Sunday, December 21, 2014

As it it ends...

November 6, 2013 was the day our world changed.  It was the day we heard the words no one ever wants to hear.  Those words started a chain reaction that should never be forged.  

That day started me on a path I never wanted to take, and lead me to a place I never wanted to go.  But much like a mountain trail to be hiked, once you climb the boulders and cross the streams, your pathway ends at a beautiful waterfall, high above the tree line where you can see for miles.  

My pathway has taken me to places I never thought I'd go and I've seen sights I never thought I'd see.  My vision is clearer and my thoughts are free from fog.

Like every journey we begin, there is an end.  This week I had the surgery to remove my mediport. All the doctors agree I won't need it anymore.  Surgery went well, recovery is even better!  Another scar, but that's okay.

I'm starting to see my scars more as battle wounds.  I have fought a hard fight and like any warrior, I will have the wounds to show for it.  Each scar I see, from the one on my back where this whole show started, to the 7 inch scar on my belly and the 3 assisting scars, to the 2 inch scar near my collar bone where my port was, to the emotional scars and mental bruises that come with something like this, each one has served a purpose, each one has played a part in the life I live today.  Each one was part of my rescue.  Each one is a blessing and each one was designed to set me free.

Having my port removed was my last and final chapter.  Oh, I'll still have PET scans once a year.  I'll see my doctors once a year, but overall, this chapter in my life is coming to a close.  Even now, as I pen these words, I feel the overwhelming release of it all.  As if a year's worth of worry, fear, hope, grace and tiny mustard seeds of faith is finally coming uncorked.  For the first time, I'm beginning to exhale.  

What an amazing God to lead to me to this place.  I'm so thankful he allowed me to walk this path.  I'm thankful every day for the hard lessons.  I'm thankful for the fear because I learned to trust Him.  I'm thankful for the uncertainty because I learned to believe His word.  I'm thankful for the unrest because I learned to rest in Him.  I'm thankful for those who used bitter words against me because it taught me that He is always faithful...and to forgive.  I am thankful for friends who stood by my side.  

I am thankful for my sweet family.  No husband, no child should ever see their loved one go through this... no one... but God has been so faithful to show us His mercy and His grace through every step.  He has spoken words of kindness to us, he has provided scripture to carry us when our faith was weak and he has blessed us by revealing truth upon truth.  I am thankful for my husband who never left my side.  I am thankful for my children who loved me and feared for me.  I'm forever thankful for every day I am allowed to spend with them.

Life is hard, but God is good.  This journey took me to a place I never wanted to go, but it has lead me to a place I never want to leave.  

Only By His Grace,


Friday, December 12, 2014

Applying grace...

Romans 5:20, "But where sin increased, grace increased all the more..."
I am grateful for grace.  Not only the grace that is applied to my life daily, in that His mercies are renewed every morning.  But also for the grace to apply grace. 

What does that mean, exactly?  When my husband and I were training to counsel young couples, one of the things we learned was, "when in doubt, apply grace."

Something else I've learned in my short unimportant life is this:  hurting people say hurtful things.  Often, the people who are the rudest, have the shortest tempers, say the most hurtful things are really the ones who are hurting the deepest.

I must admit, my heart is prone to retaliation.  I want to throw hurtful words back at those who say hurtful things to me.  I want to point out faults and I want to have the last word.

But those behaviors don't exhibit grace.  Sometimes we have to choose grace.  We have to choose grace over resentment.  We choose forgiveness over hurt.  We choose peace over pain.

Sometimes exhibiting grace means that we leave a situation alone instead of adding fuel to the fire.  Sometimes being silent, staying quiet, refraining from speaking is applying grace.  Proverbs 29:11 gives us good advice.  "A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it until afterward."  Beth Moore once said, "Having the last word doesn't make you right. It just makes you last."

In my own life, today has been difficult.  I wanted to retaliate.  I wanted to spout off.  I wanted to be a fool and utter all of my mind. But I will use wisdom and keep it to myself.  Today, sin increased...but today grace will increase all the more.

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, December 11, 2014

And then I trust...

