Sunday, March 30, 2014

According to his riches in glory...

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Tuesday of this week I had my second PET scan.  I do not know results yet, but that is not what this post is about.

From the very beginning of this path, God has gone before us and provided for us in ways I couldn't imagine.  We have been blessed with monetary gifts, gift cards, meals, transportation for my children and lots of prayers...

I have never doubted God's care for us throughout the whole ordeal because He has proven himself faithful again and again.  Many times he has prompted people to pray in response to whispered prayers said in the dark.  He has been with us every step of the way.   

Tuesday I was scheduled for the PET scan and Friday we received a letter explaining that insurance had denied our claim.  This is the first time in all of this that insurance has denied anything.  But this was huge.  We have sifted through a good portion of our savings, have deposited all we can into our HSA, and were not expecting such an important medical test to be denied.

At first, I was in shock.  There were a few tears and honestly, a lot of worry.  That was Friday.  After we went to bed my mind wondered into the 'what if zone.'  What if we have to pay for a $4,000 test?  What if this is only the beginning of medical claims that are denied?  What if insurance won't pay for my surgery?  What if we completely drain our savings...a savings we've worked years to build?  What if...what if...what if...

And then a strange calm and peace came over me.  "I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread."  "My God shall supply all my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the former part." 

I prayed, "Lord, I don't know how...but I know you'll take care of this.  I know you'll supply this need."

Saturday we received a second letter in the mail.  Saturday, 24 hours after the first letter.  This letter had no explanation, it just simply stated that our claim had been re-evaluated and our insurance would pay for the PET scan.  

Our God has supplied our needs again.  I simply had to trust Him.  I've often wondered how I would respond to all of this if we didn't have the funds to cover something...or if insurance wouldn't cover our bills... In fact, one foolish day I prayed that I would have the faith to trust him for every need... 

Although it was a frightening 24 hours for me, I also learned a very valuable lesson.  This lesson wasn't about money.  It wasn't about doubt.  It wasn't about fear.  It was about trust... trusting fully and completely.

Around every turn on this path I have learned valuable lesson, after valuable lesson.  This one was about trusting Him to hold true to his word.  And once again, he proved himself faithful!

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Laying up treasures...

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-20

This week I've had an especially good week.  I've felt great, very energetic.  I've even started my spring cleaning.  I love to clean.  I really do.  This has been one of the things I've actually lamented during my bout with chemotherapy.  I haven't felt like cleaning much.  I vacuum, dust the furniture and clean the bathrooms...but beyond that...ehhh. Not much has been happening.  

This week I've cleaned baseboards, deep cleaned cabinets and cupboards.  I'm planning to clean windows in the very near future.  But all of this cleaning has brought to mind the scripture of laying up my treasures in heaven.  This house and all of the objects in it are only things... I need to be a good steward of them and take care of the things God has made us stewards of in this life, but they are just things.  

Although I love my home and I love caring for it, I never want it to become more important than real treasures.  My home nor the things I own should never become a source of prideful arrogance that would cause me to forfeit relationships or make me feel like I am better than another.  

The things in this life are just things. They will eventually fade away.  They will rot, turn to rust, be thrown away or given away...  Even if I keep my home spotlessly and impeccably throughout my life, when I pass away my things will be gone through, decided upon, given away, donated, kept and sifted through.  But even then, they are just things.  Their new owners will also one day die and these things will be given away, sorted through, donated and discarded again.  Because they are temporary things.  They will eventually fade away.  They hold no value on this earth.

The only things that remain with us are the treasures we store in heaven.  

This cancer journey I am on has taught me a lot of things.  I've learned patience and kindness on an intimate level.  I've learned to suffer well.  I've learned to think before acting and pray before speaking.  I've learned that my treasures are not on this earth, they are in heaven.

I have learned to rethink what my treasures are and where they are...

Only By His Grace,


Friday, March 28, 2014

Looking back; part two...

This week has been about looking back for me.  I can't believe that it's been two weeks since my last chemo treatment, that it's been 6 weeks since the last treatment that made me so terribly sick.  It's been one week since I had my nephrostomy tube removed.  It's been one week since I met with the surgeon....

This week I was washing my hair and realized I cannot use any longer the shampoo I've been using for over a year now.  Something about my sense of smell was heightened during my chemo treatments and the smell of my shampoo reminds me of all those tired, sick days.  

