Thursday, February 27, 2014

Unfailing love...

I'm often asked how I'm doing.  I think it is second nature when asked, "How are you?" to reply, "I'm doing well,"  or "I'm fine."  But sometimes that isn't the case at all.  Although it isn't always appropriate to pour all our troubles on the unsuspecting, there are times when we're just not doing well. 

There have been many times these past few months when asked, "How are you?" that I answered with, "I'm fine," but really I wasn't fine at all.   Most of the time I am fine. In fact, a standard answer from me is, "I'm doing great!"  When I say I'm doing well, or great, it's because I really am doing well - or great.  If I answer, "I'm okay," or "I'm tired," then you know it's because, well, I'm not great, I'm just okay, or I'm really tired.

I have been so very blessed throughout this whole experience that I can't even begin to put it all into words.  It honestly has been the biggest blessing of my life; I have been changed because of it.  I can sympathize with others more.  I can speak more softly.  I can love more deeply.  I can enjoy the little things with more freedom.  I can treasure every moment of this life.  

The one thing that has been my biggest comfort, however, is knowing that I am cared for by a Heavenly Father who loves me deeply and is intimately acquainted with all my ways.  I have rested in the knowledge that He has had a plan since the beginning.  I have held onto the hope that He would finish the work he has started in me.

Psalm 119:76 says, "May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant."  This has been truth for me.  His unfailing love has definitely been my comfort.  It has comforted me from the beginning when I couldn't comprehend the word, "cancer."  It has been my comfort through the sleepless nights.  It has been my comfort through the long days of chemotherapy.  It has been my comfort through the sick and tired days that followed.  It has been my comfort through the recovery periods.  And it remains my comfort still.

There are still long days ahead.  There will be a long recovery period and definite life changes, and his unfailing love will be my comfort then, too.  

For all of us, when we are down, there are many people that will love us and care for us. There are those that will bring us a meal when we're sick, will help with household chores and transporting our kiddos.  There are prayer warriors that will pray for us and friends who will call to say they love us.  All of that is so very important to us getting through the rough patches of life.  But no one, no one, but our God will love us with an unfailing love.

"In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed..." Ex 15:13

"Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." Ps 6:4

"Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love." Ps 31:16

"But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love." Ps 33:18

"When I said, "My foot is slipping," your unfailing love, Lord, supported me." Ps 94:18

I can't imagine where I would be without that unfailing love to carry me and comfort me.

Only By His Grace,

Billie






Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Finding reverent submission...

"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." Hebrews 5:7 NIV

I find much comfort in knowing that my savior also offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.  I take comfort in knowing that when my emotions get the better of me, I am not alone!  

I cannot say my faith has wavered, not even once.  I know where my faith lies.  I know where my hope comes from.  I know from where my help comes.

More than anything else, though, I want to be found in the image of my savior. I don't always succeed.  I often times fail.  But most of all, above everything else, I never want to cease praying, "Not my will but thine be done."  I want to be found, like my humble savior, in reverent submission.  

Standing firm in the faith doesn't mean being stubborn.  It doesn't mean that we hold out until we receive our own way.  It means we hope, we pray, we believe, and then we trust our God to know what He's doing and then we submit ourselves to his perfect will - no matter what.

In the meantime I will continue to offer up prayers and petitions, probably with loud cries and tears...but most of all I will resolve myself to submit to His will...his good and perfect will.

Only By His Grace,

Billie

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Passing through the waters...



"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."  Isaiah 43:2 NIV

The New Living Translation says it like this.  "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 

This past few weeks has felt like a river of difficulty.  I have felt as if I were going through deep waters.  I had my sights set on the end of treatment - only to find out they want to do more.  The last two rounds I experienced more sickness and nausea, and more fatigue than I had the previous two rounds.  It has taken me nearly all of two weeks to recover where before it took only days.  I understand that chemo is cumulative and it builds up with recovery taking longer each round.  These are deep troubled waters indeed.

But the promise is that He is with us when we pass through the waters, and the rivers of difficulty will not pass over us.  When we walk through the fire we will not be set ablaze.  We are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  Sometimes we are called to walk through the deep waters and rivers of difficulty knowing that He is with us, even if we cannot see Him.

Psalm 77:19 says, "Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen." NIV.  Sometimes we cannot see his footprints.  That doesn't mean He isn't there.  Sometimes we cannot understand the path, but it doesn't mean it isn't His plan.  