"28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her."  Luke 1:28-38

Every Christmas my heart always finds it's way back to Mary.  The birth of Christ is easily the most remarkable event in human history.  God became man in order to reconcile us to himself.  What great lengths, heights and depths is the Father's love for us.

I often find myself thinking of Mary's response to the angel when he said,  "You will conceive and give birth to a son."  First, imagine what all this meant for her.  She would be ostracized.  She would be labeled.  She would be scorned.  Joseph may not want her.  Her life would no longer be her own.  She would certainly lose friendships.  She would lose her family.  She would probably lose her fiancĂ©.  And yet Mary answered in complete submission to the Lord, "I am the Lord's servant.  May your word to me be fulfilled."

She didn't argue.  She didn't protest because this was going to wreck her life. She didn't assume her life was her own.  She simply submitted herself to the Sovereignty of God and said yes to the work of the Holy Spirit.

How many blessings do we miss because what God may be trying to do in our lives makes us uncomfortable?  How many times do we forfeit God's plan for our own, simply because of our pride and self-approved arrogance?  We think we know what's best for us and can back it up with scripture.  But sometimes what God has planned for us isn't comfortable, it isn't easy, it isn't just and it isn't fair.  But it always brings about His work, in His way, in His time. 

I want my heart to be like Mary's.  When impossible decisions present themselves, when hard choices have to be made, when difficult lines have to be drawn, I want my heart to reflect Mary's heart.  I want my heart to say, "May your word to me be fulfilled.  I am the Lord's servant."

So, what if I make the wrong decision?  What if I make the wrong choice?  Draw the wrong line?  Well, then I rest in the knowledge that God is Sovereign over my mistakes, too, and will make right my wrongs and will cause all things to work together for my good, if I continue to trust him and submit myself to His leading.

Today my heart desires to be like Mary.  I don't want my decisions to be based on my own heart's desires, but rather to be based on what God desires for me.  And then I trust him...

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Feeling or truth?

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"  Jeremiah 17:9

When I woke up from my surgery in April my left foot was numb. It is still numb today.  If I went solely on my "feelings" I could sometimes be convinced that I may never feel again in that foot.  There are times when that foot feels colder than the other.  If I went solely on my "feelings" I could be convinced that I had bad circulation.  I cannot flex my foot without starting a chain reaction of muscle spasms.  If I went solely on my "feelings" I would probably believe that this is how it was going to be forever.

However, when I look back at how far I've come since April, I realize that I have regained some feeling in my foot, it is not colder than the other, and the muscle spasms are fewer and farther between every week.  The truth is, I am getting better little by little.

Sometimes our hearts overwhelm us.  We go by our "feelings" and refuse to listen to truth because we simply want what we want.  We want to feel loved so we put up with things we shouldn't.  We want to be liked so we go along to get along.  We want to have something we do not have, and so we strive desperately to create it, even if it is fleeting.

But truth is a beautiful thing.  Truth sheds light in dark places.  Truth doesn't make the dark, darker.  Truth heals broken hearts.  It doesn't continue abusive behaviors.  Truth gives hope and new beginnings, it doesn't keep us locked inside of dread.  

Sometimes, we don't want to hear the truth because it isn't what we want to hear.  But one thing is always true.  Truth exposes a lie.  Truth exposes abuse.  Truth exposes those things which strive to keep us tied down.  In short, truth is what sets us free!

Whenever my heart temps to overwhelm me, I listen, instead to truth.  And the truth sets me free every time.

Only By His Grace,


Monday, December 8, 2014

When your to do list takes over...

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

It seems this time of year life moves at break-neck speed.  There are parties to attend, performances to catch, people to cherish.  Meanwhile there is still laundry to do, jobs to complete, doctor appointments to keep and groceries to buy.

If we lose our perspective, these things can begin to weigh us down until we lose the joy and true meaning of Christmas.  James tells us to guard our hearts against this mentality and to remember a simple truth. 

Our lives are but a mist, a vapor that vanishes like the morning fog.  I learned this first hand last year.  Task lists lost their importance, to do items carried little significance in light of time.