I have developed a side effect from sugar.  It leaves a terrible metallic after taste in my mouth.  I still have a little sugar, but for the most part, I don't really like it much any more.

My hearing is much improved.  In fact, only music at church hurts one ear.  It's easily resolved with a little cotton.  A month ago I couldn't stay for church because the sound was excruciating. 

These things may not sound very impressive to most people but to me they are huge hurdles.  Showering and bathing with a tube and wire is challenging at best.  To have that gone is such a gigantic blessing - I do not take it for granted any more.  

Sitting in church without pain is a huge blessing.  I missed a lot of Sundays...and I'm glad to be back.

As far as the sugar...well, I needed to cut back anyway :)  

My life has been forever changed.  I feel as if I was led to the precipice, stood on the edge and looked into the abyss, and then was granted a second chance.  

There are things I'm still working through.  Chemo brain is very real.  You forget things, can't think of words, zone out... it's very strange.  Hormones are all over the board - chemo can have the effect of menopause and that's a load of fun.  Emotions are harder to recognize as well.  Somethings make you weepy, somethings make you extremely angry.  Learning that these are side effects and recognizing that is a good lesson in self-control.

I still feel very blessed through this journey.  It has been, and will be a long hard road, but I have more clarity now, more insight, more understanding that I have before.  There are things in this life that do not concern me because temporary things pass away - what remains is eternal...  

I am grateful for friends who have prayed, called, texted and visited.  I am blessed by every word of encouragement.  God is good to provide hands and feet to care for us throughout this whole ordeal.

Today I am thankful that I'm not sitting in a bed for seven hours receiving treatment.  I am thankful that I will not be receiving fluids at three hours a pop for two days.  I am thankful I will not spend spring break week recovering from treatments.  I am thankful my hair has stopped falling out.  I am thankful for uninterrupted nights sleep.  I am thankful to be tube and wire free.  

God has brought us so very far and will continue to lead us every step of the way!

Only By His Grace,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Looking back...

Do you ever get caught in a flurry of activity only to look back and stand amazed at all you've done?  These past four months have been that way for me.  So much so that I feel like I'm finally taking a slow deep breath.

This month alone I have had 8 doctor appointments with 5 different doctors, had tubes removed, in-office procedures, PET scans, infusions and lab work.  Last week I had three appointments with three different one week!  

I'm ready to sit back and enjoy some time to recover.  I intend to take a leave of absence from work in the near future and spend some time spring cleaning and organizing my home before surgery.
I want to start to write.  I want to journal and record some of my experiences for future reference.  I want to sit in the sun and absorb some much needed sun rays and soft spring breezes.  I want to take walks with my kids and just breathe a little.  

I said a couple weeks ago that I was in a place of being still before the Lord.  I still feel this way.  I feel like I've waged war against this cancer for four solid months and now I'm just resting in His goodness, beside still and peaceful waters.  

I am blessed everyday with the acute knowledge that this life is short.  I feel like I've been given a very tangible, yet invisible gift.  It seems like the sun shines a little brighter, the skies are a little bluer, the breezes are a little softer and rest is a little more peaceful.

I am so thankful for God's grace during this journey.  There is still a very long road ahead.  He has been faithful throughout every step of the way and He will continue to be faithful.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us along the way...please keep praying.  We have a very radical surgery ahead - and a long recovery process afterward.  I will write more about that when I have more details.  Right now, we appreciate every single prayer.  God's grace is sufficient!

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, March 20, 2014


"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

I want to share a good report with you from the past two days.
Yesterday I had my nephrostomy tube removed. This is a huge blessing because it was starting to hurt like the dickens, and also because it means that kidney is draining like a boss!

While I was in the urologist's office, he ran a cystoscope into my bladder.  He was very surprised at what he saw.  Four short months ago, the tumor in my bladder took 30% of my bladder and was black and oozing.  Yesterday, he saw two small spots about the size of my fingernail, or less than 5%.  These spots were not black, but were only red and inflamed.  That's a 25% decrease, folks and I'm praising God for his faithfulness.

Today we met with our surgeon.  Apparently, my urologist called in a few favors and asked a spectacular surgeon to assist with my surgery.  He is a urological oncologist but also, another patient in the waiting room told us that he is a specialist with lymph nodes.  Who knew?

This man gave us every option for surgery, answered every question, and explained the details of recovery.  It will be a radical surgery, but the outcome looks very good.  In fact, he is convinced this will be healthier for my already damaged kidneys.  

