the treatment area, position me on the table, and then command myself to remain immovable throughout the treatment, five days a week, drained me.

Somewhere around the tenth day I learned the routine and IT seemed to go quicker. I change into my gown, they help me down onto the table, I overcome my positional dizziness, turn my head into the foam mold made just for me, and take hold of the two handlebars above my head. I wait while the technicians confirm the measured lines are correct, before they disappear behind glass. “Can you hear me?” She asks. “Yes,” I respond. The machine moves into position, making a whirling sound. I can see laser lines on the ceiling. “Take in a breath and hold it,” she says. I obey silently. The machine mumbles mechanical jargon. I hear it stop and she says, “Breathe.” I allow my lungs to empty. We repeat the process as the giant machine moves around me seeking the programmed positions the doctor ordered. I soon become accustomed to hearing the technician’s instructions that I hear her even when I’m home resting. Sometimes my body will involuntarily, take in a breathe and hold it.

Days go by. Weeks. I mark them off with a big X and keep the countdown current. Each weekday afternoon is interrupted with me leaving at 1:40 and returning by 3:20. I don’t fight fatigue anymore…I embrace it by settling into my recliner when I get home. Chai, my sweet Shih Tzu, snuggles on my lap and we doze a while, then I have a cup of tea, and relax. Nick and I use some of my down time to catch up on things.

This is my final week of treatments. Friday will be IT…the third one. I will cross the finish line of radiation treatments. The first finish line was September 1st when I completed Chemo and rang that bell. The second finish line was October 15th, the day of my successful surgery. This third finish line provides prevention/reduced risk against recurrence of the cancer.

I’m not thinking about the next step of preventative measures, although there will be a time to do so. I’m focusing now on how The Lord wants me to use my journey to be an encouragement to others. He has prompted me to write a devotional for breast cancer patients. He has brought me through this, one step at a time, one treatment at a time. I will soon cross IT…the finish line. I praise Him in this season because He is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than cancer! He has provided the power for me to endure, persevere, and emerge with joy, as an overcomer, because He has overcome the world!