The waters may seem deep to us, the rivers difficult, the fire a molten pool.  But these are not troublesome to Him.  They are just another path for his foot.  If he sets our path on these journeys, then we walk by faith knowing that He is there with us.  Every step of the way...even though his footprints are unseen.

Only By His Grace,

Billie




Monday, February 24, 2014

Prepping for the week ahead...

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..."  Romans 12:2

"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  I keep telling myself this over and over and over.  I keep reminding myself to renew my mind.  

Friday begins round five of chemotherapy.  I never expected to have five rounds of chemotherapy.  I expected four.  My plan was always to have four.  I set my sights on four.  I told myself I could get through four.  Now, I'm facing round five.  They're talking about rounds six and even seven...  I cannot wrap my head around rounds five, six or seven.  In fact, I can barely think about it without ending up in tears. 

So I stand up a little straighter, grip my faith a little tighter and hold tight to the promises that give me strength.

Romans 12:2 "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  So, I'm trying to transform and renew my mind.

2 Corinthians 10:5 "...and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  I'm working on making my thoughts obedient to Christ.  This may not be my plan, but I trust the author of the plan.  

1 Peter 1:13 "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."  I'm working on preparing my mind for the next action...in my case, the next round of chemo.  The next few days of illness.  The next days of fatigue.  "Be self controlled." I'm working on exercising self-control.  I don't want to do this, but I will exercise self-control and not give in to my own desires.  I will do what is necessary. "Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed."  I'm setting my hope on Him alone!

*****  *****  *****

Yesterday's sermon was from the book of Hosea.  Hosea's family was symbolic to convey the message Hosea had from the Lord for his people.  The Lord loved his people and would restore them even after they had wandered.  The Lord said to Hosea, "Yet I will show love to the house of Judah, and I will save them -- not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses or horsemen, but by the Lord their God."  Hosea 1:7

This passage is how I've felt from the very beginning.  I trust my doctors.  I believe the chemo is working.  I'm thankful for the medications.  But I know, I know, that my restoration will come, not by doctors, not by chemotherapies, not by surgeries, not by medications, not by my own strength, not by my own resolution, but solely by the Lord my God.

*****  *****  *****

Knowing this, I can push forward with all I have to renew my mind, to take captive every thought, and to prepare my mind for action.  Will there be moments when I feel weak?  Probably.  Will there still be moments of dread?  Certainly.  Will weakness and dread keep me from trusting in the Lord my God?  NEVER!

I will trust in the Lord my God who "trains my hands for battle...  You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me..." Psalm 18:34.  Why?  Because he is "the King of glory. The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." Psalm 24:8.

Only By His Grace,

Billie







Friday, February 21, 2014

Sunshine and Encouragement...

Blogging is funny business.  You write, you think, you write some more.  You edit, you correct, you re-think your words, you erase and re-write again.  Finally, when all is finished, you post your heart for all the world to see.   

There are people who read this blog that I know, and people who read this blog that I've never met before.  When I look at the demographics of the readers they come from all over: United States, Canada, Alaska (I understand this is part of the United States), Malaysia, Germany, Australia...  The thought of which is humbling to me, that people I don't know would read what I wrote.  

Here, in my own little world, there are days of sunshine and days of rain.  I try to share both.  I try to share the good days, but I also try to keep it real and share the struggles, too.  Because no one is always okay.  We all struggle.  We all hurt.  We all grieve from time to time.

For the most part, I'm usually okay.  There are times, like last week, when the temporary got the better of me and I was not okay.  But one thing remains true, God is faithful!  He is always faithful!  Our experiences, good or bad, cannot change his faithfulness.  They can only effect our perspective.

Last week I was having one of the worst weeks imaginable.  Seven, eight, nine days post treatment and I was still tired, still sick, still suffering with hearing loss, still grumpy, still achey... and to be honest, I was distraught at the thought of continuing any more treatments.  Any - whatsoever!  I was over it! There were moments when I was woeful, hopeless, discouraged.  The thought of more treatments, more sickness, more fatigue, more nausea could reduce me to a heap of tears.

And then the sunshine comes, breaking through the clouds, warming up the breeze and breathing freshness into this stuffy life. These past two days have been wonderful.  We have gone from arctic cold to warmer weather; yesterday being in the mid-60's.  I know it's February, but I broke out the capris and sandals.  It's amazing what a little sunshine and warm weather will do for the spirit!

What is even better for the spirit is a little encouragement.  That is really what I want this post to be about.  For the past two weeks my heart has been dwelling on the idea of more treatments.  I've been thinking of how much more I have yet to do.  I've been wondering how the next round will effect me, how sick I might be, how tired I might get, how long it might last this time...