What this doctor also told us is that my CT scans looked very good.  In November the cancer was glowing on the PET scan, and there was a lymph node that was also glowing.  When we did the CT scan last month, he said the lymph node had all but disappeared.  That was mid chemo therapy.  We did an additional 3 rounds after that scan.  His words to us today were highly encouraging.  He said, with the disclaimer that we won't know until after the surgery, that if that lymph node was not cancerous I have a 95-98% survival rate.  He is the first doctor that has given us a survival rate that promising.

Now, there are unknowns... we don't know if the node is hot.  We can't speculate.  Even the doctor says it's 50/50 whether it is or not, but he did say the way it responded to the chemotherapy was promising and the prognosis looked very good.

He also told me that after this surgery and a long 6-8 week recovery that I will be able to do anything I want to do; I can live a very long and very active life.  I can run, hike, camp, swim, etc, etc, etc.  Anything I want to do now, I can do then!  

I am overwhelmed by the "coincidences" that have lead us every step.  I do not believe these are coincidences at all, but rather God's sovereign care for us, by which he is suppling all of our needs.  He has aligned us with careful and loving doctors...doctors that give us their personal cell phone numbers and email addresses; doctors that get special privileges to perform surgery at hospitals other than their own; doctors that treat us like friends rather than "just another patient or case."

I can never repay these people.  I can never repay their care, their comfort, their concern or their kindness to us.  I am blessed to have a crew of people, the best in their fields caring for me...and none of it by my own design.  These things have just fallen into place for us...but the grace of God.

I know that my God will supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus... He has been faithful before and he will continue to be faithful!

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Questions and uncertainty...

Last Friday was my last chemo treatment.  In that I rejoice!  I can begin to recover and move forward to phase two of this journey.

There is so much on our calendar the next few days: nephrostomy tube removal, consultation with the surgeons, lab work, follow-up appointments, eventual surgery, long weeks of recovery... who knows what else may crop up in the middle of it all.

This surgery is a radical one.  Not only will they remove my bladder and surrounding lymph nodes, but they will reroute my kidneys into a "new bladder" made of intestine and bowel. According to all the information I've read I will be in the hospital, most likely ICU, for approximately one week.  Once I am released to go home, I will have a catheter for approximately three weeks in order for the "new bladder" to heal and prepare for it's new job.  I don't know how long I'll be confined to my house, if I'll need a nurse to come daily, how or if I'll be allowed to shower... it's all a giant mystery.  I have lots of questions and there are areas of uncertainty.  

To liken this journey to the storms of life is quite a statement.  It has had its moments where the seas were raging.  Many times I have felt tossed about like the waves of the ocean.  But just when I thought I would sink He calms the wind and the waves offering me reprieve and providing me a safe place to rest.  I have never been consumed.  I have never been abandoned.  I have never been alone.

"Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.  When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O Lord, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." Psalm 94:17-19

There are still many unanswered questions that remain.  As I continue on this path, I do not have to have all the answers.  I only have to remain faithful.  

I am on a pathway that I did not choose, a journey I did not want to take, but I do not walk alone.  I have one going with me, and I can rest in the outcome - whatever it may be - because He walks beside me, and He is already waiting for me at the end.

Only By His Grace,


Friday, March 14, 2014

March last chemo treatment

I want to say this has been a long road - a journey I never thought I'd take - and I feel a little like Froto of The Shire.  I wish this task had never come to me, but it has.  It is mine, my own. From the beginning I've said, "I do not understand this path. I would not have chosen this path, but if God in His sovereignty has chosen it for me, I will walk it with as much grace as I possibly can."

Today is my last chemo treatment and I feel relieved.  Part one of this journey is coming to an end and I can look forward to the days ahead, to part two of the journey, and then to recovery.  I am blessed that these last few weeks have been easier than expected.  I have not been nauseous unto death, I have not been utterly fatigued, I have not been confined to my bed, or recliner or sofa.  

My heart and prayers are with all of the people I have met along this path.  Those at the treatment center who have been going for years and those who are just beginning their own journeys.  I know that God is faithful and He will sustain them.

Throughout this journey I have learned many things about myself, not all of them good.  I am impatient.  I am doubtful.  I am demanding.  I am skeptical and I am weak.  

I have learned, as well, that God is patient.  God is faithful.  God is merciful.  God is gracious and He is strong. He is everything that I am not.  Which causes me to rely fully on and trust solely in Him.