Daily, we find ourselves planning and listing all the items that fill our heads.  But the truth of this verse is truth for everyone.  We do not know what will happen tomorrow.  What does our life consist of, really?  We get up, we breathe in and we breathe out.  We go about our days planning the next but barely recognizing the one we have been given.  This shouldn't be.  We miss so much when we fail to see the blessing in every given moment.

I am looking toward so many things this season.  We have Choir concerts and concert band performances.  There is the Christmas concert to attend at St. Brigid.  But I'm working today, in the middle of the hectic chaos to find moments to remember to breathe and to be thankful for the blessing of today!

My life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  I want my heart to be joyful and glad, not only at this time of year, but every day that I'm given.  Today is a gift.  Don't forget to say "thank you."

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, December 3, 2014


This time of year there is always so much going on.  School programs, choir performances, band performances, work parties, family gatherings... it used to seem like December was an impossible month.

Today we had orthodontist appointments, and at one time, adding another task to an already hectic December would have stressed me out and sent me over the edge.  But God is so good to have taught me patience.  I actually found it to be a sweet blessing today.

Psalm 119:71 says, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."  That has been true for me.  I have learned to be flexible where I wasn't flexible before.  I have learned to give up control where I once held to it so tightly.  I have learned to be patient, not only in my suffering, but just in life.

When I think of David I wonder what his affliction was when he wrote that verse.  I wonder if it was physical, emotional or both.  I wonder what he learned, exactly, from his affliction.

I see so many people around me who have so much going on in their own lives.  I always wonder, what it is that you're going to learn from this?  When we submit ourselves to a sovereign God and allow him the utmost control over our lives, he is able to teach us things we would have never know otherwise.

I can't say I'm happy I was afflicted.  But like David, I agree that "it was good for me to be afflicted."  I have learned so very much!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pursuing peace...

 "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." 
1 Corinthians 14:33

Peace: n.  freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.

I have been thinking so much about peace these past few days.  Really, more like relishing the absolute feeling of peace I feel as of late.  It seems there is always chaos about us, whether in the news or in the workplace, family chaos, let's be honest, church chaos, marital chaos, parental chaos... it just seems there is always something lurking about just waiting to steal our peace.

The definition of peace is "the freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility."  Really?  Is there such a place?  Is there anywhere we can go where we can be completely and totally free from disturbance?  Is there really a place of peace and tranquility?

I think there is.  1 Corinthians tells us that God is not a god of disorder, but of peace.  It just makes me aware that when we have these feelings of chaos and unrest, it is not God's will for our lives.  He is a God of peace. Take that one step further, meaning, He is our place that is free from disturbance.  He is our place of quiet and tranquility.

You know, my life is not free of disturbance.  I am just like everyone else.  I have days when work gets under my skin.  I have moments when my children's bickering gets them sent to bed early.  I have unresolved family issues.

This year alone my husband lost his grandfather.  Five weeks later he lost his grandmother.  A few short months after that, he lost his cousin.  I battled cancer, his mother has been ill for several weeks and work is hectic.  No one is exempt.

But God is not a god of disorder, but of peace.  I remind myself of that every single day.  These past few days, although I have been sick, my kids have been sick, work is crazy and being flexible is an art, I am more at peace that I have been in my life!

This time of year, especially around the holidays, we can find ourselves in a place of serious unrest.  It will eat away at us, if we allow it.  Today I am baking pies.  I have my turkey brine ready.  My house has been cleaned.  I'm taking in the moments that I'm home with my children.  I'm relishing the sound of their voices.  I'm really enjoying the smells floating through my house.

Yes, there is chaos.  Yes, there are areas of disorder.  But my God is a god of peace and I will rest in that alone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Only By His Grace,


Monday, November 24, 2014

My grace is sufficient for you...

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

What powerful words those are: "My grace is sufficient for you."  Meaning, 'my grace is enough."  I used to think, "grace is great, but  I could really use some _________ right about now."  I think I understand more clearly now.