But just like the rays of sunshine warmed up my body, a visit with my doctor this week warmed up my thinking.  "There are no guarantees," he said.  But he talked to me about the cancer shrinking.  He talked to me about the effects of exercise and encouraged me to do so.  He offered hope saying, "I believe that after your surgery, you will be over this."  That did my heart good.  I understand there are no guarantees.  I understand the risks of having cancer.  But the words of encouragement he offered went above and beyond anything I could have imagined.  A little encouragement goes a long way.

Hebrews 3:13 says, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."  Last week I allowed my heart to be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.  I took hold of someone's negative reaction and focused on it, when what I should have done was focus on the blessing that God used to encourage me.  We are blessed beyond measure, even in the middle of this trial, we are so blessed. 

Hebrews 10:23 & 24 says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."

I am so thankful for everyone of you.  I'm thankful that you read this blog; it's humbling.  I'm thankful that you pray for us.  Every day I receive emails, text messages, Facebook messages, cards, letters and notes of people telling us they are praying for us.  I am thankful for every single prayer warrior.  I am especially thankful for your words of encouragement.  Thank you for "encouraging us daily."  Thank you for "spurring us on toward love and good deeds, and holding unswervingly to hope."

Thank you for every word of hope, every prayer, every card, every letter, every email, every text message, every Facebook message.  Thank you!  

Our God is faithful and He will not let us down.  To those who encourage us along the way, we are blessed by you!  

Only By His Grace,

Billie






Monday, February 17, 2014

Walking the path...

From the very first moment I knew I had cancer, my heart has been steadfast about walking this path.  Not that I have a choice whether or not to walk it, but rather the attitude in which I choose to walk it.

I remember lying in the hospital bed in and out of anesthesia with a strange realization that I suddenly had cancer.  It wasn't a knowing, or something I had learned, but rather just this strange...sensation.  Even in the middle of the shock and fog I remember thinking about God's sovereignty.  I remember lying there thinking, "God must see something good in this that I cannot see...and I will trust him."  At that moment I decided, "If this is the path God has chosen for me to walk, I will walk it with as much grace as I possibly can."


That doesn't mean I don't get worn down.  It doesn't mean I don't have bad days.  It doesn't mean I don't wish this were over...right now.  What it means for me is that I will go wherever He leads me, however He leads me, for as long as He leads me.  Even if he leads me through the valley of the shadow of death.  I will go!


These past few months many have questioned how I can have this attitude.  I don't really have an answer, other than I believe God has granted me an enormous amount of grace.  I have been strangely at peace.  Oh, there are moments of anxiety.  There are questions that haunt my mind every single day.  There are things I cannot explain and answers I do not have.  But overall, even through the hard, dark times, there is always an underlying peace...if I will quiet my heart, silence my own will and allow myself to experience it.


One of the passages I love is 1 Peter 5:5-11.  "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  

       Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  
      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.  To him be the power for ever and ever, Amen."

That passage speaks so much to me.  First, that I am called to humble myself under God's mighty hand.  This path he has called me to walk I must walk in humility and in submission to His authority, not my own.  I am called to cast my cares on him because He cares for me.


Second, that I am to practice self-control and stay alert.  There are days when I want to whine and kick and scream and be angry.  Everyone tells me this is natural and normal.  However, I believe I am called to practice self-control and to deny self-pity in order to stay alert.  Why?  Because the enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Which prey do lions look for? They hunt for and single out the weak, the wounded, the small.  There is a reason we are called to be self-controlled and alert, it is so we will not be devoured. 


Also, I am called to resist the enemy by standing firm in my faith.  I believe God has a plan in this journey.  I don't know what it is.  I don't claim to understand it.  I certainly don't confess to like it, but I trust the author of the plan, and I believe He has a purpose in it for me.  I must stand firm in my faith that He will see it through to completion, remembering that "He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus."  Phil 1:6.  I'm not saying the cancer is good, but I believe the work it will complete in my life will be good.


Lastly, I am fully convinced that "...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."  I believe that Christ has the power to heal me instantly. I do.  But I also believe that sometimes he has to work things out of me that otherwise would not come undone through the instantaneous.   I believe that this time of suffering has meaning.  I also am fully persuaded that after it has come to an end, He will restore me and make me strong, firm and steadfast, in due time. 