I've been drawn to the story of Jonah.  Even in Jonah's resistance, his rebellion and his sour attitude God continued to show mercy to him and to teach him about himself. 

Five times in the book of Jonah we find that God sent or prepared a circumstance to get his attention.  Jonah 1:4, the Lord sent a storm. Jonah 1:15, the seamen through him overboard into the raging sea.  Jonah 1:17, God prepared a great fish to swallow him up.  Jonah 4:6, God prepared a vine for shade and protection and Jonah 4:7-9, God sent a worm to destroy the vine.  

God will use whatever circumstances he must in order to get our attention.  Like Jonah, sometimes I don't learn the first time, so he has to keep sending more circumstances and more circumstances and more circumstances until I finally just stop and listen.  Just like with Jonah, God has been faithful and patient to keep showing me myself...and to help remove from me all that I don't need.

As we face this journey we are on now I can look back with a thankful heart at all of my circumstances because they are drawing me to him.  God is sovereign over both the blessings and the curses.

How we respond to them is up to us.  We can moan and complain or we can trust and obey.  I know it's difficult sometimes.  The one thing that has kept me going has been one pastor's declaration, "The trials we face are not attacks against us, but rather attacks against God's glory."  How we respond to our trials, no matter what the circumstance, will either bring God glory or it will not.  

When my hair started thinning I battled between shaving it and being bald, or wearing a wig.  For me the choice was easy.  I chose to leave my thinning hair and wear a wig.  Not because of pride, as some have accused, but rather because I wanted to bring glory to God.  When others looked at me, I wanted them not to see my cancer, but to see the hope that I had.  I realize that is not every cancer patient's choice.  I'm saying that it was my choice.  

At the end of my first four rounds of treatments I thought I was done.  My oncologist wanted to continue a few more rounds.  My heart was broken.  I couldn't even imagine more treatments.  I couldn't think about it. I couldn't talk about it.  I reached a low point where I decided if I had to continue more treatments that made me sick, tired and wasted, that I was done.  I had reached my wit's end.  

But the very day I had to meet with my oncologist to discuss more treatments I had a quick stop to make.  During that stop I talked to a couple of women who shared with me that they read this blog, that they share it with loved ones.  To them, it probably wasn't a big deal, but to me it was a game changer.  I left that appointment with a change in my heart.  I realized that as difficult as this path was, God was using it beyond what I could see or imagine.  As I walked down the sidewalk to my car I decided that if this was the path God intended for me to walk so that He could gain glory, then I would continue to walk it - even though it was extremely hard and my flesh couldn't imagine one more step.  

My oncologist decided to discontinue the chemo drug that was making me so sick and for that I am thankful for God's mercy.  But I know that somehow I would have found the strength to continue, because it was His sovereign choice for me. 

As I finish this last treatment today I don't want to stop giving God glory for this journey.  I have a long road ahead and many months of recovery and in every minute, on every day He will continue to be faithful and He will continue to be sovereign - even when I cannot see. 

I am thankful that He has allowed me to walk this path every single day and every single minute because it has proven to me, again and again his faithfulness.  I can trust Him more because I know he will sustain me throughout the rest.

I continue on saying, "If this is the path you have for me, I will walk it with as much grace and I possibly can."

I will go through the valley, if you want me to...

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A time to be still...

Zecharaiah 2:13 says, "Be still before the Lord, all mankind."

Psalms 46:10 tells us to, "Be still and know that I am God."

I am keenly aware that there are times to wage war, times to stand and fight.  We are called to pray continuously and to submit every request to God.  I am also keenly aware that there are times when we are called, or better yet allowed, to be still.  

"He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul." Ps 23.  I am thankful for a God who grants peace that passes understanding.  I am thankful for a savior who said, "Whatsoever you ask in my name..."  I am thankful for the Spirit who makes intercession for me when I know not what to pray.

Right now I am in a time of being still before the Lord.  There is a peacefulness in being still.  "When fears are stilled, when strivings cease."  There is a rest and a respite from the daily groanings of this life when we can simply rest our hearts and quiet our minds and be still before the Lord; when we can be still and know that He is God.

In the stillness comes the peace that passes understanding.  In the stillness we can hear the still small voice.  In the stillness we find ourselves beside still and quiet waters.  In the stillness we find rest.

Stillness doesn't mean complacency.   In the stillness we find a place of worship and adoration.  In the stillness we find his presence is ever near.  In the stillness we find Him, and we know that He is still here, he hasn't left our side.  In the stillness we experience Him in his fullness.