You know, it doesn't have to be cancer that makes you realize what it means for grace to be sufficient for you.  Last week, someone guessed my age to be far older than I am.  Let me tell you, that took a lot of grace.  I choose to believe that it's because my hair is short. At least that's what I'm telling myself.  But in that moment, that insignificant moment, of prideful vanity, it took grace not to cry.  It took grace, not to be wounded.  It took grace not to crawl under my desk and hide.  It took great grace.

This week both of my kids are sick.  We had plans.  We had things we were going to do.  It's Thanksgiving week.  My kids are out of school and here we are, stuck at home, waiting out a fever, missing school programs and performances.  It is taking grace not to be disappointed.  It is taking grace not to feel self-pity.  It is taking grace not to crawl into bed and cover up my head because our plans have been changed. 

Paul said, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me..."  Sometimes we have one thing that just lingers and we plead that it will be lifted from us.  Other times it's a hundred niggling little things that pile up into one disappointment after another, and we plead that it will lift.  

But His answer to us is always the same: "My grace is sufficient for you."  Why?  Because his power is made perfect in weakness.  When we persevere under pressure, when we stand and face the mighty trials, when we muster the strength to keep going day after day, when we choose joy, when we cling to hope, when we wait for our rescue, His power is made perfect in our weakness.

As I look in the mirror, I see a few more wrinkles than I did this time last year.  I see a woman with shorter hair.  I don't have the legs of a runner or the toned abdominal muscles I had a year ago, but by His grace I'm still here.  

I have said from the beginning, "if this is the path God has chosen for me I will walk it with as much grace as I possibly can."  I'm still learning about walking gracefully.  I don't have to just walk gracefully through the trials of cancer.  I am called to walk gracefully through the sicknesses of my children.  I am called to walk gracefully when people injure my pride.  I am called to walk gracefully when my plans get changed.  Why?  Because it points others to Christ.  When he is our strength others see him through us.  

So, I won't hide under my covers today.  I won't look for another remedy for wrinkled skin.  I won't allow myself to feel disappointment and self-pity over plans that change.  Instead, I will remember that, "My grace is sufficient for you."

Only by His Grace,


Friday, November 21, 2014

"If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!"  Job 23:3 NIV

You know what amazes me about Job?  It's his heart toward the Father.  It makes me want to examine my own heart as I think of the every day trials I face.

Think back to what Job went through.  He was stricken with festering leprosy, he lost all of his children, and yet in his absolute distress his heart's cry was, "If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling."  

My heart would cry out for healing.  My heart would cry out for restoration.  But Job did not cry out to be healed of his disease, nor did he cry out to see his children restored.  His cry was first and foremost that he could find his savior; that he could be near him in his dwelling.

When we suffer trials of many kinds we often find ourselves resentful, or discouraged because we have been stricken.  But Job, even in his suffering, turned toward the father and longed to be where he could be found.

I learned the hard way.  When every hope was stripped from me I learned to press into the Father first.  And you know what I found when I did?  I found that nothing else mattered other than his presence.  I found that no other hope offered to me even came close to comparing to the presence of the one and only who could rescue me.

Oh, that my heart would remember this lesson.  Oh that I wouldn't fall back into selfish thinking and cry out for whatever I deem best, but rather that I would press into my Lord and let him minister to me as I wait in quiet submission.

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, November 6, 2014

One Year Ago Today...

1 Peter 5:10 NIV says, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

One year ago today I was diagnosed with aggressive, high grade bladder cancer.  PET scans showed questionable lymph nodes and to be perfectly honest, survival percentages were slim.  One year ago today I started planning my funeral.  One year ago today I started thinking forward to all I would miss as my family continued on without me.  One year ago today I was given the worst news of my life.

But, true to His word and faithful to His promises, God of all grace, after allowing me to suffer for a little while has himself restored me.  This week my CT scans came in clear.  Everything they saw three months ago was shrinking, everything they worried about three months ago is resolving itself.  Everything is clear.  My doctors are pleased with my outcome and my prognosis. 

I have been restored.  My faith is firm.  My heart is steadfast.

I am thankful He keeps His promises!

Only By His Grace,