I don't know what that looks like right now.  I don't know what it means or what else I will have to face, but I do know that His promises are true and just.  I know that he has my best interest at heart.  I know that He is faithful, and I will continue to walk this path with as much grace, in as much humility and by as much submission to His will as I possibly can.


Only By His Grace,


Billie



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Love...

This post may be sappy, but somebody's gotta do it.

We met in August, were engaged by November and got married the following August.  We were married before we knew each other a year.  We were 19 years old.

We were young and in love.  And on August 10th, 1991, we stood before a packed house, standing room only church and made our vows to one another.  We didn't re-write them, or change them, or alter them.  

We said, "To have and to hold from this day forward." We said, "For better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health." I said, "To love, honor and obey."  He said, "To love, honor and cherish." We said, "from this day forward, til death parts us." 

People said we wouldn't make it.  People said we were too young.  People said we would fail.  People said he wouldn't know how to be a husband.  People said I wouldn't know how to be a wife.  Lovie said that was okay; "You and me against the world, Billie" he would tell me.  And somehow I knew he meant it.  

You see, my parents' marriage was chaotic and dysfunctional at best.  I never knew what a husband's love should look like.  I never saw what a wife's love was supposed to resemble.  I was going into the great unknown, armed with nothing more than hopes and dreams and a lot of prayer...and a man who loved me truly.

Yesterday we celebrated 23 Valentine's Days.  One as starry-eyed, love-sick dreamers.  Twenty-two of those as a happily married husband and wife.  

I have not always been a good wife.  There were times when I lost faith in love, gave in to emotion and fatigue.  I have voiced complaints and given my share of cold shoulders.  

But not John.  John doesn't take promises lightly.  When he said, "to have and to hold from this day forward," he meant it, and he's kept his promise.  When he said, "For better or for worse," he kept his promise.  When he said, "For richer or poorer," he kept his promise.  When he said, "to love, honor and cherish," he has kept his promise.  And now, when we come to the part of "in sickness and in health..." he continues to keep his promises to me.  

I know that he is God's perfect gift for me.  I could have never known love like this any other way.  I know now that true love is real; that dreams do come true.  My children are seeing how a husband is supposed to love his wife, and hopefully how a wife is supposed to love her husband.  

It's not about being right.  It's not about having the last word. It's not about making the other conform to your image or having your way. It's about accepting your spouse as God's perfect gift for you.  It's about cherishing every moment.  It's about laughing when you want to cry.  It's about hugging it out.  It's about Love...Christ-like love.  

Love is Patient.  
Love is Kind.   
It does not envy.   
It is not proud.   
It is not rude.   
It is not self-seeking.   
It is not easily angered.  
It keeps no record of wrongs.   
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects.  
Always trusts.  
Always hopes.  
Always perseveres.  
Love never fails.   
1 Cor. 13:4-8

Even when I didn't deserve it, even when I wasn't, as the poet said, "heaven's last best gift," John has always exercised these qualities of love toward me.  He is always patient, always kind.  If he is envious, he doesn't voice it.  He is never proud, or rude or self-seeking.  He is not easily angered and he keeps no record of my wrongs.  He does not delight in my evils, but forgives me quickly and thoroughly.  He always protect, always trusts, always hopes.

And now, he perseveres the storm again with me.  He shows me every single day that love never fails.

I am blessed.  John has always been and continues to be my perfect Gift from God.  I am happy to spend Valentine's day with him again this year...I am blessed to spend every day with him...

Only By His Grace,

Billie


  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The good, the bad and the hopeful...

Can we be honest for a moment?  Sometimes life throws us a curveball.  Sometimes we don't know what to do, or what to think, or how to feel.  Sometimes we are simply numb...at best.

The Good:
Last week this time I was good, great, beyond ecstatic.  I thought this would be my final round of chemo.  I thought this would be my final weeks of nausea.  I thought this would be the beginning of healing...I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I saw my oncologist, as many of you know, she confirmed that my cancer is shrinking and that my kidney is draining.

The Bad:
She also confirmed that she wanted to do three more rounds of chemotherapy.  How can a person go from ecstatic to utterly distraught in mere seconds?  The first 24 hours of this last round were my worst yet.  Let's just be truthful.  I was nauseous, vomiting, tired beyond words and woeful.  Yes, woeful is the best word. 

Trouble is, the woefulness has carried with me this week.  I can't seem to shake it.  In my selfishness I don't want to do any more chemo.  I don't want to be tired anymore.  I don't want to be sick anymore.  I don't want to experience hearing loss anymore, headaches, stomach aches, etc, etc, etc.  I want to whine!  I want to cry and kick and scream and fight.  And I want more than anything for this to be over already!