Be still and know....

Only By His Grace,


Monday, March 10, 2014

Hear ye, Hear ye...

One of the strange side effects of chemotherapy for me has been hearing loss and sensitivity to certain sounds.  The "S" sound, the rustling of plastic shopping bags, water running, toilets flushing... they're all painful to my little ears.

Today I saw the ENT.  The audiologist did a diagnostic hearing test.  Turns out, my hearing is actually normal...for a 41 year old.  I still don't know why they have to qualify such things.  They could have stopped with "your hearing is normal."  It's like people who say, "you look good...for your age."  Anyway, the news was positive and for that I'm thankful.

The explanation, however, was extremely interesting to me.  Although it seems like common sense after the fact, it was baffling to me anyway.  These sounds I'm sensitive to are all heard at or about the same wave length.  Much like your nose has tiny hairs to trap dust and dirt particles, your ear also has tiny hairs that absorb sound waves and buffer your ear drum from continuously bombarding sounds.

Around round three of my Cisplatin I started noticing my ears were more sensitive to these sounds, but it went away after a few days.  Then, at round four of Cisplatin, I was very sensitive to these sounds, only it didn't go away.  Here we are nearly 5 weeks out and I'm still very sensitive.  

Around round three I started noticing I was losing a bit more of my hair.  At round four, I had lost quite a bit of my hair.  The ENT told me today that although the ringing in my ears is a chemical side effect of the chemo, the sensitivity to sound is the effect of hair loss in my ear.  Those tiny, microscopic hairs have fallen out, leaving my ear drum bare.  Those tiny sound absorbing hairs aren't there to buffer the noises that cause my ears so much pain.

The good news is that once hair begins to regrow (typically 3 weeks post last treatment) the hairs inside my ears will also begin to regrow.  As they grow the sensitivity to sound will start to fade.  The chemical reaction will also fade and the ringing will eventually go away, too.

This is a huge blessing and I am thankful.  I never doubt the workmanship of my Heavenly Father.  This body he has created all works together, in tune and each part has a specific function.  To think that these tiny, microscopic hairs have such an important function is amazing to me.  It also makes me aware that each of us is created with a purpose in mind.  If we are not living up to the call to which God has created us, then other parts won't function as well.  He is our creator and we are his creation.

I am blessed to know I have such powerful little hairs in my ears. I am also blessed to know that somehow, some way He has a purpose for me, too... I don't need to be a powerful part, I don't have to be a prominent part...I'm happy if he sees fit to use me as something as insignificant as ear hair :)

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mindful of me...

From the very beginning of this journey I have felt intrinsically aware of the Lord's awareness of me.  I felt his presence when they did my surgery and found the cancer.  I felt his peace when the doctor came in to tell us the news.  I have felt his spirit guiding me in the decisions I have to make, and I feel his sovereignty over it all, right down to the very last detail.

There has been so much that to the outward observer would seem to be coincidence, so much that has just "fallen into place."

My urologist has been my doctor since my childhood.  I know him well, and he knows me.  He knows everything about my urological history.  In fact, one prior surgery was a reimplantation of my left ureter.  Had it not been implanted exactly where it was, the tumor would not have covered it, blocking my kidney.  This could have gone unnoticed until it was too late.  There were no other symptoms.

My urologist knew my oncologist on a personal level.  She treated his wife's cancer.  He "just happened" to run into her at the grocery the very day of my surgery. He mentioned my situation to her, and she didn't even think twice at taking me as a patient.  She has been spectacular.

My dearest friend is a Physical Therapist, whom I met nearly 11 years ago when I wrecked my knee running.  She is since certified in women's health and after my bladder removal surgery, she will be a great benefit, I'm sure, at keeping me on the right track to recovery.

My urologist has even contacted a urological oncologist from a sister hospital to help him with my surgery.  This doctor has agreed, is a specialist in his field and is already getting the proper paperwork to be able to operate at the hospital of my choice.

Psalm 8 says, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"  

Matthew 10 says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." 

Psalm 139 says he is "intimately acquainted with all my ways."

I have been made aware through all of this, how intimately my Father knows me.  When I thought I couldn't hold my head up, I prayed for strength and within moments friends contacted me to tell me they were praying.  When I prayed for reprieve, My Lord allowed my treatments to be shortened.  When I  couldn't see a way, My Lord has provided me with options that I thought were not options at all.  