The Hopeful:
And then, there is a light at the end of the tunnel...or in this case, sunlight streaming through my back window, shining warmly on my face as I lift my head to the heavens and contemplate my Savior.

Since we're being dreadfully honest today, let me just say that cancer makes you think of death.  Okay?  Okay.  Glad we have that out in the open now!  Every. Single. Day. You think of the "chances," the "survival rates," the "return rates..."  You think of "what ifs" every. single. day.  You can't get away from it.  It envelopes your brain and won't let go!  You think of your own mortality, what you have done, what you haven't done, the time you've spent and the moments you've wasted. 

And you find yourself in a place you've never been before.  This isn't the flu or pneumonia or morning sickness.  This is something you're battling alone - because NO ONE knows how you feel.  No one understands because they haven't been through it.  Everyone wants to help, but there's nothing they can do because the only thing you want is to live!  

That's where My Savior comes again to me.  He always meets us where we are, in our moment of need and despair and speaks softly to us when we need it most.  

I am getting ready to celebrate my 42nd birthday.  Funny how cancer changes your perspective.  Last year I would have sworn I was 35 and dared you to confront my lie!  But this year, I am proud of my 42 years.  I celebrate each one and pray for more to come.  

Being 42 years old I realize that I am nearly a decade older than Jesus when he died.  He was 33 years old.  And my heart is encouraged in the truth that I am NOT alone.  I am drawn to the fact that He also faced death at an early age.  A death he did not want to face.  He prayed in the garden, "Father, let this cup to pass from me..."  

Yet, when he knew His Father's will the Bible says, "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!"  Phil 2:8.  I cannot fathom this great love.  I cannot grasp how high and wide and deep the love where, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8.

Let me paraphrase it... While we were sinners, Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to death on a cross!  He became obedient to death.  He chose death.  No one made him go.  No one forced his hand.  And although he had all power and authority to command the torture to end, still he hung there.  For you.  For me.  I cannot grasp this great love!

And when it was finished he was buried and rose again on the third day, "giving us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 15:57.

So while my heart has been downcast and my thoughts dark of late, My Savior comes to me in that still small voice, reminding me that I am not alone.  He has walked this same path, felt the same despair, pled for his life... and then He died.. to save mine.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV2zMZ-nZ7k  skip the ads if you can...


How deep the Father's love for us,

How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away 
As wounds which mar the Chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon the cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom


Only By His Grace,

Billie








Monday, February 10, 2014

Knowing God is more important than knowing answers...

I read an encouraging devotion this morning.  Many of you know that when this journey started my heart was drawn to Job.  

I remember in the first few days at home I would ask God, "When Job was faced with life's adversity, how did he respond that got your attention?  How did he react?  What did you say to  him that finally got his attention?"  All of these questions were pouring through my heart at a constant rate of speed.

There were several things that spoke to me about Job.  One was that he had well-meaning friends who spoke to him.  They didn't necessarily speak truth, but they had good intentions.  Boy did I find that to be true.  Many were the people who told me, "You're strong.  You'll get through this."  

Many were and are the prayers for comfort and peace.  Yes, at the time I needed comfort and peace.  But what I desperately wanted was someone to stand beside me and pray for healing.  I didn't want to offer God a consolation prize of comfort and peace.  I wanted and still want to say, "Here is it, Lord.  Do your thing!"

A second thing I learned about Job was that he knew when to be silent.  When God finally spoke to Job, Job answered back in reverence, "I am unworthy - how can I reply to you?  I put  my hand over my mouth.  I spoke once, but I have no answer -- twice, but I will say no more."  Job 40:3-5 NIV. 

Job knew when to listen to God and when to be silent before Him.  Sometimes we come to God with our prayers, petitions, declarations and decrees that we fail to be reverent before a Holy God who already knows what is best for us.  We put our own will above His sovereign will because we walk in the flesh.  Job knew when to be silent and listen. 

A third and most powerful thing I think I learned was that God spoke to Job out of the storm.  "Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm." Job 38:1.  "Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm." Job 40:6.   What I learned is that when God wants to speak to us, sometimes he has to speak to us out of the storm.  

We don't like storms.  We like to think of Jesus as the one who calmed the storm - the one that even the winds and seas obey him.  We like to think of the scripture that says he has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm. Nahum 1:3.  However, sometimes, the only way he can speak to us is in the storm, or out of the storm, or from the storm, or through the storm.