I am thankful that he is mindful of me, that he knows every hair of my head (even though most of them have fallen by the wayside) and that He is intimately acquainted with all my ways.

I am in good hands.  My Father knows my needs before I need them.  I couldn't ask for more.

Only By His Grace,


Friday, March 7, 2014

Strength for the weary...

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 41: 29-31 NIV

I am thankful for this promise.  It is one I've heard all my life and leaned on many, many times.  Even though they have discontinued the chemo drug that has the hardest effects on me, I still have some effects from the one I am continuing.  I am mildly nauseous, but nothing like before.  This nausea is very manageable.  I am tired, but not absolutely fatigued.  I can take a nap and recover my strength very quickly.  

On a night like tonight, after a treatment day, my body feels flu-like, achey, and very, very tired.  However, it will pass by tomorrow or Sunday.  These effects will not last for a week, or two, or beyond.

I think back to where I last week, not knowing what treatment they would prescribe, whether or not they would continue the harder option, whether I would even opt to continue treatments...and I look to this verse and see where God has been faithful to me yet again.  

"He gives strength to the weary..."  Yes, once again, he has given me strength when I was utterly weary.  I am thankful for the strength to continue, and his mercy to alter the course.

"...and increases the power of the weak." I have found this past week to be relatively 'normal.'  I can't say I ran miles or cleaned the whole house or accomplished any great feats, but I did feel an increase in my physical being.  He was gracious to give me strength when I was at my weakest.

Treatment days are still tiring, but nothing like before.  God is merciful and gracious.  His grace is enough and his mercy endures forever!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, God, Almighty...

There is so much I want to write about today; so many passages I want to share.  But resonating in my heart is, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is , and is to come."  Rev 4:8  

I've been thinking so much about God's character, lately; his faithfulness, his mercy, his truth, his love... Yesterday I realized that I have been focused on his characteristics, his attributes, more than I have focused on Him.  

He is merciful - but mercifulness is an attribute.  He isn't simply merciful, He is mercy.  He isn't simply loving, He is love.  He isn't simply truthful, He is truth.  He isn't simply holiness, He is holy.

Sometimes I pray, "Lord you are merciful."  When true adoration worships the one who embodies mercy, not just the characteristic.   I will pray, "Lord, you will bring justice," when true adoration worships the one who is just.  

Most recently, I have prayed, "Lord, you are my healer."  Even still, He is the one who is whole!  Thinking of the attribute of his healing power keeps the focus on my own need - and what I expect of Him.

The angels around the throne do not cry out, "Lord, you are loving," or "Lord, you are truthful," or "Lord, you are merciful."  They cry out the only thing that can be called out to a Holy and living God; "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

I love the attributes of God.  I love his mercifulness.  I love his faithfulness.  I love his kindness.  I love his forgiveness.  I love his peacefulness.  I love his graciousness. 

 I know we cannot separate his attributes from Him.  His attributes are part of who He is.  Just as we are to worship the creator instead of the creation, I want to worship God because of who he is, not simply because of his characteristics.  I want to worship him because he is love, not just because he is loving.  I want to worship him because he is truth, not just because he is truthful.  

There are many scriptures that show us it is okay to look to his attributes.  Psalm 33:18, "But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love."  Psalm 33:21, "In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name."  
I remember Job saying, "Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him." Job 13:15.

I believe we are to hope in him and to trust in his qualities.  I just don't want to neglect who he is - He is Holy.  The cry of my heart this Ash Wednesday is "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come."

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"And he heard me..."

I'm not one to romanticize Jonah.  I'm aware that he ran from God's command.  I know he went to Nineveh because he had to, not because he wanted to.  I'm aware that after God spared the city, Jonah had himself a hum-dinger of a pity party because he disagreed with God's choice to administer grace and mercy.  He thought his way was the best way. 

Even with all of Jonah's pride and his wandering, God still chose to use him - in spite of his imperfections, or maybe because of his imperfections...I don't know. What I do know about Jonah is that in the middle of his mess, he called out to God for help.  

God, at the same time, wasn't surprised by Jonah's mess.  He wasn't shocked that he landed in the belly of a great fish, He wasn't trying to pinpoint his location, He wasn't worried about how he was going to rescue Jonah; because it was all choreographed by a sovereign God who knows what we need before we need it.

"But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights."  Jonah 1:17.  Now, I might be crazy, but three days and three nights is a long time to be in the belly of fish.  And yet, he was in the belly of that fish for three days and three nights before he called out to God.  But when he did call out to God, the Lord was faithful to hear his cry.

"From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.  He said, 'In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.'  I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'  The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.  To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.  But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.  When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple."  Jonah 2:1-7 NIV.

Does it feel like you're the only person going through what you're going through and that you're utterly alone? Does it feel like you've been banished from his sight and the waves are sweeping over you? You may be in a state of turmoil or you may be in the throws of utter chaos.  From the outside, it may seem like you have it all together, but internally your world is shaken and falling apart.  

Let me offer you hope.  God hears your cries for mercy.  His ear is bent toward your call.  He hears you when you pray.

Jonah 2:2 says, "In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.

Psalm 18:6 says, "In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.  From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears."

Psalm 120:1 says, "I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me."

2 Samuel 22:7 says, "In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God.  From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears."

Psalm 118:5, "In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free."

Psalm 145:18-19, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.  He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them."

The promise is when we cry out to God, he hears us and answers.  Maybe you've been in your situation a number of days, or a number of weeks.  Maybe this is a never-ending journey for you.  Maybe you're just beginning your stent in the belly of the fish.

So many times over the past months I have felt absolutely numb.  There are ebbs and flows of diagnosis and treatments, times of health and times of sickness, moments of hope, and moments of despair.  With every twist and turn of this journey I have found myself crying out to a Holy God, either searching for answers, asking for hope or simply shedding sorrowful tears at the feet of a gracious savior.  Each and every time I have walked away knowing that I cried out to the Lord, and He heard me.

Whatever it is you're going through, you are not alone.  Countless others have also been in distress.  Countless others have felt the sting of betrayal.  Countless others have felt the pain of abandonment.  Countless others have feared death.  Countless others have been unable to see a way out.  

The blessing lies in knowing that God makes a way where there seems to be no way.  God delivers out the hand of the enemy, the den of lions or the belly of the great fish.  

The promise is true:  When we call to him, he will hear us, and he will answer.  Wait patiently upon the Lord, find your rest in Him.  Call to him and he will answer.

Only By His Grace,


Monday, March 3, 2014

Knowing light...

The thought has come to me several times the past few days of, "how can we know light, if we never experience the darkness?"

Last winter our family toured Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.  If you've ever taken such a tour, you'll be familiar with the story I'll share.  At one point in the walking tour, the guides brought us into a cavern room with worn wooden bench seats.  After everyone was seated and still, they shut off the lights.  There in the darkness of the cave, there was no light.  As we sat there for several moments it became evident that our eyes would not adjust to the darkness because there was no light.  No matter how long we sat there, or stayed in the cave, our eyes would never adjust to the darkness because there was no light.  Just when the realization of the darkness was sinking in, the guide lit a match; one tiny match had the power to light up the whole area.  One small spark transformed the darkness into light.  

Genesis 1:4 says, "he separated the light from the dark..."
2 Samuel 22:29 says, "...the Lord turns my darkness into light."
1 John 1:5 says, " him there is no darkness at all."
Psalm 139:11-12 says, "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."

There is darkness, and then there is utter darkness; there is dusk and there is midnight.  There are times when all around us seems to be darkness and we cannot see clearly enough to find our way out of the depths of the night.  

I am convinced that even in the troubling times the darkness acts as a catalyst for worship.  The dark causes us to seek the light of our savior, and in Him we find hope, rest and comfort.  If we never experienced the cold, we would not appreciate the warmth of a fire. If we never experienced stress and strife,  we would not appreciate the moments of quiet solitude.  If we never experienced utter despair, we would not appreciate rest and peace.  

If we live in a place where there is no time of darkness, we cannot appreciate the light of our savior.  These times call us to him, they pull us out of our comfort zones and call us to remember that it is not our striving that gets us anywhere, but rather the hope and grace of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6 says, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 

I am thankful for the dark places I've experienced recently.  I never thought I'd say that, really.  I have dealt with so much sickness these past few months that now I am thankful for the times I feel well.  I have experienced sadness this past year, and now I am thankful because I can experience rejoicing.  I have felt utterly fatigued that now I can be thankful for moments of energy.

A few weeks ago I experienced such woe that now, I rejoice because my mind is free from the sadness and worry.  I am thankful for the light that shines in my heart and leads me to a greater knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ, my savior.  I could not know the blessing of the darkness if it weren't for Him.

Only By His Grace,