We are human and we have questions... so did Job.  It's natural.  It was natural for me.  But I'm constantly reminded that when things are "nurtural" they are often the result of walking by sight - when we are actually called to walk by faith.  We are called to look past the natural sight and look ahead with faith to the one who already knows all the answers to our questions.

I receive a daily devotion from Bible Gateway.  This was today's morning devotion.  It was such a great reminder to me - maybe because I've focused on Job for the past three months - or maybe just because I feel this pull to look past the situation to the one who holds my future in his hands.  But here is what it says, 

"Job 6:1–10
When Job’s life fell apart, he asked the same questions human beings have asked for millennia: Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How could God allow this to happen to me? Maybe you’re in Job’s shoes—feeling abandoned, rejected and hopeless. Maybe you are demanding answers from God. But as Job discovered, knowing the God who created you is better than knowing the answers to all your questions. Because when you know and trust his love, you’ll find the freedom and hope that will enable you to trust in God’s control over all things, even your suffering."

If you are suffering today, and let's face it, we are all suffering in some way, let me challenge you to look past your circumstance to the one who already knows the answers to your questions.  Quiet your heart and your mind and focus on knowing the God who created you.  

Rest in His peace and His love today.  

It is a good place; a still and quiet place.  

Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28

Only By His Grace,

Billie



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Three more rounds...

It's a beautiful snowy Sunday morning here.  As I look out across our white, sparkly yard to the pond beyond our tree line.  It is a beautiful sight to behold.  

It seems the last three or four winters have been mild.  Our kiddos bought brand new sleds on clearance in 2010 and just this year took the tags off.  I think I've missed the winter.  I love the snow and the freshness of it all.  I realize I may be alone in this sentiment :)

I wanted to give a brief, albeit confusing update to my chemo posts from last week.  From the very beginning of this journey, my oncologist and my urologist have said we would have 3 - 4 rounds of chemotherapy to shrink this silly tumor.  That is the reason I posted late last week that this may be my final chemo - round four.

When I went in to see my oncologist she suggested three more rounds.  When I spoke with my urologist, he disagreed.  He thinks that this fourth round may be enough.  So they're going to put their heads together and see what they can come up with.

Remember, we aren't trying to eradicate the cancer, only shrink it enough so that surgery is a viable option.  At this point, the surgery is a viable option.  The cancer is shrinking as hoped.  We are just needing a time of recovery before we can do the surgery.

So, for now, I'm not clear on if this will be my last round, or if we may do another, or another after that.  My hope is that this is the last one.  The recovery time is getting more difficult and isn't really following the plan -- or rather, MY plan.  

What I know for certain is this, "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you." James 1:5  I am praying for wisdom for my oncologist and my urologist - and for this third party doctor, the urological oncologist who has agreed to help with my surgery. If you're praying along with us, please pray for healing, but also for wisdom for these doctors!  

In the meantime, I am waiting for God to do a miracle.  It wouldn't surprise me at all if he decided to erase the cancer from my body.  But if he doesn't, I know that he has a plan and process for me already in place.  

Casting Crowns sings a song, "You're Already There."  Here are the lyrics and link... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgFLjlzbSp4   Skip the ads when you can...

From where I'm standing
Lord it's so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You're leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control

Oh, oh

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

Oh, oh, oh, oh

From where You're standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan

When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
I can't wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit [x2]

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
Cause You're already there
You're already there
When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

I don't have to worry or fret for any of this. I can just sit back and rest in the knowledge that He has all of this under His control.  Every moment, every day, every week, every treatment.  He's already there waiting to help me through it all!

Only By His Grace,

Billie



Saturday, February 8, 2014

Learning to lean...

"I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell him my trouble.  When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way." Ps 142:1-3a

Do you know the song Learning to Lean?  It is an old song from my youth.  The chorus says, "Learning to lean, Learning to lean.  I'm learning to lean on Jesus.  Finding more power than I ever dreamed. I'm learning to lean on Jesus."

This is absolutely where I have been these past few months.  I don't voice my complaints very often, but when I do, I voice them to the Lord of mercy.  He already knows my heart, and he my only source of strength.  Voicing our complaints to others seldom brings the result of peace and comfort that bringing them to the Lord gives us.

"When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way."  So many times over this past month my spirit has grown faint within me.  I'm not a very patient person.  I like to get things done and move on to the next task.  

This is not how cancer works, y'all!  Cancer is a slow process.  You wait for results, you wait for doctors, you wait to see if there is improvement.  You schedule more chemo.  You wait for more results... There are days when it's maddening!

But through it all, I am learning to lean on Jesus more and more.  In the middle of it all, I'm finding more power than I ever dreamed.  If you had asked me last year if I thought I could go through this journey, I would have said "no."  I never thought I was strong enough or brave enough or mentally stable enough.  But I am learning that the source of my strength is not my own.

Chemo round four started on Thursday.  Friday was killer.  I was sick, I couldn't eat, couldn't drink.  NONE of the anti-nausea meds worked, even the one the hospital gave me in my IV.  I think I may have taken in a whole 1/2 cup of fluids over the course of the day.  Nearly every sip  made me sick.  

Finally, right before bed I prayed, "Lord, please touch my body.  I need your touch. I cannot go another day like this."  And he answered my prayer!  I woke up during the night to take my meds but didn't need them.  This morning, I'm awake, alert, not sick - I'm even hungry!  And I feel like my old self.  In fact, I usually don't feel this good until about day 5.  I'll take it!

I am blessed beyond measure.  I do not claim this strength as my own.  I know it comes from my Lord.  

In the days to come I know I will continue to learn to lean on Jesus.  He is my only source of strength.  When my sprit grows faint within my, it is He who knows my way!

Only By His Grace,
Billie

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chemo round 4 begins today!

Well ladies and gentlemen, today is the beginning of Chemo Round 4.  I think they call them rounds because you feel like you're in the boxing ring!  I can hear the bell dinging in my head!  Or maybe that's just the ringing in my ears :)

Either way, I feel like we won a couple of rounds yesterday!  

However, I have to prepare my mind for this day.  By the end of today I will be 7 - 8 pounds heavier than I am now.  They give me a lot of extra fluids with this round.  I will be tired, nauseated and weak. I will not feel like having company or eating.  I won't feel like showering or sitting upright.  But I know that these things are temporary and in a few short days I will, again, begin to feel like myself again.

I am praying for God's merciful grace for the coming days.  They will not be easy, but he walks beside me and I know I can get through them with his help!

Thank you for your continued prayers.  It is only by His grace that we are not consumed!

Only By His Grace,

Billie


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday's unofficial results...

First, let me just say once again that we serve a BIG GOD!  He has been faithful this far and he will continue to be faithful!

Two tests this morning:  

Test one was an antagrade nephrostogram. When they first found my cancer it was because my left kidney wasn't draining; it was blocked by the tumor.  In November, they implanted a "catheter" into my kidney and it has been draining into a little pouch.  The Nephrostogram today ran dye into that kidney to see if it made it into my bladder.  If it did, that meant the kidney was draining again.  It also meant the tumor had shrunk!

Praise the Lord!  The dye ran into my bladder.  The tumor has shrunk!  What this also means is that they can cap the insertion tube and I can lose the pouch!  YAY!  

Test two was a contrast CT scan.  We don't have any news on this test yet, but I feel certain they will tell me the tumor has shrunk.

This afternoon my urologist called to chat with me about next steps.  When I told him I watched the nephrostogram and the dye arrived in my bladder, he was thrilled!  He is calling to get the results from both tests and I should get a call back from him later this afternoon.  

Tomorrow is day one of Chemo Round four.  This is quite possibly my last round.  That makes me very happy!  We will take one month off to recover and then schedule surgery!

This is huge news for us!  We are celebrating today because of the blessings of God!

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us these past days!  I believe our results today are because of answered prayers!

Only By His Grace,

Billie

Monday, February 3, 2014

For His Name's sake...


I've been thinking a lot lately of many people I know who are going through difficult circumstances.  Some have difficult job situations, some are barely making ends meet, some have family members facing health concerns, some just seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.  It seems to me that everyone I know has something going on.  But I am convinced that the things we go through are not in vain - if we will trust in the one who is greater than we are.  

One of the greatest pieces of scripture to me says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze...Do not be afraid, for I am with you." Isaiah 43:2,5

I think about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They faced difficult circumstances, even to the point of death.  Here is the account from Daniel 3.

16Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them."

The promise of our Lord is that when we go through the fire, we will not be burned and the flames will not set us ablaze.  Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  

Why do we go through the fiery trials?  Why do we face adversity, sickness, pain and death?  Isaiah 48:10 says, "See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction."  We go through the fiery furnace of affliction, but it is so we can be refined and purified.  It is so the unnecessary things can be burned away.  When Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego came out of the fire, nothing of their persons was harmed.  Not their bodies, not their hair, not their robes.  They didn't even smell like smoke.  But what was removed from them was their bindings (v 25).  What was burned away were the things that would hold them down, hold them back and hold them captive.

However, as glorious as this is, I'm afraid we miss the purpose in our rescue.  I'm afraid we think that our rescue is for our benefit, for our good, for our purpose.  I'm afraid we believe we've been rescued from the fiery trial because we prayed diligently enough, or because we were good enough, or because by our own merit we somehow earned it.

No.  Isaiah 48:10-11 says this:  "See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.  For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.  How can I let myself be defamed?  I will not yield my glory to another." The trials we face are for His sake, for His glory.  They serve to strengthen and refine us, but they are for Him!

I have posted this before, but I don't want it to be lost here.  I recently heard one minister say, (paraphrased) "The trials we face are not attacks on us.  Rather, they are attacks on God's glory."

If you are going through the fires of affliction today, please know that you are being refined with a purpose.  You are being purified and you will come out unsinged.  The things that are being removed from you are the things you do not need. 

But please also remember, this is not only about your improvement and your rescue.  This is for His glory!  

Only By His Grace,

Billie

Sunday, February 2, 2014

This may be a long post...

I read a statistic that says 1-2% of all cancers disappear without chemotherapy treatment, without medications, without surgery.  Why?  It's called "spontaneous remission."

Now let me just pause for a brief (or maybe not so brief) moment and tell you what I think about the word "remission."  In the medical field, remission is what say when you have an incurable disease, such as cancer, RA, MS, etc, that goes away for a time, but always has the possibility of return.  I love the fact that it goes away, I hate the part about the possibility of return.  It's like saying, "This dark cloud you've lived under for the past days is gone...but you better watch out, it could sneak up on you again at a moment's notice."  Where is the hope in that?  I hate the word remission because it offers but a momentary hope, a wisp of peace, a shadow of reprieve.  

Theologically, however, the word remission takes on a whole new meaning!  Hebrews 9:22 KJV says, "without the shedding of blood is no remission."  The theological meaning of remission is "the act of absolving."  Absolve: to set free from, to remove, to withdraw.

Think about this for a moment:  Remission:  Re-mission.  Mission meaning "to send,"  and  Re meaning "away."  Remission is to send away!

Jesus said this:  "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."  Matthew 26:28 KJV

Hebrews 9 tells us that without the shedding of blood (atoning sacrificial blood through Christ) there is no remission, and Jesus tells us in Matthew 26 that this is his blood shed for the remission of sins.  But let's look also to the prophet Isaiah who tells us, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of peace was upon him; and by his stripes (shedding of blood) we are healed."  Isaiah 53:5

If we can believe that the atoning sacrifice of Christ's blood shed on the cross is the payment for and brings the remission of our sins, why then, can we not believe that the atoning sacrifice of his blood shed on the cross is payment for and brings the remission of our diseases?  It is the same blood and holds the same power for forgiveness and healing.

I believe it comes down to trust.  We can trust him for the forgiveness of our sins, but we lack the faith that the same blood can heal our diseases.  Why?  Fear?  Maybe.  Control?  Possibly.  

Think about the woman with the issue of blood. Her amazing story is not unlike many who suffer today.  "When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake....A large crowd followed and pressed around him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. And when she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, "If I can just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him.  He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?"  "You see the people crowding against you," his disciples answered, "and yet you can ask, "Who touched me?"  But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."  Mark 5:21-34

For those of us suffering with "incurable diseases" such as MS or RA or Depression, Cancer or diabetes or Fibromyalgia, I think we hope for the medical term of remission.  We hope that someday, somehow we can get to a place where our disease takes a vacation, but we live with the fear that it may return again.

But if we apply the theology of remission we can hope in something greater than a temporary cure.  When we apply the atoning sacrificial blood to our diseases, and like the woman above, we have faith enough to touch the hem of his garment, I believe we have the hope of a permanent cure.  

You see, sometimes we have to "suffer a great deal under the care of many doctors," and we have to spend all that we have (financially, mentally, emotionally) before we reach a place where we are desperate enough to press through the crowd and touch the edge of his robe.  We have to reach a point of sheer desperation, utter hopelessness and blinding fear before we are willing to reach out to the one who's blood was shed for the remission of our sins and the healing of our diseases.  We have to give up hope in all others and place our faith in the only one who can bring us back from the brink of death.

As for me, I believe in the promise of remission.  Not because the medical field offers a temporary hope, but because my Savior gave me the promise of his atoning blood.

Only By His Grace,

Billie